I have been super neglectful lately of pretty much everything because I’ve been juggling finishing my own projects while also finishing up some client work. It’s never ending lately. BUT, I did finish my animal alphabet. They turned out much better than I had expected. The original plan was to turn them into flash cards, but it turned out trickier than I thought. The normal print companies I use for business cards and post cards couldn’t accommodate what I needed at a price I needed. So I took a trip down the rabbit hole that is Google and ended up finding a printing company that could allow me to turn my alphabet into a board book for surprisingly cheap, which is even better because not only will it give me a way to get my work out there myself at local stores and vendor events, it will give me an actual book to put on my resume. It’s been my plan since spring to accomplish that, but my other book is taking quite awhile to bring along because it’s a lot more illustrative work and I keep getting interrupted by client work and other life matters. So here now I have 26 finished pages ready for print.

Now the problem is getting it funded. I would love to use this project to launch my next couple of projects, but to profit off of it I need to be able to buy at least 700 copies. As a single parent, I can’t really justify spending $2700 on a risky book publishing venture. So what does a person do when you have a project you need funded but have no funding? Crowd sourcing. Scary stuff.

I launched my Kickstarter campaign on Friday. 5 days ago. I did the first natural thing and share it on Facebook hoping for support from friends and family. They are responding positively but also slowly. I then reached out on Instagram and Twitter. I have some other plans as well. Still, 40 days to go. As of right now, it’s at 13%. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’d like to contribute here is the link: http://kck.st/2uY7eJ5

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Ends and Begins.

For the past year, I’ve been dating… well no not dating more like occasionally seeing someone. Someone who turned out to be at worst a sociopath and at best just a liar. I seem to have a type. I knew it wasn’t love but I at least thought that we were friends, in the end, no matter what I thought we were friends. I thought he would always want the best for me as I did for him, because I really did then, not so much now. It went on for a year and it was a cloudy haze of excitement, sex, and self-doubt… a lot of self-doubt. I don’t deal with that well because I’m not accustomed to it. I trust my gut. I go where my gut wants me to go and usually it works out. So this was new for me and it was not good.

It’s ended now though, and with it so has the doubting and the worrying. I have this problem where I care about the people I care about too much. I invest too much. I need to learn to be more careful because when I invest too much in people I shouldn’t it takes too much away from me and what is really important to me. I cared about him.

The last time we talked we fought. I was so angry but then he started in with the same old bullshit I’d heard a dozen times, and my anger turned to disappointment. I was expecting better. I thought he was better. I stood there staring at the cows across the street from the gas station parking lot we were fighting in and listened to him going on and on with excuse after excuse and I just felt tired.  I watched him for a bit, trying to see the good in him that I was sure once existed, but the cows were more interesting. At least they were honest. I wanted to hate him, but I just felt sad. He wasn’t the person he had sworn he was and I’m just so tired of being so disappointed. My standards really aren’t that high. I need very little.

Rejection doesn’t really bother me. Sometimes things just don’t work out. It’s the lies. The lies bother me. What a waste of energy. How beautifully simple would life be if people could just be honest, especially with themselves? It wasn’t until the drive home that I began to digest the complete utter nonsense that he had been ranting at me. Then I hated him. I won’t get into all of that now, maybe later. It’s really not the point and I’m not sure that he deserves more than just a couple paragraphs in my life story. This was never about him, but how he made me feel. The sad thing is he did some really wonderful things for me that I never really got to tell him about or thank him for and now I never will because he doesn’t deserve credit for the good when it is so out weighed by the bad. You have a choice in life in how you treat others. Everyone messes up. Everyone makes mistakes. But you should always try to make sure the good overshadows the bad. Anyways…

That night I didn’t sleep. The next night I felt like complete garbage but I made myself draw. I’ve had this idea for awhile. I have a lot of ideas, but this one kept coming back and I think that is how you can tell it’s a good one. I was too tired for detailed drawing or any sort of painting and I couldn’t stand the idea of sitting at my computer so I began the first super loose sloppy sketches of this big idea that I had brought to my friend Chrissy Elliot, who is in her own right a talented photographer, so we could collaborate.

