Monday, December 30, 2013

Hide and Seek

I know it's been a little quiet around here recently, but I've been quite the busy little bee--especially since I was determined to finish up a certain artistic project for the holidays!

And now, I am oh-so happy to present my newest illustration, "Hide and Seek!"


You can call this either my magnum opus, or the bane to my existence.  Both are equally appropriate!  I started this piece over a year and a half ago as a gift for my newborn niece.  (Who is now almost two, but thankfully still loves woodland critters and duck tushies!)

This piece was a challenge every step of the way.  I'd open it up in Photoshop, move some animals around, tweak this and that, get discouraged, then put it away for a few months and do it all again.  Over the course of all those months, I altered (and altered, and altered...) the composition, added animals, subtracted animals, re-added animals, and drew that grass about a bagillion times.  It took me sixteen months just to decide how to tackle those leaves.  I cursed my over-ambition and wanted to scrap the entire thing on more than one occasion.

But 20 critters, 300+ Photoshop layers, and 60-70 hours later, it's complete and framed and now in the hands of a very happy little girl.  :)

And that makes every challenge totally worth it!

In the end, I'm glad this piece took me the better part of two years so I could apply everything I learned from my other illustrations along the way.  This piece is a mix of old styles and new techniques, texture experiments, and as much cuteness (and duck tushies!) as I could cram in.  It taught me to try new things, think big, and keep at something even if it seems impossible.  (It also taught me that sometimes a raccoon just wants to be a fox, but that's a story for another day!)

I hope you enjoy my newest illustration and artistic swan song to 2013.  But above all, I hope those duck tushies make you giggle as much as a certain niece of mine.  ;)  
    

Saturday, November 30, 2013

COSCBWI Meeting November 2013


This month's COSCBWI meeting combined the general and illustrator meetings.  While it was a chance to wind down the year, it was also an opportunity to celebrate the successes of COSCBWI's writers and illustrators, especially those who participated in the Member Exhibition.

If you missed the Member Exhibition that took place on November 2nd, you missed one amazing event!  The Amy Clark Photography Studio provided the perfect space to hold the gallery, and attendance was nothing short of impressive.  The studio was packed with friends, family, and all sorts of passerby from the Short North Gallery Hop.  Everyone was fascinated by the showcase of work and had wonderful compliments for all the pieces on exhibit.  It made me so proud to be a part of such an amazing and respected organization.

The exhibition pieces all ready for the gallery opening!

Anyone who couldn't attend the event, or had to leave early, was invited to pick up their exhibition piece at the monthly meeting.  In addition to sharing stories about the gallery night, the group members also put on their thinking caps to discuss some writing and illustrating goals for 2014.  (The new year is just around the corner!)  Lastly, members who participated in "NANOWRIMO" (aka National Novel Writing Month) gave the group updates on their progress.  Writing an entire novel in one month is no easy feat, and it's always impressive to hear success stories from writers who conquered the 50,000 word goal!

Due to the busy holiday season, there is no COSCBWI meeting in the month of December.  But the COSCBWI board (myself included) is busy planning meetings and events for 2014!  Remember to "like" COSCBWI on Facebook or check out the group website at coscbwi23.wildapricot.org for all the latest updates! 

I hope to see you all at the next meeting in January!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


It's that time of year again!  Time to stuff our faces with DELICIOUS food and give thanks for all the blessings in our lives.

I hope you have a lovely time celebrating with your friends and family, chowing down on turkey and pumpkin pie, and remembering all you have to be thankful for on this wonderful holiday. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Presenting the NEW BLOG!


Hello dear readers!

I want to officially welcome you to my new (and very much improved) blog!  I've tidied every page, cleaned up all that cyber dust, and am rolling out the party cannon to celebrate this occasion.

If you have a moment, I invite you to please take a look around.  There are some handy new gadgets on the side (like following me via email!), and spiffy new pages at the top.  And did you notice that new HEADER?

Yup!  I've officially thrown my hat into the illustrator ring.  Now what do you think about that, world?  ;)

At first, I played around with the title, "K. S. Powers, Writer & Illustrator," but it just didn't seem right.  While both terms accurately describe me, they don't describe all of me.  I added "Dreamer" because that's who I am at heart, and always will be.

So kick off your shoes, have some cyber punch, and click around 'til your fingers droop.  I hope you enjoy my new blog!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Remember how I like to cram my dog into silly costumes where she can't see every Halloween?

Well, say hello to.... 

DRAGON PENNY!

Penny says, "This is even worse than last year!"

As utterly confused as she looks above, I promise Penny doesn't mind the costume the second the doorbell rings.  She looooooooves trick-or-treaters!

Penny says, "Spiderman!  And princesses!  And another Spiderman! I love this!"

And the moment the door closes, she stares at us like we're big meanies who just ruined all her fun.

Penny says, "Why'd you make all the Spidermans and princesses go away?"

Happy Halloween!

I hope you seize this opportunity to cram your favorite doggy, kitty, kiddo, or other unsuspecting victim into a ridiculous costume with googly eyes!

Penny says, "At least I can see again!"

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Construction Zone!


