Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creative Gift Ideas for Kids


I'm going through my holiday shopping list and thought I'd share some of my favorite gift ideas for kids. No batteries required!


1. Art supplies - it wouldn't be a holiday around here with out them. I usually include a how-to book for inspiration or a new sketchbook. Colored pencils, fancy sketching pencils, watercolors and oil pastels are favorites here.

2. Craft supplies - these are always put together as a kit. I don't like to give kits that have set projects, I like supplies that offer open-ended creativity. This year it's a sewing kit for my youngest. I'll include fabric, thread and notions. Other kit ideas include polymer clay & sculpting tools. Beads with an inexpensive tool set and stringing materials. Foam, pipe cleaners, craft sticks and other general supplies offer a world of imagination when packaged together.

3. Books, big surprise! But I like to include them with new pajamas or a little fleece throw, it's good to encourage cuddling. My sister gave blankets to all the kids last year - they were a huge hit! I stole her idea for my husband's side of the family this year.

4. Scarves - again with the cuddle factor. A scarf is like a little hug each day during the winter months. I like to use big knitting needles and 2-3 yarns for a nice fluffy scarf. I'm not a fast knitter. I whip one up in 2-3 evenings while watching TV.

5. Stuff animals - made by you! There are tons of free patterns online if you can sew. One year my girls designed the animals and we made them for their cousins. They were so cute and funky. Check out Whip Up for patterns.

6. Board & card games -  I love board games from my own childhood and rediscovering them with my children. My top pick this year is Yahtzee. Great for kids who are learning multiplication, but still fun for the whole family. We like Uno and Boggle too. Anything that brings the family together gets a thumbs up from me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Deck the Halls


We went Christmas tree hunting yesterday and it turned out to be an actual hunt!  There was a tree shortage in San Antonio.  We heard from one salesperson that it was due to trees arriving from the east and being delayed by the weather. Who would have guessed!

One of my favorite things to do after the tree is up and the family is asleep, is to turn on some holiday music,  fix myself a cup of tea and sit in peace while enjoying the lights.  I think it reminds me of being  little and staring at the tree from my bedroom door.  I'd stare at the tree until the lights blurred and sugar plums danced in my head.

Content, filled with wonder and a belief in the impossible - the very magic of childhood is wrapped in the season.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Take a Chance!


On what?  Entering contests - you just never know!  First I will say that contests are so subjective that if you enter and don't win, don't sweat it.  At the very least you'll have new work for your portfolio and that is always a good thing.

I haven't worked my way up to entering the illustration contests outside of the children's book world, but I do enter SCBWI portfolio contests as often as I can.  Before I won the Tomie dePaola Portfolio Award last year there was a moment a few weeks before the conference where I almost talked myself out of not entering.  What a shame that would have been!

Get your work out there and see what happens.


So a month or so ago when I learned about Picture Book's contest, I immediately entered.  The grand prize is a page in their annual, that would be sweet and 4 runner-ups will receive an online portfolio.  That wouldn't be too shabby either. 

So guess what?  I'm one of the 30 finalists.  They will announce the winners mid-January.  Cross your fingers, knock on wood, rub a horseshoe, eat a four-leaf cover and all that jazz for me!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gather ye craft supplies



Between now and December 25th I will do a impossible amount of crafting and creating, decorating and gift-making.  I can't help myself.  I'm a complete Christmas nut.  In fact we'll be getting our tree this weekend and then all tinsel breaks loose. 

First, we are incapable of having the same theme each year.  For the last few our tree has evolved into this cute red/white snowflake, nature kind of theme.  This year I'm adding another layer with birds, lots of birds in all shapes and sorts.  Including: needle felting, polymer clay and etched metal.  I'm telling you, I'm hopeless when it comes to restraint and the holidays.

And then there are the gifts.  There is jewelry to be made.  Needle felted hamsters because my youngest wanted a Zhu Zhu and I couldn't get over how un-cute they are.  There will be knitting neckwarmers.  Sewing a few little bags and trying my hand at pajama pants.  I've sewn doll pj's, we'll see how I do with life-size. And then there is my ambition to make a needle-felted Mr. Fox, we'll see if I have time.  And to top it all off, I will make a doll or two with paper clay for someone sweet on my list. 

Are you a crafty holiday elf?  I know I'm not alone in my yuletide mania!  Let the creating begin...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Snowflake Ornaments


I love when my two worlds meet somewhere in the middle! 

This is an ornament that I created last week using a snowflake rubber stamp that I carved.  The metal is stamped and the ink acts as a resist, it's then set in an acid bath until the metal is 'eaten' away.  After it's washed, the image is antiqued with a blackening solution.  Then, ta-da! It's an etched metal ornament.

I'm not a fan of chemicals, but it's an easy enough process and I love the results.  Now to make those snowflake rubber stamps do double duty and create some gift cards!  Oh how I love printmaking!

You can find these ornaments and all sorts of beady goodness in my Etsy shop.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


Hope your day is filled with the people and things you love!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'Tis the Season


This week will be slow in the illustration department with only sketching and a little marketing.  My world is always turned a upside down from now until December 15th with my online business

I love homemade gifts, beside art supplies and books, those are the only kinds of gifts found under our tree each year.  And while I might not be the maker of each one, somone's hard work and steady hands have created the treasures.  I'm a huge Etsy fan and encourage you to shop there for handmade gifts from artists all around the world. 