I have been longing to collaborate with someone on something for a long time. The business of art can be really lonely. I work alone late at night a lot. If I have a problem it is all mine to figure out. I can ask advice of course from other artists or whatever, but it’s not the same as having someone who is equally invested to turn to. I think it’s the same reason that being single is hard. I have friends in life, but at the end of the day when I go home, I’m in it alone.

Shortly after doing these sloppy sketches I posted one on Instagram and then I texted Chrissy “did you see?!” She liked it as I was texting. We spent the next hour or so excitedly texting back and forth. The ideas were sparking faster than we could type them. It’s a wonderful thing to share that passion and excitement with someone.

As I took a shower that night for the first time in a long long time I felt at peace. No more doubt. I was in love with my idea. I couldn’t wait to get to know it better and watch it grow. I don’t want to get into the details of it yet. I think just like with any relationship when things are this new you have to protect them and keep them safe until they are strong enough to withstand the opinions of the outside world. That might sound silly, but how often have you pitched an idea out into the world just to have some one casually shoot it down. They probably didn’t even mean to. They didn’t see what you saw. Or maybe they weren’t even listening and sometimes that indifference can be just as bad as criticism. So for now just know that something possibly awesome is coming.

 

Flash Cards.

I am loving these all together. I can’t wait to see all 26 finished. I’m also really loving the back side of the card. It will be amazing to see them printed and packaged as flashcards and a matching game. This was supposed to just be a warm up project to keep me sketching as often as possible but it might be one of my favorite projects ever so it’s getting really hard not to be completely distracted by it.

Alphabet

Grateful.

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I finished a big big project last night. I also submitted concept sketches for another, which means there isn’t anything more to do until I hear back. I was free. For like 10 minutes I was dancing around the house celebrating, because tonight the kids are gone and I can drink beer, or ride horses, or clean, without the weight of unfinished paid project hanging over my head. Then I remembered that I just signed a new contract on last Tuesday and agreed to do another. For about a minute I felt panicked because it just never ends, but then I was just so incredibly grateful. Grateful to my clients that keep me busy with work. Grateful to my friends and family that support what I do. Tonight when I leave work I might go ride, I might go have a beer, I might clean my house… but at 8:30 I will sit down and start on the next thing because this is the life I keep choosing. Freelancers don’t always have the luxury of time off but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Flashcards.

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When I’m feeling stuck or down or whatever I find a simple project and commit to it. Lately, I’ve been awfully bogged down by illustration and design work to the point that I can’t even do warm up sketches because I just can’t think of anything to draw. I can’t think. Last year when I was feeling like this I started a 100 days of sketches project. I finished it and it went great. I even managed to raise some money for my efforts and made a donation to local animal shelters. It was great. I couldn’t believe the difference in my work from day 1 to day 100.

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I can’t commit to that this year. I follow Jillian Michaels on Facebook and three times now I’ve tried to follow along when she does a 30 days of squats, planks, or whatevers challenge, but every time I only make it a week or two before something happens and I end up falling asleep in the middle of the floor waiting for the dogs to finish eating or something. So no. No 100 days of anything.

Instead, this time I went for something a bit more flexible and with some color. I’m working my way through the alphabet with animal sketches. I use the sketches as warm ups for other drawings. Then I come back to them and add color as warm ups for other work. I’m not sticking to an everyday plan. Just as often as I can. I am trying to dedicate a few days a week to drawing and my illustration work and leaving a couple days for the two blogs I’m working on and other design work. I’m not sure how that is working as of now, but I’ll let you know. I will say though that having a plan like this alphabet thing keeps me working and keeps me excited to keep working. The added bonus is that a small printing company and I are working together to turn these into flash cards when they are finished. It is always easier to actually finish a project if you know you make eventually get paid.