Please excuse my cyber dust for the next few days.  I'm going to be spiffing up the ol' blog, and I have no idea what's going to happen.  As you can see above, I've got my rain hat on and plenty of caution tape, so I'm clearly prepared for any issues that may come my way.  Don't be surprised if I somehow blow up the entire internet.

COSCBWI Meeting October 2013


This month's COSCBWI general and illustrator meetings were combined.  With the big, awesome, super-exciting member exhibition coming up ON NOVEMBER 2nd, it was an opportunity to go over some last minute details.  The illustrators brought in their framed (and beautiful) pieces and participated in a little show and tell.  Then postcards and fliers were passed around so everyone could spread the word! 

If you don't already know about the COSCBWI Member Exhibition, it's a collaborative project between the COSCBWI writers and illustrators.  First, the illustrators created works around the theme, "Open A Book To Find The Road Less Traveled."  Then, the writers chose an illustration to write an accompanying jacket copy or book text.  The illustrations and writing pieces will be on display together at Amy Clark Photography Studios during the Short North Gallery Hop next weekend. 


I am sooooooo excited for the event and very much hope you plan to attend!  The Gallery Hop runs from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM, so do stop by anytime to mingle, enjoy some light refreshments, and see the talents of the COSCBWI members. 

You can find out more about COSCBWI (and the gallery event) at coscbwi23.wildapricot.org.  I hope to see you next weekend!
 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

2014 N. Ohio SCBWI Calendar Contest

If you hadn't noticed, I'm still playing a bit of catch up around this blog after my trip to Disney and a busy Tax Season 2 at my office.  And one thing I didn't get to show you was...


My entry for the 2014 Northern Ohio SCBWI Calendar Contest!

This is the third time I've taken part in the lovely calendar contest that Northern Ohio SCBWI  holds in conjunction with their annual conference.  (And it was a wonderful conference this year!) 

This year's theme was, "Recharge, Reconnect, Renew."  When I considered those words, I immediately thought of how it feels to wake up after a good, long nap.  And who is the best napper in the animal kingdom?  Bears, of course!  This little fellow is waking up to find the winter snow melting away and spring flowers blooming at his paws. 

I always learn so much while creating my calendar entry each year.  I used this opportunity to experiment more with textures, draw a new animal, and practice painting fur.  This also forced me to tackle my least favorite subject matter: ROCKS!  (Not gonna lie.  Painting rocks always makes me feel like this...)


But despite all the rocks, this illustration was a lot of fun to paint.  It's always so encouraging to see how I've grown as a digital artist from year to year, too.  (You can see my entries from the prior two contests here and here.)

I am very thrilled to report that my piece was voted into the 2014 calendar!  There were so many beautiful entries this year, and I'm honored that my piece was chosen for the final calendar.  This year, my piece will be featured in the month of February.  (My past two pieces were both featured in July for the 2012 and 2013 calendars, so it's fun to be part of a different season!)  You can see all the winning pieces on the Northern Ohio SCBWI website.  Order forms are also available online.  (It's a great way to support a fantastic organization!)  

I can't wait to see everyone's illustrations printed in the calendar!  2014 is just around the corner!  :)

Note: Indiana Jones and rock images are not owned by me.  The images were found on Google, and I just put them together for a goofy little meme.  :)

Monday, October 7, 2013

COSCBWI Meeting September 2013: Meg Brown, The Thurber House




While I usually attend every monthly COSCBWI meeting, I actually missed September's due to my trip to Disney.  But don't worry!  COSCBWI's Assistant Regional Advisor, Andrea Hall, wrote up a lovely summary for your enjoyment:

This month's COSCBWI meeting featured a fantastic speaker from the Thurber House in Columbus, Meg Brown.  She is the Manager of Children’s Programming.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Thurber House, it was the childhood home of James Thurber, humorist, author, and New Yorker cartoonist.  Here is a statement from the website: Our mission is to celebrate the written word for the education and entertainment of the broadest possible audience and to continue the legacy of James Thurber.  The Thurber House has a myriad of programs for children and adults.

Meg explained that the Writer-in-Residence program allows an author to live in the Thurber House for one month. In addition to focusing on writing, it gives the author an opportunity to teach children at the Summer Writing Camp.  Interested authors must apply for the program, as only one Children’s Writer-in-Residence is chosen each year.  Further information is available on the website.

Other events at the Thurber House include "Evenings with Authors" and "Summer Literary Picnics."  The "Evenings with Authors" run from January-May and September-December.  Each one features a reading from an author, a question and answer session, followed by a book signing and refreshments.  The "Summer Literary Picnics" take place outdoors, where attendees can either bring a picnic dinner or purchase catered box meals.  Schedules for both events can be found on the website, as well as ticket information.

In addition, Thurber House offers writing programs for both kids and adults.  The children’s programs range in age from preschool to high school on a variety of topics.  Thurber House is always looking for enthusiastic new teachers, so if you’re interested in volunteering your time and sharing your knowledge with future authors, please contact Meg Brown.

