Tuesday, September 29, 2015

COSCBWI Meeting September 2015

This month's Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI meeting featured author-illustrator Anne (Vittur) Kennedy.  Anne told us all about her path to publication and gave the group an insider's perspective on what it entails to write and illustrate a picture book.
Anne illustrated for 30 years before she had the opportunity to become an author-illustrator.  Her path to publication was a bit unorthodox.  She didn't get a formal art education and instead went to school for a degree in music education.  She always loved drawing, though, and was fortunate to get an agent recommendation.  The agent wasn't sold on her work at first, so she asked if she could revise her portfolio and try again.  He gave her a job thereafter, and her life has been filled with illustrating ever since.  The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! came out in 2014 and is the first book she got to both write and illustrate.  Her newest author-illustrator project, Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook, just came out in August and she hopes it will become a continuing series.
After telling us a bit about herself, Anne opened the floor for questions.  She offered great advice for aspiring artists and writers, and had lots of interesting things to say about her work including:
-She finds drawing animals much easier than drawing humans.  Sometimes when she has to draw children, she thinks of them as rodents instead.
-She thinks that one of the most difficult parts about publishing is self-promotion.  Anne recommended that unpublished writers and illustrators become familiar with social media and start building their platforms as early as possible.
-Anne loves working from home and sometimes stays in her pajamas all day when she gets swept up in her work.  (Who isn't guilty of that from time to time?) 

-Anne believes that there's no right way to get published, and reminded us all to put our best work out there and find our own unique paths to publication.

After Anne answered everyone's questions, she read Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook aloud.  With charming illustrations and a hilarious dog protagonist, it's a must-read for any canine lover.  :)

You can find out more about Anne on her artist page here.  (Her gallery is adorable!)

If you want to learn more about Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI, be sure to visit the website at http://ohiocensouth.scbwi.org.  I hope to see you at the October meeting!

Note:  Cover image for Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook is from mbartists.com.  Cover image for The Farmer's Away!  Baa!  Neigh! is from amazon.com.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Illustrating News

My last blog post went over the bulk of what I've been up to for the past several months.  I didn't mention one big project, though: my entry for the 2016 Northern Ohio SCBWI Calendar Contest!

Each year at the annual Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference, the chapter hosts a Calendar Contest for illustrators.  (In fact, I created my very first Photoshop illustration for the contest back in 2011.) 

I'm very happy to report that I finished my illustration on time, and it was voted into the 2016 calendar!

This is definitely one of my favorite illustrations that I've worked on.  Although it took me quite a long time to finish with my bum shoulder, I wanted to tackle a full illustration in the lineless-style.  I couldn't resist drawing animals, but took this opportunity to practice painting humans, too.  (My hubby was a big help with this and let me know that the poor farmer had two left hands at one point.  D'oh!)

I'm so thrilled that my piece was chosen for the 2016 calendar.  (And I truly can't believe that this is the fifth year in a row my piece has made it into the calendar!)  The contest entries were all amazing, and competition gets stiffer every year.  I hope you'll check out the other winners on the Northern Ohio SCBWI website: http://ohionorth.scbwi.org.

In other news, I'd like to take this opportunity to announce that I have taken on the role of Illustrator Coordinator for Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI.  I'm very honored that my chapter's Board thought I would do well in this new role.  I still have much to learn about illustrating and publishing, but I'm excited to expand our programming and offerings for illustrators.  Don't think that means I've given up on writing, though!  I'm equally dedicated to both creative endeavors and very much hope to become a published author-illustrator someday.

That's all my big news for now!  With another conference just around the corner, it's time to get back to the grindstone on my writing and illustrating projects.  :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Long time no proper update, huh?

I know it's been pretty quiet around here, but this blog post title from A Tale of Two Cities pretty much sums up my past half year: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Here's a breakdown (complete with emoticons!)

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 I went from being a technological dinosaur...

...to being a technological supernova!

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This is because the bulk of my gadgets decided to resurrect their Y2K agenda of rebellion.  And rebel they did.

In March, my home desktop monitor went on the fritz, blacking out whenever it pleased.  This made completing my assignment for the Western PA SCBWI Illustrator Day a bit of a nightmare.  Old Screeny would be working just fine, then start to blink once or twice as if getting sleepy.  I'd yelp, scramble to save everything, then expel a scream of curses as my screen went blank with no guarantee that it would ever come back.  It made me a very grumpy Kathryn.

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But I finished my piece on time and had a great experience at the event.  I got to meet a lot of wonderful illustrators and gained valuable feedback from the featured art director.  And now I have yodeling dragons in my portfolio, which makes me a bit less grumpy.