So if you’re stuck, make a plan. Pick a thing and work it through to completion. You can take your time, but just follow through and let me know how it goes. Love to hear about progress.

The Rest of Florida.

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After St. Augustine we headed down to coast so we could get a few last looks at the ocean before heading to Orlando. I was in no real hurry to get to Disney. I don’t really love the idea of resorts and everything about Disney is so commercial. But I have to admit when we pulled into the Art of Animation Resort I melted a little bit and then completely geeked out when I saw the incredible lobby full of concept sketches.

Everywhere were looked was amazing art and super fun details from some of our favorite movies. The icing on the cake was that the outside of our building looked like a giant sketchbook. It really got me thinking. I grew up on animated Disney movies and that is where my love of illustration was born. It has felt like such a chore and struggle lately. I’m lucky enough to have so much of it to do, but it has been feeling more and more like work and less and less like love. But here I was in this place where it was surrounded by imagination and design and getting to share that with the kids. I really wanted to hold on to that feeling.

We did a day at the Magic Kingdom, a day at Animal Kingdom and I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios with a friend. It all went so fast.

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I wanted to write something about our time at Disney and Universal. It has taken awhile though because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say. What is the point? Parenting advice about traveling with two kids to Disney? Um.. take your mother so you can go to the bathroom by yourself occasionally. Advice about working while traveling? I pretty much failed at that. I think what I more want to say is that sometimes it is really hard to find inspiration. It is really hard to keep that spark alive. But like the annoying embers left over from the fire you’ve been trying to put out before bed, life will dump on you and stomp you down, but you’re still in there. You’re still alive so try to find a way to enjoy it. Embrace and take advantage of every new experience. The lines at Disney were long but they have added little details everywhere if you take the time to look.

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J.K. Rowling is such a huge inspiration to me. Not only do I love the Harry Potter books and movies, but I also love the care and attention that she put into her world of wizards. The creativity and craftsmanship are unlike anything else I’ve read. Being at Universal and drinking a Butterbeer, riding the Hogwarts Express, have a beer at Hogsmeade with Hogwarts castle looming in the background was truly magical. I highly recommend any Harry Potter fan immerse themselves in that world as often as possible. I feel so lucky to have gotten to go and even luckier that I had a friend in the area to show me around. I have been telling myself for years to just do the work and put in the time and everything will pay off eventually, but inspiration comes from life and life isn’t happening in the studio. So go out and do. That is the point I think.

Things have been crazy since we got back. I’ve been working on one thing or another almost non-stop. I’ll get back to posting about art this weekend.

Back

I’ve been gone. I went to Florida. Then I came back, but I didn’t really come back. Actually, I think I’ve been sort of gone for years. I graduated from college and everything was supposed to just happen. Nothing did. Then I lost my spark. My edge. My fire. It’s been gone. Life took it. Taking it back as been rough. So much frustration and disappointment and having to work so hard for every single thing all the time. A year ago I lost a big freelance project. It would have taken everything to the next level, but the whole project just unraveled 11 days before I signed the contract. 11 days before I turned in my notice at my day job. It sucked and I wasn’t in the best head space when it happened and I feel like I’ve been sort of reeling ever since. I work one almost full-time job and then several smaller jobs to keep things a float. The benefit to this is flexibility. I make my schedule to a reasonable degree and that has been wonderful. The downside is no other benefits and an unpredictable income, which is troubling in a single income household. The stress, the anxiety, the exhaustion has put me in a funk which is detrimental to everything.

In January I decided that if 2017 couldn’t be better it at least needed to be different. I sort of made a plan. The main thing was to work with more purpose. I do one thing for my business every day. I’m nailing that one. The other thing was just to try to get out and do more. I spent a lot of time last year working and not so much living. Trying to find some balance there so I couldn’t really say no when my mom suggested taking the kids to Disney as my belated graduation present I couldn’t really say no. I of course really wanted to go and have the experience with my kids. I grew up on Disney and it’s where my love for illustration began. However, I don’t get paid vacation and if I was going to lose a week of income I’d rather do it on a mountain than at a theme park.