It was wonderful to hear about so many great opportunities to meet new authors, work on our craft, and be a part of another superb writing organization.  You can find out more about their programs and events at: www.thurberhouse.org.

A big thanks to Andrea for writing up a great post!  You can follow her on Twitter @andreadawnhall.

If you'd like to learn more about COSCBWI, you can check out the website at coscbwi23.wildapricot.org  or "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the October meeting!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Ferret Retrospection

You may have noticed that last month my blog activity was rather low.  While I was very busy with work, conference preparations, and getting ready for my trip, it was also one of the saddest months of my life.  Exactly one month ago today, on September 2, 2013, we had to euthanize our beloved ferret, Link.


Some of my blog readers already know this and sent me heartfelt, much-appreciated condolences.  Many of you have read about Link before, as ferret poop-scooping and medicine administration have occupied much of my time and thoughts for the past five years.  And if you've only recently found your way to this blog, you'll surely know just by looking around that I write animal fantasy novels, and that furry little critters are a big part of my life.

Link was always a sickly fellow, and his health had been a roller-coaster over the past few months.  We brought him to the ferret hospital on Labor Day weekend when he took an unexpected turn for the worse.  After spending three days in intensive care with the best veterinary staff we could ever hope for, his kidneys failed and we had to put him to sleep.  It was one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever had to do.

In some ways, having such a busy September was probably a good thing.  It helped keep my mind off the half-empty cage, the unused medicine bottles and jars of baby food, and the ferret-sized hole in my heart.  But it also enabled me from dealing with difficult things, like working on a certain manuscript and writing this very post. 

One month later, my heart still hurts and the ferret cage is still half-empty, but at least I can look back on my time with Link with tears of  happiness instead of only sorrow.

Now that he is gone, I've been asked many times if I would do it again.  Knowing what I know now--all the vet bills and worrying; the 2:00 AM medicine administration; the expensive food and endless poop-scooping; the time and tears and headaches and heartbreak he would bring us over the years--would I go back in time to the pet store when Link was just a little kit and choose him all over again?  

My answer is:  Absolutely.

I'll be the first to admit that sounds crazy.  Link was NOT a healthy ferret.  Within a few days of bringing him home five years ago, his health quickly declined and he made his first visit to the ferret hospital.  My husband often reminisces of those early days, when Link crawled into my lap and just laid there as if saying, "Help me."  If you know me, then you know my bleeding heart could fill a swimming pool.  Link was just a baby, and he couldn't help it if he was sickly, so help him I did.  Over the course of his life, he had (among many ailments) Coronavirus, Green Slime Disease, IBS, helicobacter infections, an ulcer, a prolapsed rectum, Insulinoma, and a rare reaction to a Distemper vaccine that sent him into anaphylactic shock.
 
Like I said, he was NOT a healthy ferret.  (And if you couldn't guess, he ended up being a rather expensive ferret.)  Link shouldn't have lived to see his first birthday, let alone his fifth.  (Especially with his yearly routine of trips to the ferret hospital.)  I know a lot of people would see this as five years of wasted time and financial-draining, but not me.

To me, they were five years of silly antics and impressive thefts, of ferret chuckling and daring adventures.  If you think ferrets just live in a cage and are happy to sip from their water bottles all day, you're terribly misinformed.  They crave exploration and treasure hunting.  The most common sight of Link was his rump sticking out of a trashcan while he pawed through tissues and wrappers, searching for whatever his ferrety heart desired.  And boy are ferrets intelligent little beings!  We have a wonderful dog named Penny and she can do some pretty smart things, like ring a bell when she wants to go out and learn lots of tricks.  But ferrets can craft fiendish plots and execute them to perfection.  Link would actually swipe a draft guard we kept wedged under the door, run off with it, hide it under the bed where we couldn't reach it, then make his escape beneath said door.  It was dastardly.  It was brilliant.  It was a little annoying at times, but adorable all the same.

The little troublemaker slept like an angel.  :)

Link influenced my world in ways I never imagined.  We gave him life, but he gave me Pirate Ferret.

I can say with 100% certainty that if I hadn't owned Link, I never would have written Pirate Ferret.  Link is my main character, Tentacles, from the tips of his crafty claws to the end of his slinky tail.  Watching Link steal and sneak and build his stash of swiped treasures gave me more inspiration than I ever dreamed of.  No other ferret was, is, or ever will be quite like him.


Now, don't get me wrong: we ADORE our still-living ferret, Butters.  And this picture sums him up perfectly:


He's a fluffy, happy-go-lucky goofball who bonks into walls all the time and thinks placing a toy in the middle of the room is the perfect hiding spot.  He's well-behaved, delightful, and knows he's the cutest thing on the planet.  I love him to pieces, and wouldn't trade him for anything.  But Butters is not stealthy, or sneaky, or swift, or sly, and if you put him on a pirate ship, he'd probably get eaten in about five seconds.

Link was like Bart Simpson, Stitch, and Jack Sparrow all rolled into one.  He was cocky, clever, an absolute handful, (yes, sickly and expensive too), and simply amazing.  Pirate Ferret would not be the same without him, and neither would I.

