Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all have a happy holiday season full of love and joy! Also, just in case any of you aren't sure what to get Jesus for His birthday, please check out Compassion International. There are a lot of boys and girls who would appreciate having a little more love and hope in their lives.

Sponsor a Child

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What's New

It's been an exciting month for JZ Artworks! The studio has finally been painted! I absolutely love the new atmosphere of my workspace. Previously, the room was completely a pinky-beige color (from the trim, to the walls to the ceiling....) Now, the walls are a beautiful light lilac color, with a deeper grape color under the chair-rail. The walls are light enough not to affect the colors of any paintings-in-process, but still feels calm and creative.

Also this month I decided that it was time to begin to learn to create my artwork digitally. Now, I have no plans on saying "goodbye" to watercolor, but I do want to make sure that my skill set does not become obsolete in the future. Technology is not going away, and I was to make sure that my style is adaptable so that I can stay competitive in this industry. So, JZ Artworks bought me an early Christmas gift: a Wacom Cintiq. My previous tablet was old and very small, and was cramping my hands with prolonged use. When I priced the size tablet that I wanted, it was about the same price the coveted Cintiq, so financially, it made sense to get the better tablet. All I can say is that this is a very powerful tool. It takes come getting used to, but I really enjoy being able to draw directly on the screen. I've experimented with some brushes and have been gravitating to a few favorites. I am a long way from being able to call myself a true professional digital artist, but I am feeling pretty good about how my experiments are going. Also, editing my traditional artwork in Photoshop has become easier due to this tool.

Here are some of my experiments:
This first image is a close up of a section of a watercolor illustration I have done.
This next image is that same sketch, but with the girl and the dog colored digitally (the background is obviously not complete).Currently, I feel that my traditional work has more energy in the color, but I do like how clean the details of the digital experiment are turning out, especially around the eyes and in the hair. Your opinions are of course welcome! Well, I have several projects in the works right now, so I have to get back to my art desk. Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Katie Kate Cancer Picturebook Complete

Hi Everyone!
I just got the good news that the artwork that I have done for the "Katie Kate Explains Cancer" picture book is approved! I am so glad that the client enjoyed the artwork. I do not yet know the final title or the release date for this book, but will post that information when I know more.

One of the elements that I really tried to focus on in this project was unity of color. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of simply shading objects with darker versions of their base color (like adding a dark red shadow to a red vase, for example). With this book, I tried to work a little more transparently that I normally do, to create new colors through layering. I found that I enjoy creating dimension through this process, but that it is challenging and involves a little bit of courage! Well, I at lease found it scary at first to shade light green walls with the magenta from Katie's cape! The result, I feel, are pages with more color unity. This technique also creates a softness that I feel is not present in some of my other work. Given the subject matter of this book, I feel that this is was appropriate.
For those who do not know what the book is about, the story centers on a young girl named Suzy who is diagnosed with cancer. At first, she is nervous and very confused about what this means for her. However, The Great Katie Kate (the hospital's on-call superhero) takes Suzy around the hospital to explain the different steps of cancer treatment, and to introduce her to other cancer patients her age. All the while, the Worry Wombat (a large wombat who has been conjured by Suzy's fears), gets smaller and smaller as Suzy becomes more and more empowered to understand her condition.

It is coincidental that even though I had nothing to do with the writing of this book, both my sister and the flower girl at my wedding were both diagnosed with cancer, and both are/were named Katie. Both have beaten the disease, though in different ways. If I get to include a dedication with this book, it will be to them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Highlights Magazine

Just a short announcement that my artwork is published the latest (Nov 2009) Hightlights Magazine on page38, accompanying the story "Lizard Problems." I had been wanting to work with Hightlights for a while, and was so excited to be chosen to illustrate this story. It is about a girl who is afraid of lizards, and is assigned the task of caring for Ripley, the class pet uromastyx (a big lizard). This was such a cute story! Working with Hightlights was a great experience, and I hope to be able to illustrate for them again soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Reach Out and Read

