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Have You Reached Success?

Our SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) local group of illustrators met at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens last weekend. We scattered throughout the park to find something that enchanted. That is always easy at this beautiful site. In October the scarecrow competition was on display, the fall leaves were showing their colors, and the mosaiculture sculptures are everywhere.

Mosaiculture gorilla.
Mosaiculture gorilla. It is hard to see scale, but these are about 7 feet tall.

I had been to the gardens one evening in the previous week. There I scouted for what I would like to draw. These heads representing the seasons were beautiful.

The maquette models for the giant sculptures outside.
The maquette models for the giant sculptures outside.

The actual sculptures are approximately 15 feet tall. They are beyond description, during the day or night they are wonderful and beautiful in their workmanship.

Outdoor sculpture at night.
Outdoor sculpture at night.

Michael Allen Austin, the nicest man in the children’s book illustrating business, had prompts for us to pursue as we drew and wandered the gardens.

I chose to turn my winter sculpture man into a character that was a gnarly sort of Heathcliff. I picture him wandering the moors brooding.

Winter Heathcliff.
Winter Heathcliff.

Heathcliff is on a 14″ x 17″ sheet of 98lb mixed media paper. I used watercolor pencils while at the gardens. Back in the studio I added the water and tried out my new watercolor markers. More color needed to be added with regular watercolor and detail outlined with black ink.

As always, seeing the group is a pleasure and inspiring. This time we all described how we would know if we had reached success. Write down your personal list and check it in five years. We all have a tendency to move the goal post so we never feel we have reached success. Maybe you already have and don’t know it.

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Painting at Booth Western Art Museum

I was so honored to be invited to paint at the Booth Western Art Museum last Friday. A fund raiser for the Young Philanthropists organization was  held in the evening. Four artists were creating pieces while music played. We had about an hour and a quarter to finish our work. First we wandered this amazing museum, a jewel box of western art set in Cartersville, GA. The bronzes, the paintings, and the kindest, brightest group of people you would ever want to meet were all there.

I arrived with an easel, supplies and a large sheet of watercolor paper painted with a gray blue wash. The party begins with music playing and attendees mingling and enjoying themselves. I start to sketch.

and I begin....
and I begin….

Pencil on acrylic wash to get a sense of where I am going with this piece.

As the evening goes so does the painting.
As the evening goes so does the painting.

The paint goes on as the cowboy, horse, barn, fence, and trees begin to appear.

Adding some green grass.
Adding some green grass.

The grass, highlights, a few sparks of color to add some zip are the last things to add.

Finished art, Come with Me.
Finished art, Come with Me.

I was so happy to see my friend Kitty Klein at the event. She brought her husband, John and friend, Lee Ann.

Beth with Kitty Klein.
Beth with Kitty Klein.

As the artists finished their paintings cowboy hats were set out for raffle tickets. Party goers could put their tickets in the hats at each artist’s station.

The climactic moment arrived, with painting in hand I went to the stage to explain my painting. Both of my grandfathers had had horses. One was an actual cowboy in west Texas while the other was part of a mounted posse in Arizona. The latter actually passed away while riding his beloved Palomino. Horses have been a favorite part of my life as well.

The raffle ticket was drawn and the winner was the lovely Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and her new painting.
Elizabeth and her new painting.

What a pleasure to see my painting go to somebody who was so excited and pleased to have it.

Thank you so much to this wonderful organization for including me in this magic evening.

 

 

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Competition Cat

Last weekend I attended a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in Birmingham, Alabama. This meeting was designated as Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK).

As the event draws to a close the prompt for the following year’s competition is announced. In 2013 the illustrators received their information: “Look out P.J. it’s a……” The artist fills in the blank and completes an image to enter.

I thought that I would like to use a flying cat since I had 2 models sleeping in my studio.  With the main character being a cat, the word feline seemed to be an appropriate part of the sentence. With dictionary open on my computer I began to look up science terms. Well, why not work with alliteration as one does in children’s literature. Back to the science terms under the letter F.

“Look out P.J. it’s a flyby feline fission flux.” These are all science terms that could pertain to space.

The Steampunk look was on my mind so off I went. Alli was on the floor stretching beside my chair.

Steampunk Alli sketch.
Steampunk Alli sketch.

Now who would P.J. be? Hmmm, who would be afraid of a flying Steampunk cat? Steampunk mice of course.

Steampunk mice.
Steampunk mice.

Some positioning thoughts.

How do cats fly?
How do cats fly?
How do mice look afraid of flying cats?
How do mice look afraid of flying cats?

One of my favorite tools is the white gel pen. Probably one of the simplest materials to use. It is basically a white ball point pen that is opaque enough to write on paint. On a blue background it would be fun to emulate a blueprint. What could be drawn? Buildings, machines? Oh, flying machines of course.

Flying machine sketches.
Flying machine sketches.
Acrylic on 18" x 24" cold press 140lb. watercolor paper
Acrylic on
18″ x 24″ cold press 140lb. watercolor paper

Everybody and everything is in its place. However, it is looking very flat. I took a photo of the art and opened it in Photoshop. This piece was going to be submitted on line and 8″ x 10″ prints were going to be mailed so the actual painting would never be seen. Now P.J. joins the ranks of digital art.

With shadows and enhancements added digitally.
With shadows and enhancements added digitally.

It neither won nor placed, but I am happy with the outcome. In my quirky art world cats fly, mice shriek in horror, and flying machines frequent the skies. I may be a little too edgy for children’s books. Part of my mission in attending the conference was to see if I could find the right fit for my artwork in the illustration business. I have not found it yet, but “this too will be revealed.”

 

 

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and the end of the story.

My character continues on with her story….

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Pages 12-13
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So much of what we do takes courage.

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It Took a Little

It took a little inner strength to go to an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Charlotte, N.C. alone. I would be attending an intensive class by myself. Bearing my portfolio and lots of postcards and business cards I went in.  The illustrator of the American Harry Potter series was our first speaker, Mary Grand-Pre. The executive art director, Isabel Warren Lynch, from Random House Children’s Books concluded the intensive. So much inspiring art and experience was shared in those hours.

I am standing with Mary Grand-Pre's original drawings for her new book about Kandinsky.
I am standing with Mary Grand-Pre’s original drawings for her new book about Kandinsky.

We had an assignment to prepare before the class. A sequence of 8 or more pages, maximum 3 colors and 20 words.

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Pages 10-11
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Stay tuned to see what happens to my little character.