When Link passed away, it almost felt like Tentacles died with him.  I couldn't even think about my novel, let alone work on it.  I know that will pass in time, and I feel fortunate that Link's spirit will live on between my pages.  But he will always be sorely missed.      

So no, I don't regret the bills, the tears, the late-night meds, or even the poop-scooping.  What I do regret is not taking enough pictures (I have mostly ferrety blurs), and that I didn't get to spend more time with him.  I know we're lucky to have had Link as long as we did, but I still feel like our time with him was all too brief.  He stole my socks, toilet paper, granola bar wrappers, and ultimately, my heart.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Back from Disney

After a week of fun in the...rain...I'm back from Disney now!

Mickey jack-o-lanterns are adorable!

Yes, as they sing in Winnie the Pooh, "The rain, rain, rain came down, down, down," all over us, for most of the week.  Our first souvenirs were actually some very stylish ponchos... 

Hubby did not want to stand by me and my poncho hat.

...which I sometimes wore on my head like a hat.  ('Cause I'm just cool like that.)

But despite the soggy weather, we had a great time.  And the crowds were super-small all week, so that was definitely a bonus!  (Did you see how empty Hogwarts is in that picture?!)

Hubby and I visited all of the Disney World parks and spent an extra day at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure.  (To see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, of course!)

We dined with Mickey...

His ears were not made of ice cream.

Mauled a giant turkey leg...

This is how Tyrannosaurus Kathryn eats.

And attended Monsters University! 

Not really, but isn't it cute?

This girl loved the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Yes she did!

This guy did not enjoy, "It's a Small World."  NOT AT ALL.

Nor did he fit well in the boat.

And while Butterbeer was unfortunately one of the grossest things I've ever tasted, the Pumpkin Juice was DELICIOUS!

And came with a cute little pumpkin cap!

We came home with lighter wallets and suitcases stuffed with chocolate wands.  (Which were worth every Sickle and Knut!)  While it's nice to be home again, I already wish I could hop aboard Disney's Magical Express and head back to the Happiest Place on Earth.  (I'd gladly live in the Tiki Room if they let me.)  Guess we'll just have to start saving up for our 10 year anniversary!  :)  

Note: The above pictures were taken by me or my hubby.  He is just thrilled that I shared the "It's a Small World" photo with you all.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Disney Bound!


After surviving a few crazy weeks of tax season, illustrating, and conference preparations, I'm happy to say...

I'M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!

My hubby and I are celebrating our 5th anniversary with the big mouse, and we're pretty excited!  We've been planning this trip for several years, and we can't wait to unwind and spend some quality time with each other.  (And Donald...and Minnie...and Pluto...and...)

Since I don't have a super-phone, I'll be offline all week.  But once I'm back, I'll be all rested and ready to blog again!  :)

See you in a week!

Note: Simba is (c) Disney.  Drawing was done by me from my "30 Simbas in 30 Days" project back in 2012.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sept 2013: Illustrator Meeting

 
This month's COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting focused on submitting artwork to the SCBWI bulletin.  Members of SCBWI receive six bulletins per year that are filled with wonderful articles about writing and illustrating.  The bulletins also contain illustrations submitted by members which are used as spot-art throughout the articles.  (I always love seeing the little illustrations in each issue!) 
 
COSCBWI's Illustrator Coordinator, Nikki Boetger, discussed the bulletin submission process.  Submitting pieces to the SCBWI bulletin can be a great way for new artists to gain exposure and dip their toes into professional illustration.  There is no limit on how many pieces an artist can submit, and an artist may even have multiple pieces accepted for an issue.  Any accepted pieces come with a small stipend, but the real reward is being able to use the experience as a publishing credit on your illustrating resume.  It shows you take illustrating seriously and want to send your work out into the world.  And since the bulletin goes to all SCBWI members, MANY people will see your published pieces!   (Plus, you never know who might take a liking to your art, check out your website, and decide you're the perfect illustrator for their agency/project/etc.!)
 
Nikki had us browse through the magazines and come up with some common illustration themes.  Of course, writing, illustrating, books, and kids were popular subject matters!  But there were also snowmen, dinosaurs, bunnies, and everything in between, so you never quite know what the bulletin editors are seeking.  Nikki also pointed out some frequent bulletin articles and topics, including:
 
-News and Notes
-Book Reviews
-Legally Speaking
-Publication Corner
-Art Tips
-Awards
 
After brainstorming some illustration ideas, Nikki reminded us to check the national SCBWI website (www.scbwi.org) for the the latest submission guidelines.  She also discussed the importance of preparing an online site or blog BEFORE submitting work anywhere.  (You don't want someone who sees the bulletin to search for your portfolio or website online and not be able to find you, right?)  Lastly, since it may take a while to see if your illustration is chosen for the bulletin, Nikki recommended keeping all submitted illustrations together in one file so it's easier to keep track of them.  And if you send in an illustration that doesn't get picked, don't give up!  Keep drawing, submitting, and doing everything you can to get your art published.  :)

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, you can check out the (new) group website at coscbwi23.wildapricot.org or "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the next Illustrator Meeting!