:( :( :( :( :(
You may be thinking, "Silly Kathryn--why didn't you just complete your illustration during lunch on your office computer?"  Because my office computer is old, and slow, and stupid, and stopped working at exactly the same time.  This made me an extremely grumpy Kathryn.

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IT had to scrub it clean, reinstall everything, scrub it clean part deux, reinstall everything again, and eventually got it working.  Sort of.  For some reason, the Adobe programs kept malfunctioning, so IT had to keep coming back to uninstall and reinstall the software.  After many weeks, I finally regained a fully functioning computer--albeit a rather poky one.  Photoshop is now so sloooooow, but I managed to do a little equine portrait while re-setting up all my digital brushes (for the umpteenth time--but who's counting?)

This was also a gift for a friend of her character on deviantArt.

:( :( :( :( :(
Back at home, Old Screeny eventually kicked the bucket.  This wasn't unexpected, but still made me a grumpy Kathryn.  Who wants to spend a few hundred bucks on a new monitor when the old one should have lasted more than four years?  Not me.

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But we purchased a new, ginormous, AWESOME monitor for my at-home illustrating.  I love it to pieces.  I pulled out an old Simba sketch to color test the screen and bought some Photoshop brushes that have always been on my wish list.  This made me a significantly happier Kathryn.

He's working on his ROAR!

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Backing up a ways, I have been the butt of technological mocking for a long time.  My five-year-old slide-style phone hardly functioned, couldn't access the internet, and had a screen that was disgustingly corroding from the inside.  It caused me embarrassment on more than one occasion, like when I couldn't use it to keep time for an art director at a conference.  (Ouch.)  Throw in the fact that our old laptop was as slow as a snail in molasses in Siberia, and it was made abundantly--often humiliatingly--clear that I needed to step up my technological game.  A mocked Kathryn is both a sad and grumpy Kathryn.

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Fortunately, I have a wonderful family who is very supportive of my writing and illustrating endeavors.  With their help, we were able to buy a new Surface Pro 3 and iPhone this year.  The Surface Pro 3 does triple-duty replacing our old laptop, allowing me to illustrate digitally on-the-go, and providing me with a tablet I can take to events.  The iPhone lets me keep up with my bagillion emails--and see what Twilight Sparkle is doing in my MLP app.  (Hey, I never knew what I was missing these past few years in mobile gaming!)  So now when someone asks to see my illustrations at a workshop, I don't have to mumble excuses and wish my phone's corrosion would eat me.

I haven't gotten to use the Surface Pro as much as I'd like, but it's finally all set up and accessorized, and I hope to use it to start illustrating during lunch again.  I did a little Disney doodle to set up my digital brushes and can't begin to describe how awesome this tablet is.  It makes me a smiley Kathryn.

If only the world wouldn't get in the way...

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The biggest frown of all has been my health.  Since last November, I've had a stabbing/aching/painful spot in my shoulder blade.  I hoped it would go away, rested it, iced it, wrapped it in a heating pad, but the pain wouldn't subside.  It hurts to write; it hurts to illustrate, especially after sitting at my office computer all day.  So I've had to drastically cut back on both of my creative loves.  Eventually, I saw my doctor and started that fun cycle of testing, medications, and physical therapy.  This has now been ongoing for several months.  Nobody quite knows what's wrong with me, what caused the pain to begin with, or agrees on the best course of treatment.  This has made me the grumpiest Kathryn of all.  :(

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I'm now seeing a specialist who is giving me trigger point injections, and he hopes to ultimately help me with my migraines, too.  (Hooray!!!)  Only time will tell if this makes me better, or if we'll have to go back to the drawing board.  So for now I just have to do what I can when I can--even if it drives me crazy at times.  But I'm trying to be a good little patient, keeping up with my PT, and following my doctor's orders.  Hopefully, I'll be back to a normal, happy, smiley, creative, inspired  Kathryn soon.

I can't end this post on a frowny health note; that's just a big bummer.  So I'll say that I've also had a lot of fun these past few months seeing my sister and niece from Seattle; going to an old-timey baseball tournament in Michigan with my other sister and nephew; visiting family in New York; celebrating many birthdays/anniversaries/and other festive events; and spending a few days in Niagara Falls with my hubby.

Yes, we did go on the Maid of the Mist.  Yes, we did get wet.

And because I'm a big dweeb, I was super-excited that I got to eat at the Rainforest Cafe not once, but TWICE during my travels.
Who doesn't want to eat with animatronic tigers?!

And that's my summary of the past six months.  It's been good; it's been bad; it's been fun; it's been frustrating.  The best of times, the worst of times.  A roller coaster of "#*@&'s" and "huzzahs!"  I have no idea what the next six months will bring, but I'll certainly keep you updated as much as I can.  :)   

Note: All art and photos were drawn/taken by me.