Last night I participated in a great fundraiser event for Reach Out and Read Indiana. The event was held at the Childrens Museum of Indianapolis, and was a great meet & greet time for the public and local authors and illustrators. There was a silent auction, raffle prizes, a buffet dinner, and crafts for the kids. Plus, the authors and illustrators took turns in the reading corner to read aloud from their books. I was happy to have my table by Terry Webb Harshman and Sharon Vargo, who are active members of SCBWI Indiana, and who I had met years ago when I was first investigating the world of childrens publishing. They had a group meeting for aspiring authors and illustrators to talk about their experiences in this business, and I was really excited to become an illustrator myself. It was great to re-connect with them at the event! I was also happy to see some children who recognized me from previous book signings, and they came to my table to buy some of the latest Pirate School books! All in all, it was a great evening for everyone! It was fun to see all the little kids excited about the books and the crafts (and of course the prizes!). Hopefully, I'll be invited to participate again next year!

Also, PS: Thanks do out to my wonderful husband who was my errand boy all night, bringing the other authors and me food and drinks and cake!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Projects and Previews

Well, I got back from vacation, and hit the ground running. Sketches needed to be done for the Katie Katie Cancer book; the Reuben Wells Picturebook needed a page tweaked, and my Korean client had a new unit of illustrations for me to work on (in fact I started concepting the thumbnails in the airport on my way back home). Each unit consists of 4 short stories, with 4 illustrations each for a total of 16 illustrations per unit. The stories are very quirky, so they are humorous to work on ("Yogurt in the Fog" wins for my all time favorite funny title). The turn around times are quick, so I've really been kept on my toes!This past week, I completed the sketches for the Katie Kate Cancer picturebook. While the client was reviewing them, I took that time to move forward with the final art for the spread that was already approved. I would really like to improve the color flow and unity of my artwork, and was glad that I had time this week to do some experimenting. First, I did a digital color layout, so that I could plan what colors I wanted the objects to be. Then, after I was satisfied, I did a test-run of the page at 25% scale. This was fun. It was a time to simply give myself the freedom to just make mistakes. So, since I didn't care about the possibility of wind splattering dirt or paint onto the piece,I took my paints outside, and enjoyed the sunshine while I painted. (and yes, I DID end up splattered in permanant rose when a gust of wind blew my pallet onto me and my painting). I learned a lot, though, about how I wanted to distribute the colors across the final painting (can the rasberry color be used to shade the blonde hair..?....will blue look good as a shadow on the wall...?....how will the pink look as a highlight in the gray?) So, then I started the next day fresh, ready to take what I had learned to the final art. I started my washes a lot lighter than I usually do, and tried to not focus on object-oriented painting. I was surprised how fast the painting went (although maybe the 2 rough drafts helped with that!). I am really pleased with the result, and the client was too! I think that the text will lay nicely on top of these softer colors. I can't wait to start work on the rest of the images for the book. Here's a sneak peak at that finished spread:As for the Reuben Wells Picturebook, I made the last revision (thank you, Photoshop!), and the final art is delivered and ready for printing. I can't wait to hold the finished book in my hands! I believe it will be released in early 2010. I'll let you know when I have more information.

Happy end of the summer, everyone!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's been a crazy summer!

Hi everyone. I haven't written in a while, so I just thought I would write a short update. It's been a crazy summer, but very productive! On the home-front, my husband and I continue to do a lot of work to the new house. We have planted a vegetable garden, and are looking forward to our 14 tomato plants ripening soon. The weather has been mild, so we have not been in the pool as often as we would have liked, but on the warmer days, we have been enjoying having a private place to swim with our family and friends. Plumbing projects have been completed, and new lighting was put up in my studio, so it is a much brighter place to work!