Monday, September 2, 2013

COSCBWI Meeting August 2013: Creating Critique Groups

 
August's COSCBWI meeting focused on creating critique groups.  Critique groups are very important for both writers and illustrators.  In addition to gaining valuable insight from your partners, it can also help you stay focused on your goals.  During our meeting, we discussed some points to consider for creating a successful critique partnership.  These included:
 
-Think about where you are in your writing and what sort of feedback you'd like to receive.  Are you a newbie looking for general feedback on your story, or are you a seasoned writer who wants line-style editing?  
 
-Consider how much time you have to commit to a group, and how you want to share your work.   Will you critique an entire novel at once, or share chapters each month, or plan on writing so many pages between meetings?  (Or anything in between!)        
 
-Also consider how you would prefer to meet. Some groups like to meet face to face, while others prefer online correspondence. 
 
-Be respectful of the other members of your group, and remember that sometimes critique partnerships simply don't work out.  Try trading a small amount of work first, such as a first chapter or one picture book manuscript.  If you all find each others' feedback mutually helpful, great!  But if not, it's okay to part ways and try to find a better fit.
 
-Honor your commitments.  If you agree to critique someone's manuscript, be sure to follow through.  Critique groups can't be one-sided, and everyone needs to do their share of the work.  
 
-Give the type of constructive critique that you would like to receive.  Not only will your partner thank you for it, but you will benefit from the process, too, and learn how to better critique your own work.

After the discussion, members participated in critique group "speed dating."  The members dispersed into smaller groups  and "interviewed" potential critique partners.  It was all in good fun and very casual, and gave members the chance to see if other COSCBWI writers would be a good fit for a critique relationship.
 
After the "speed dating," Regional Advisor, Linda Miller, talked about the COSCBWI Member Exhibition that will take place in November.  Now that all the illustrators have done their part for the gallery, it's the writers' time to get creative!  Each illustration has been put online at COSCBWI's temporary website,  http://coscbwi23.wildapricot.org/.  Writers can choose one piece and write a short work for it.  Guidelines are also on the new website under the header "Exhibition."  The deadline is September 30th, so it's time to get writing!  ;)
 
If you would like to learn more about COSCBWI, you can like the group on Facebook or visit the website listed above.  The next meeting for illustrators is September 11, and the next general group meeting is September 25.  I hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sand Trial #1

Remember back in June when I posted this colorful little pony?


This sand art medium has still been on my mind all summer, and since Ohio isn't exactly brimming with beaches, it was recommended that I try the sand at Alum Creek State Park.  Oddly, I've lived in Ohio my entire life but have never been there, so my hubby and I took a road trip last weekend.  The verdict?

While it is a BEAUTIFUL place full of lovely trails and recreational activities, the beach may not be the most conducive for drawing.

First, we set up our beach towels and I drew in the dry sand.  I ended up with this:

I swear there's a turtle there somewhere!

Unfortunately, the sand was just too rocky to do much of anything.  Even after outlining the picture over and over again, my hubby declared, "I still can't see it!"

So, I moved my art spot elsewhere. 

The sand was much more solid next to the water, so I plopped down and tried there.  This time, I managed this:

Can you see me now?

Trial 2 was a significant improvement over the first, and my hubby even said he could see it this time.  However, I had to make the turtle over-sized and really dig into the sand to make him clear.  I was also constantly worried that the waves were going to come up and wash my poor turtle away despite my speed-scribbling.  My hands were stained bright orange when I was done, and people stared at me like I was bonkers the entire time.  Clearly, my second spot was not ideal, either.

I had hoped I might be able to do my Northern Ohio SCBWI calendar contest piece in the Alum Creek sand, but my two trials quickly nipped that idea in the bud.  So it's back to the drawing board!  (Or perhaps sand box...)

Even though my field trip for sand scribbling didn't turn out quite the way I'd hoped, it was still a lot of fun to spend the day walking some trails and sitting on the closest beach to home.  Of course, I couldn't let all that effort go to waste, so I still colored my little guy when I got home.  :)

Turtle says, "Glub, glub, glub!"

At least I know I can always go back to Alum Creek for little doodles from time to time! 

Now, if I could just figure out how to transform my backyard into a seaside art studio...  (Complete with palm trees and a beach cabana of course!)
 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

2013 COSCBWI Gallery Piece

Today, I'm happy to finally show you the big project I've been working on:

My 2013 COSCBWI Gallery Piece!


On November 2nd, 2013, the Central & Southern Ohio Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators is hosting a gallery at Amy Clark Photography Studio in the Short North.  While the gallery may be a few months off, the illustrations are due now to give writers ample time to create their part of the project.  (Which is to choose an illustration and write an accompanying short text or jacket copy.  How fun!)  The text and illustrations will be displayed together at the gallery event for everyone to see.  The theme is, "Open a Book to Find the Road Less Traveled," and I had a lot of fun making my gallery piece!

I knew I wanted to create something with animals for this project, and these little mice just popped into my head.  They're ready to embark on an adventure, and have their trusty "Explorer's Guide" to lead the way.  (And I have a feeling they'll encounter plenty of shenanigans along the road!)