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Monday night I got some really crappy news so 15 hours in the car on Tuesday was pretty rough. Far too much time to dwell on everything that has gone wrong over the last few years. I passed the time by addressing postcards to mail to publishers and art directors. It didn’t really help my mood, but it was a big task that needed to be done. Our Airbnb in St. Augustine, FL was right around the corner from the post office so I was able to get stamps and mail them. while we were in town.

We spent two night in St. Augustine at a super cute cottage. The minute we walked in I felt at home and I could feel my mood shifting. Having a full kitchen and separate bedrooms was a life saver. The town itself was so incredible. If I could have called off Disney and spent the rest of the week there I would have. Charlie, would have been on board. He’s 5 and doesn’t really get the magic that is Disney World. He wanted to tour the light house. The beach was lovely. Not crowded or deserted. Caylin collected shells. Charlie loved the spray park next to the beach.

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The town was full of live music, open air bars, and weird little shops. St. Augustine was founded in the 1500’s so it’s full of weird old stuff. In the 1700’s the Spanish built a huge fort to defend the city that they never even really used. I love that. I could have wandered those streets for days exploring. At heart I am a wanderer. I’ve been standing still for too long. I think I’ve touched on an important missing piece of the puzzle that is my life. I was sad to leave. It’s rare to discover a brand new place that feels so familiar and comfortable. I left with a lot to think about, but mostly I left knowing that I had found something there. I wasn’t really sure what though. To be continued.

 

 

Tired.

You know that kind of tired where you feel like if a bus hit you it’d be okay because then you could just lay down? That’s how I feel. Hit me with a bus tired. And I’ve been preparing for our big family vacation, and trying to ride horses again, and still trying to do at least one good business thing a day, but I can’t draw. I just can’t. My tired brain can’t tell my hands what to do. This used to freak me out, but now after years of insomnia, I just roll with it. It’s no excuse not to keep working. I can still paint, maybe not as precisely, but at least the base shadow layers are doable, so I’m plugging away at that. I also have dug up some old art. I have a lot of illustrations that I just haven’t known what to do with, but I keep them because I love them and want to come back to them later and put them to work. It has been hugely inspirational. Some of them are just terrible and it is really cool to see how much I’ve progressed. Some have pieces that are just great but the entire illustration is crap. The really nice thing about collaging in Photoshop is that I can pretty easily remove the good pieces and discard the not so good.

I also have dug up some old art. I have a lot of illustrations that I just haven’t known what to do with, but I keep them because I love them and want to come back to them later and put them to work. It has been hugely inspirational. Some of them are just terrible and it is really cool to see how much I’ve progressed. Some have pieces that are just great but the entire illustration is crap. The really nice thing about collaging in Photoshop is that I can pretty easily remove the good pieces and discard the not so good.  seamonsterI painted this water monster a couple years ago in Photoshop as part of my first attempt at making a pop-up book. The book turned out pretty meh, but several of the monsters are super fun. I pulled this photo from Google and really it is just awesome together and it’s actually led to a pretty fun new project that I’ll talk more about in July. I guess the point is to keep working. Even when you can’t. Eventually, I’ll have to address the fact that I can’t draw anymore, I can’t keep recycling work forever, but it’s been a nice break.

Crushed.

snail

I spent a lot of time this weekend sorting things into piles. I have 6 or more of my own projects going and I’m trying to prioritize them and come up with some deadlines for when I would like them finished. With that comes the tough choices. Which ones will I actually finish? Which ones will likely die in a box in my studio? And what will they be? It can be hard to be objective because I love them all. Some just aren’t meant to be and some might just need to sit out of sight for awhile so I can come back to them with a new perspective. It can be hard to be realistic about your work. Everyone is looking for that one big idea, but often it’s actually a lot of little ideas and not all of them get to grow up.