Speaking of the studio, I have been very fortunate to have my plate full of freelance work these past few months. I have a few loose ends to wrap up with some of my projects, but quite a bit of work has been completed over the summer. I finished my first picturebook "Reuben Rides the Rails" for the Indianpolis Children's Museum Guild. This was a huge project which took months to complete! During this time, I also took on many smaller, faster projects. These included artwork to accompany the short story "Lizard Problems" in the November 2009 issue of Highlights Magazine, a large poster detailing the various plants and animals that live in the different levels of the rainforests, some line art, and 16 color illustrations for some textbooks in Korea! I have really been enjoying the diversity of my projects, and have tried something new with each of them (sometimes techniques for applying the paint, sometimes different ways to add the colored pencil, sometimes adding gouache, and sometimes just trying new color combinations). I have had to be very disciplined to coordinate all of the multitasking over the past two months, but all of the projects went very smoothly, and I am hoping for an exciting and productive fall season as well!

One of the new projects that I am just beginning involves two picturebooks for children who are diagnosed with cancer and diabetes. These books will help explain the illness and the treatments to young children, and address their fears and worries. Although I didn't write the books, I feel a very personal connection with them, especially the cancer piece. My flower girl passed away last year from cancer at a very young age. My younger sister has also been diagnosed with cancer. Both my flower girl and my sister share the name "Katie". Amazingly, the main character in both of these new books is "Katie"! I have been keeping both of my "Katies" in mind as I have begun working on characters and sketches. Here is a sneak preview of a sketch from the cancer picturebook.

I'll be going on a vacation soon, and hope to return refreshed and ready to be back in my studio! Happy end of the summer, everyone!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Dad's Book Cover

My Dad is self-publishing a book about basic home and car maintenance, and I just finished the cover for him for Father's Day. My father is a jack-of-all-trades sort of man, and when I got married, I jokingly told him that he needed to make me a book of all the "stuff" that he does around the house so that I can give it to my husband. Dad rose to the challenge, and his book has been a family project for several years now. My father (obviously) writes and has compiled diagrams and charts, and has therefore put countless hours into this labor of love. My sister (business major with a BA in journalism) was the editor. Mom was proof reader and opinion-giver. My sister's fiance did all of the technical illustrations and diagrams. I served as illustrator, creative director, and the "girl who knows about publishing so go ask her what to do" person. With any luck, we'll have copies printed in time for Christmas. It will be a great family heirloom, and I am glad to have been able to do something small for my Dad, who has done so much for me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My New Picturebook

Well, I have officially delivered final art to the client for my first full scale picturebook! "Reuben Rides the Rails" is being published by the Children's Museum of Indianapolis Guild, and is about how "Reuben" (the steam engine) went from Madison Hill to becoming a major part of the Museum. I've been working on this piece since January 2009, and have been working on the final paintings since early April. The most challenging part of this piece was developing the character of "Reuben". This is my first experience truly bringing an inanimate object to life, and giving it emotions and a personality. It was a two-fold challenge. I had to choose which parts of the train to keep, and which to anthropomorphize as I created the character. However, the second part of the challenge was that Reuben could not look like just ANY train. He had to look like the very specific steam engine in the museum exhibit. It was fun collaborating with the Guild to find just the right design for Reuben's character. Now that all of the sketching, concepting, and painting is done, I am really proud of the finished product. I do not yet know the publication date for the book, but I do want to share a sneak peak at the cover with you. I can't wait to see the art in print!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Carmel Clay Public Library Children's Book Festival

Hi Everyone! It's been a busy couple of months. I think that at the end of June I will post a photo showing all of the paintings I have created since April 1! I've been averaging about 15 paintings per month. Whoo! Anyway, I took a short break this past weekend to participate in my local library's children's book festival. We had many Indiana authors and illustrators involved. We each got a table from which to sell our books, and several of us also did programs for the kids. For most of the day, I sate next to Jeff Stone, author of the "Five Anscestors" series. It was great to be able to talk to such a successful author about his experiences. Plus, I think I got some extra traffic to my table just from all of the kids lined up to meet Jeff!
Later in the day I gave a "Create a Masterpiece" program, wherein the kids learned how to draw Pete and Vicky from the "Pirate School" series. I was surprised by how many kids participated (I had practically a whole classroom full!). The children were great! They were very engaged, and asked questions that just cracked me up. One little boy was particularly interested in Pete's feet (we were just drawing heads, and the boy was VERY concerned about Pete's apparent inability to walk!). Another girl had commentary about the tooth fairy, and whether or not she makes rounds to pirate ships to collect pirate kids' teeth. It was awesome! One thing I did differently with this drawing program as opposed to those I Have done in the past is that I created coloring book sheets. In the past, I noticed that some of the youngest children struggled to follow along with the drawing demonstration, and sadly became frustrated. This time, I gave everyone coloring pages in addition to white drawing paper. This way, even the youngest attendees were able to create art that they were proud of during the lesson. It was great to see all of the kids have a great time!
Well, everyone, I'm heading back to the drawing board! I just have 2 more paintings to do for my "Reuben Wells" picturebook, and have to scan some finished art.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What I've Been Up To