You may have noticed that this style is a little different from my usual illustrations.  I've recently wanted to experiment with textures, and this was the perfect opportunity to try something new.  I aimed for a "digital watercolor" look, using a variety of brushes in Photoshop and tons of layering.  I also wanted to practice painting fur, which is something that's always intimidated me.  I rather like this softer-style, and I definitely think I'll play around with it some more in the future!

And now you know what's been keeping me (very) busy over the last month!  I can't wait to see the other gallery illustrations, and read the writers' pieces, too!  :)

Now, it's time to move on to my next project!  (Or take a little nap first...)

Note: Art is (c) Kathryn Powers. Please don't use it without my permission. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

COSCBWI Meeting July 2013: Karen Kotrba Author Visit


This month's COSCBWI meeting featured author Karen Kotrba.  Karen teaches composition at Youngstown State University and is the author of, She Who is Like a Mare: Poems of Mary Breckinridge and the Frontier Nursing Service.  After seeing a photograph of Mary Breckinridge's horseback nurses, Karen became inspired to research and write a book on the Frontier Nurses.  While her path to publication was a lot of work, it was also a lot of fun!

Karen walked us through her research journey and gave advice for tackling a historical fiction project.  Some of her tips included:

-Talk to EVERYONE!  Museum workers and librarians have a lot of good information and stories to tell, and they love sharing that knowledge with eager ears.

-Pool information from a variety of sources.  For her book, Karen scoured articles, fliers, tapes, and even some memos from Breckinridge herself.  By taking in a variety of sources, you can get a better feel for the people, attitudes, and lifestyle of the time period.

-Think about what type of story you want to tell.  Do you want an overall picture of your subject matter, or do you want to focus on just one person or event?

-Do everything you can to make the era come alive on your page.  Incorporate smells, sounds, textures, and tastes that are authentic to the time period.  Little details will bring magic to your writing.

-Write about something that brings you wonder.  You're going to be doing a lot of research on your subject matter, so choose a topic that fascinates AND inspires you.

-Keep your eyes open for moments of inspiration.  You never know when a picture, artifact, or story will spark a new idea!

After Karen’s presentation, she answered group questions and read some of her poetry.  It definitely made the Upper Arlington Library feel like frontier Appalachia!

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, you can check out the website at www.coscbwi.org or “like” the group on Facebook.   

You may have noticed I neglected to post an Illustrator meeting summary for July.  The meeting was actually cancelled due to power outages earlier in the month.  A critique meeting was held instead for members working on their gallery pieces, and Nikki said it went great!  (Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the critique meeting.)  If you're a COSCBWI illustrator working on your gallery piece, don't forget that it's due August 5!  You can find out more details in the flier below:   


There will be no Illustrator meeting for August, but I hope to see you at the general COSCBWI meeting on August 28th!











Sunday, July 14, 2013

July Update

Oh geeze!  I can't believe a couple weeks have passed since my last post!  Sorry I've been MIA recently.  :(

Life got a little crazy after my vacation.  I won't bore you with all the details, but I will say that my day-job has been keeping me occupied with extra-hours, leaving less time for everything else.  And since there are only so many hours in the day, I've had to spend my spare moments working on my writing and illustrating for some upcoming deadlines.  (Plus, eating, sleeping, and having clean clothes to wear is sometimes nice, too.  Nobody likes a stinky Kathryn...)

I'll be around when I can for the next few weeks, but deadlines must come first.  (And then I can show you all the fun stuff I've been working on!  Woohoo!)

I'll admit, when I looked at the calendar today, I got a little panicky.  It seems like summer always flies by way too fast, leaving me feeling like this:


Hopefully amidst all the craziness, I can find a few moments to enjoy the sun (or what's left of it) before snow covers our streets again.  :)

I hope the summer is treating everyone well!  Now, get out there and soak up that sunshine while you can!


Note: Panicked Kathryn doodle was (obviously) drawn by me. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

COSCBWI Meeting June 2013: Liz Coley Author Visit


This month’s COSCBWI meeting featured YA author, Liz Coley.  Liz’s novel, Pretty Girl 13, was just released in March 2013.  Like many other authors, Liz’s path to publication was no walk in the park, and she started writing in 2000 before earning her first book deal in 2011.  Liz loves sharing her writing knowledge, and she has a great four-step cycle to help writers make their work shine before submission.

Some of the points she discussed included:

1) Story
-Does you story start and end well?  Does your first page and chapter hook the reader, and is the end satisfying?  Is there a strong story arc?  If your answer is "no" to any of these questions, you may need to work on your plot and characterization to tell the story in a more effective way.

2) Color
-Did you use enough words to paint your story?  Once the plot is solid, you need to make sure your writing is interesting and engaging.  You don’t want your story to be a laundry list of plot points.  (For example: Joey went to the store to buy eggs.  He forgot his money.  A nice lady offered to buy them for him.  Joey was happy.  The end.  BORING!)

-Look for places where you can integrate descriptions (people, places, etc.), and add in dialogue tags and beats that will bring life to your writing.