 

 

One of the first big rules that you learn when going to children’s book conferences is that if you are going to submit your work to publishers then you need to be ready for a lot of rejection. If you are lucky enough to hear anything be prepared for it to be the word no over and over and over again. A lot of times you might not hear anything at all. If you are extremely lucky you might hear a maybe, but most likely with that maybe will come a long list of changes, which can also feel like rejection. It can be very crushing.

Every SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference I have ever been to has been incredibly inspiring and encouraging. It is typically a very safe space where they encourage you to just keep at it. That’s lovely, but to do that you have to develop a pretty thick skin and on top of that a good sense or realism. I think they could stand to talk more about being realistic. You need to be able to take a step back and look at your work and judge it without bias. Does it hold up? Is it in the realm of good enough? Am I willing to change it enough to be appealing to the masses?

Sometimes the answer to those questions will be no. The book project I’m working on now is something pretty personal to me. It’s a bit sappy and maybe a bit cliche. I know this, but I want to pursue it anyways and I’m not really willing to hand over control of it to anyone else. I also really want to experiment my way through the illustrations without guidance from an art director. It is a project I need to do alone. So for that project I know I’m heading for the tough path of self-publishing and I’m okay with that. I know it won’t have the reach that it would with a traditional publisher. I know I won’t make a ton of money off of it. Having done the self-publishing thing before though I am fairly confident that I can sell enough copies to break even. It will have a pretty strong appeal to moms. I’m also blessed with a lot of family and friends that support me and the work I do. And if nothing else I know it could be a great portfolio piece if I take my time and do it well. I’m excited to see what I make of it on my own. I have another project that I have just started that I think would be more marketable to a traditional publisher and I’m excited to start pitching it.

If you keep working and developing multiple projects it’s easier not to get crushed by the industry. If one isn’t working then set it aside and come back to it later with fresh eyes. Not every project is the same and they can’t all take the same path. This is the kind of realism I find necessary in this business. Know your work. Know the industry. Know where they come together. A lot of people know how tough traditional publishing can be, but really self-publishing is just as hard. It’s getting easier with new technology and ebooks. It’s getting more excepted as some larger publishers are seeing the benefit in partnering with printing companies. A lot of people go into with really high hopes of being discovered, but self-marketing is really hard. SCBWI has some great resources for self-publishing authors if you are just starting out. I also really recommend checking out a conference. On top of all of the valuable knowledge to be found there it is really comforting to be surrounded by other people who are in the trenches as well.

If you keep working and developing multiple projects it’s easier not to get crushed by the industry. If one isn’t working then set it aside and come back to it later with fresh eyes.Not every project is the same and they can’t all take the same path. This is the kind of realism I find necessary in this business. Know your work. Know the industry. Know where they come together. A lot of people know how tough traditional publishing can be, but really self-publishing is just as hard. It’s getting easier with new technology and ebooks. It’s getting more excepted as some larger publishers are seeing the benefit in partnering with printing companies. A lot of people go into with really high hopes of being discovered, but self-marketing is really hard. SCBWI has some great resources for self-publishing authors if you are just starting out. I also really recommend checking out a conference. On top of all of the valuable knowledge to be found there it is really comforting to be surrounded by other people who are in the trenches as well.

Commitment

I spend most of my time in front of my computer while at work, so when I get home I’m not really up for another 3 hours of digital painting so I’ve pretty much entirely switched over to working traditionally. I enjoy drawing in a sketchbook. I love that I can take it anywhere. I love that I can use my finger to smudge pencil. I love the texture of the paper. Sometimes I have a lot of trouble with commitment though. That is where digital collage comes in. Doing elements separately and then piece them together in Photoshop takes away a lot of stress and makes corrections a lot easier. I’m not totally in love with this dog and if I decide he isn’t making the cut then I can just redo him and without having to scrap the entire page. For this project I’m not gettin too far out there, but for other projects, I’ve scanned in leaves, cardboard, and other odds and ends to add texture. It’s been a great solution for artists who want to continue to work in traditional mediums but also want to experiment without consequence.