Hi Everyone! I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I would write a little post to say "hello" to everyone who visits my little corner of the internet.

Moving into the new house has been going well. I can't stress how much I love my new studio. True, I have not have time to decorate the space, but it is so great to have a great big room and a great big desk completely devoted to my projects. Right now, it is an absolute mess, and I love it. I have reference material spread out everywhere! Mostly books on trains. I'm currently working on a picturebook for the Children's Museum of Indianapolis about their Reuben Wells steam engine. This has been very challenging. I've had to surround myself with a lot of historical references, and of course, hundreds of pictures of trains. The biggest challenge has been to anthropomorphize the trains. Since the main characters are the trains, it is very important that they can convey all sorts of human emotions while also keeping their distinct historical features. Finding the balance was difficult, but once I "found" the characters, it was very rewarding. I'm about half way through the spread sketches right now, and am really pleased with how the book is developing visually; I hope the client will feel the same.

I also just finished my image for my Picturebook 2010 advertisment page. My agent urged me to focus on 2 things while creating my image: 1) Do a night scene (since most of my portfolio shows daytime scenes) and 2) show both human characters and anthropomorphic animals (to show that I can do both). This past Decemeber, I had a carnival themed project. Some of the sketches were scrapped, and so I took the ferris wheel scene and expanded it into this new piece. The original reject-sketch had just one car with 2 children, and showed the carnival in the background during the day. For this new piece, I zoomed out to show more of the ferris wheel, and populated the cars with kids and animals. My favorite part was coming up with unique and fun animals. It was especially important that I choose colorful animals, so that they would stand out against a dark background. Although I painted the final art in watercolor, I ended up going back into the background to add some background details and atmosphere digitally. I am really pleased with the final piece, and feel that it showcases my artistic growth over the past year.
Also, that carnical theme project that I mentioned? It has been printed! You can see it at the Highmith/Upstart webiste. I always get a kick out of seeing my artwork in use as a final product. I really can't wait until later in the year when I can see the "Pass the Ball" book that I worked on in Dec-Feb, which should be out late in 2009. In the meantime, I have plenty of work with my new picturebook to keep me busy!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Studio for JZ Artworks

Well, after 6 months of waiting, my husband and I have finally moved into our new home! We are still unpacking, solving small projects and trying to get settled, but we love it. One of my favorite parts of moving into this home is that I now have my very own studio space. It isn't decorated yet, but my desk and computer are set up, and I have already begun working in the room. It's great! I love having my big art desk back (it was being stored at my parents' house). The desk has a flat file which is perfect for my large sheets of watercolor paper. I also enjoy the natural lighting. My previous workspace was in the basement of our condo, and now I have really enjoyed being able to look out the window while I work.
The room also has a really useful ledge going around 2 of the walls. I have been using this to prop up paintings from my latest book project. This way, I can easily check the colors for consistency as I create each new page. I can't wait for the room to be set up how I envision it, but for now, it is great to have a workspace that is all my own and completely centered around my illustration process.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pirate School 8 Released

Hi Everyone! Just a short note to let you know that the final book in the Pirate School Series, "Shiver Me Shipwreck", has been released. If you wish to purchase, you can find it on Amazon through my online store. This story was fun to illustrate, because it involves some new characters, lots of water (for some reason, I like illustrating water), and of course Inna is her spunky self. You'll even get to meet Vicky and Aaron's parents! I can't wait to see the printed book myself!