3) Texture
-Now that you have enough words, did you use the best ones?

-Check for any overuse of adverbs (sadly, happily, angrily, etc.), and replace with stronger verbs.  (“She said meanly,” can be rewritten as, “She growled/snarled/snapped/etc.”)

-Cut your “waffle words”—those non-committal words that make writing weak.  These include words like almost, nearly, tried, began, etc.  (For example, “She began to walk,” can just be, “She walked.”)

-Don't forget to check for any other words you may overuse.  (I'm often guilty of overusing "looked!")

4)  Mechanics
-Now that your writing shines, did you get the grammar, spelling, and punctuation right?  (You don’t want to send any work to agents or editors that is full of mistakes!)

-If you aren’t skilled at self-editing, ask a trusted friend or colleague to proofread it.  Reading your work out loud will also help you catch more errors.

Liz said that once you complete this cycle, your work should be squeaky clean!  But sometimes, changing your work during one step (like the story) can result in other changes that you’ll need to make to your manuscript.  Don’t be afraid to wash, rinse, and repeat this cycle!

After Liz’s presentation, she answered group questions and talked a bit about her writing process.  (She also showed the collection of foreign book covers for Pretty Girl 13.  They were fascinating!)  Now, the group members are ready to get back to their manuscripts and apply Liz’s revision cycle!  

You can find out more about Liz and her books at www.lizcoley.com.  If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, you can check out the website at www.coscbwi.org or “like” the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the July meeting!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Artistic Experiment

This is just something goofy that I wanted to share with you.  Remember the sand pony I posted a few days ago from my trip to Hilton Head?


Well, my first week back in town has been rather chaotic due to several things that are beyond my control.  I've been feeling stressed, and happened to have that pony piece up in Photoshop.  Ponies make me happy, so I started tweaking it.  After a few minutes, I thought, "Hmmm...I wonder how this would look with color?"  And the next thing I knew...

BAM!


I had Twilight Sparkle at the beach!

Now, I know her anatomy is wonky and the style is all wrong (I did scribble this in the sand, after all), but I think this is hooves-down the most fun I've ever had with an art piece.  It's simple and silly and rough around the edges, but I rather like the end result of this combination of mediums.  (And since it wasn't planned and nit-picked to death, I ended more relaxed than when I'd started!)

But the biggest surprise of all was that the piece just felt like me.

I honestly hadn't set out to achieve anything with that original sand scribble, but now I feel like I've stumbled on something kind of cool.  Unfortunately, Ohio isn't the ideal place for pursuing a beach-based medium, but I think I'd like to keep exploring this technique in the future.  If nothing else, at least it'll bring a smile to my face.  :)

So what do you think?  Is this a neat, new style, or does it look like something a five-year-old made?  (I suppose my inner child will be pleased with either answer!)

Now, I just wish I'd thought to make more sand doodles while I was still at the beach!

Note: Twilight Sparkle and My Little Pony are (c) Hasbro.  The photograph and art were done by me.  And yes, I think the "Friendship is Magic" series is delightful. You should watch it. ;)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back from the Beach!

After a week of fun in the sun, I am back home in Ohio!  (And just a wee bit crispy.)  I had a nice, relaxing time in Hilton Head and thoroughly enjoyed walking along the beach and watching the waves.  (We even saw a few dolphins off shore!)

Pretty!

Highlights of the week included eating the best baby back ribs EVER, slurping delicious gelato, nomming on peanut butter fudge, and gorging myself on a pirate buffet.  (Um, the food may have been my favorite part of the trip!)

Of course, no beach vacation is complete without some sand pictures!  While the sand wasn't ideal for scribbling, I did draw a bubbly seahorse...

Neigh!

...and my favorite cartoon pony!

My little pony...my little pony...

Now, I'm all rested and ready to get back to blogging!  (Although I certainly wouldn't mind eating another pirate buffet...)

Note: All art and photos are (c) me, Kathryn Powers.  Twilight Sparkle (the pony) is (c) Hasbro.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Beach Bound!

Hooray for summer!  I loooooove this season, and am one of those weird people whose happiness goes up with the heat index.  While I adore the sun, the flowers, and the fact that I don't have to wear earmuffs anymore, summer is especially awesome because it's the official vacation season!
 
That being said, I'm off to Hilton Head for the next week!  (Woohoo!)  
 
 
I'm very excited to exchange my office and computer screen for an ocean view and flip flops.  (I'm also excited to sit my butt down and relax for once!)  And since five of us will be crammed into a Honda CRV the whole way there, I just won't have room to take my laptop and "To Do" list with me!  Oh, darn...  ;) 
 
I hope you all have a nice week, and I'll see you when I'm happily sunburned!
 
Note:  The sand pic was drawn and photographed by me, Kathryn Powers.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

COSCBWI June 2013 Illustrator Meeting: Postcards Part IV

 
This month's COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting was both informative AND fun!  The meeting started with group critiques of WIP and finished postcard pieces.  (If you're just tuning in to the COSCBWI postcard project, you can find summaries on the multi-month process here, here, and here, as well as my own final project here.)  It was so wonderful to see how everyone's pieces are coming along!  The group has such a wide variety of talents, and all the illustrations are so unique and beautiful.  (I must say, it's been quite inspiring to see the different artistic processes of everyone over the past few months, too!)
 
As we wrap up this project, Illustrator Coordinator, Nikki Boetger, introduced the group to a new project: the COSCBWI Member Exhibition!  The premise of this exhibition is to have both COSCBWI illustrators AND writers create works interpreting the theme of, "Open a Book to Find the Road Less Traveled."  It's also a collaborative project.  Artists will first create an illustration, which will be posted online for all members to see.  The writers will then choose one of the illustrations and write either a brief story OR jacket copy for it.  The illustrations and writing pieces will be displayed at Amy Clark Photography Studio on November 2, 2013, for the Gallery Hop in the Short North, and then move to a second gallery exhibition in January 2014 at Ohio University Lancaster.  (More information will be given on this exciting project at the upcoming COSCBWI meeting on June 26, or you can check out the flier below!)  
 
 
With this announcement, COSCBWI illustrators can now start brainstorming and sketching their ideas for the gallery project as they complete their illustrator postcards!  Nikki asked for members to bring their finished postcards to the next meeting, as well as postcard mailing lists AND questions/ideas for the gallery project!  (The gallery pieces are due for illustrators on August 5, so we better get sketching!)
 
The meeting wasn't all business, though!  While Nikki talked about the gallery, we did a fun rapid-sketch activity.  Nikki passed out short prompts and gave everyone 30 minutes for drawing.  Each sentence entailed the writing elements illustrators face when considering a page of a writer's manuscript.  (Mainly a noun, verb, adjective, and tone.)  My prompt was, "Way up high atop the sailboat mast is the pirate's grim flag."
 
Tentacles says, "Arg!"
 
I just couldn't help drawing Tentacles from my own middle grade manuscript, Pirate Ferret!  (The prompt was too perfect!)  Everyone's sketches were just adorable, and the room was filled with laughter at the silly prompts and different interpretations.
 
You can find out more about COSCBWI at www.coscbwi.org.  The next Illustrator Meeting will be on July 10.  Be sure to bring your finished postcard AND gallery piece ideas!  I hope to see you there!
 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Slow and Steady...

Today I get to show you what I've been working on for the past few months...
 
My COSCBWI Postcard!
 
If you've been following my posts on the monthly COSCBWI Illustrator Meetings, then you'll remember that members are currently involved in a project to create illustrator postcards.  (You can find the posts herehere, and here.)  We went through research, sketch, and critique stages to create a final illustration that fit the theme of "Favorite Fables, Fairy Tales, and Nursery Rhymes."  After much thought, planning, and painting, here is my final piece!
 
 
As you can see, I chose Aesop's fable, "The Tortoise and the Hare," for my subject.  But you may notice it's very different from the concept sketch I posted in April
 
 
And oddly, it's not even the story I was planning on illustrating!  (The cow jumping over the moon was actually my favorite sketch!)
 
 
So how did I end up with my final illustration? 
 
Critique feedback from the other COSCBWI illustrators encouraged me to pursue "The Tortoise and the Hare" sketch based on the movement, expressions, and use of background.  The cow sketch was also encouraged, based on the expression and humor.  This resulted in much fence-sitting on my part for both sketches!  
 
Shortly after the group critique, I went to the SCBWI Wild Wild Midwest Conference.  While there, I attended the AWESOME "Illustration First Look" session where industry professionals discussed what they look for in art samples.  Some of their most important criteria included expression, movement, uniqueness, and whether the illustration told a story. (And boy did they emphasize the storytelling aspect!)
 
This made me take a closer look at my sketches and ideas.  Thinking back to my COSCBWI feedback, it was clear "The Tortoise and the Hare" displayed the most elements from that list.  But while the sketch had movement and expression, it wasn't very unique and didn't tell much of a story.  I knew I could do better, so I went back to the drawing board!
 
And so, I endeavored to put my own spin on the classic fable.  I choose to illustrate the end of the story, leaving the middle part to the viewer's imagination.  Whereas in the true fable, the hare gets over-confident and naps (thus losing the race to the tortoise), this bunny clearly had a bit of an accident due to his recklessness.  (And probably involving a cactus!)  Instead of using his advantage to win the race, this tortoise stops to help the hare.  The grateful hare cheers his new friend on as the tortoise carries them across the finish line together, thus giving my piece the title of "Victory."
 
This piece was soooooo much fun to create and a great learning experience.  (And it gave me the chance to practice painting my least favorite object: rocks!)   Above all, this project made me really think about what elements go into a true illustration, and how to tell a story with just an image.  I hope I accomplished that with this piece.  I still haven't decided if I'll turn it into a physical postcard to send to agents and publishing houses, but it feels good to have another piece for my portfolio!   
 
And now you know what's been keeping me busy the past few weeks!  Time to move on to my next illustration project...  (And yes, I may just finish up that little cow piece in the future, too!)
 
Note: All art pieces in this post are (c) me, Kathryn Powers.  Please do not use them without my permission.  Thank you!