"...the best present was usually something you made yourself, a one-of-a-kind thingamijig, not just a whatsit anyone could buy in a store." - from Toot & Puddle's Let it Snow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Snowflake Bentley


Aren't snowflakes just amazing?


I'm sure you have seen Mary Azarian's illustrations in Snowflake Bentley.  I love them, in fact this is the book that set me on my illustration path.  After seeing this book, I thought to myself, I have to do this, whatever this IS, it's what I want to create. 

I think like many new moms I fell in love with picture books.  I would collect them for my children and read to them everyday.  When my youngest went to preschool I volunteered in the school library.  It was there that I studied my favorites and when I ran across Snowflake Bentley my heart went a-flutter! 

Through that school librarian I connected with a local illustrator.  That illustrator, an SCBWI member, graciously answered all my newbie questions and introduced me to the SCBWI.  I'm so thankful beyond words! I'm thankful to that librarian, the artists who inspire me with their amazing work and my peers in this profession who have encouraged me along with the way.  And it all started with a snowflake.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Juicy!


Have you found this little online gem?  The Red Lemon Club is a new blog dedicated to online promotion for creative freelancers.  Love the practical advice and good tips.  Be sure to subscribe or add it to your blog reader so you don't miss a post!

Of course, actually using the advice would be better!  Marketing can seem like an overwhelming task.  Take it one step at a time and focus on a specific goal.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flashback Friday


Another one from the Humblearts vault. 

I really love this piece. I created it as an example for an illustration with a poem a few years ago.  This is based on a farm near my dad's house.  And the barn does say Breezy Hill, who wouldn't want to live there?  It's so sweet and old fashioned.  And yeah, I have a thing for snow. Of course I do, I'm in the middle of Texas with not a hint of cold weather for weeks to come!

And high-five for me for week three of blogging here at the new Humblearts Journal!

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grow Your Illustration Business


Okay, this blog post is for me. Sometimes I need to give myself a little advice. Maybe it will be helpful to someone else, so here it is:

1. Don't focus on the past. Put your energy toward moving ahead and reaching your next goal.
2. Work this business like you do your day job.
3. Study the best children's books, read them, all of them and school thy self on what makes a fantastic picture book and art for children.
4. Have written goals and a marketing plan.
5. Work everyday toward those goals. Even if it is sketching or updating your mailing list for 15 minutes. 
6. Be honest about your work, does it wow? If not, get busy improving and exploring!
7. Be Flexible. Do you only work in one medium? Do you have black and white samples in your portfolio? Does your work only cover one age group? Can you add another section to your portfolio to expand your target audience?
8. Make your own work while you wait for new assignments.  Get creative.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Breaking Into Illustration Book Review


Breaking Into Freelance Illustration: A Guide for Artists, Designers and Illustrators by Holly DeWolf

I ordered this book after listening to a podcast with Holly DeWolf on Escape From Illustration Island

It's been my constant companion over the last week.  It's filled with great advice for both new illustrators and those who have been around for a while.  Just some of the topics covered in the book: how to create from home, balancing family and your career, promotion, client relations, money, inspiration and how to overcome common hurdles that illustrators face.  I love that she includes work-at-home illustrating moms in her interviews and I can relate to that.  I also love the advice on not comparing yourself to other illustrators.

Basically, this book is good for the soul if you've been trying to break into illustration.  You'll find practical solutions and good tips.  I highly recommend adding this one to your library.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winter Scene


This is a small print that I created to stamp on shrink plastic.  You remember Shrinky Dinks, right?  Well I wanted to create a series of pendants using my images.  Can't say I love them, but I do see some possible ornaments in the future using the shrink plastic and rubber stamps.  Fun stuff!  My daughter quickly talked me out of a sheet and we enjoyed watching it curl and shrink in the oven with our creative efforts. 

The image is from a trip home to Michigan last year and joy upon joy, there was snow!  I have to say, I do miss the chill and the frost.  There is magic in a wintery holiday. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Illustration Friday - Unbalanced


Looks like there might be some layoffs in Santa's workshop this year!
Check out Illustration Friday to see the rest of this week's entries.
(Traditional block print, hand-colored with oil pastels and pastel pencil.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

A SCBWI Secret


I'm a conference junkie, I'll admit it. I love attending SCBWI conferences both national and local. I can't even tell you how many wonderful people I've had the chance to meet and learn from.

Being a Regional Advisor for the Southwest Texas chapter of the SCBWI, I know I may be a little bias. But what you may not know is that your local or state SCBWI conference is a gold-mine of exposure for illustrators.

At local conferences illustrators make up 10-20% of the attendees. Almost every conference I have been to has a portfolio display and contest. Okay, let's do the math, if your local conference has 100 participants, 20 will have portfolios in the display. Who judges said contest? The speakers, i.e. art directors, editors and agents. And then there are the "get-of-the-slush-pile" passes that you get for attending conferences. For a limited time you can submit to attending speakers, even if they are at a closed house.

Want to get even more out of your local conference? Volunteer!

I'm looking forward to a round of conferences here in Texas in January (Austin) and February (Houston). I'm planning on attending the International Summer Conference in LA in August and in September we are hosting an Editor's Day here in San Antonio. Opportunities abound in 2010!

Find an SCBWI chapter near you: http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Regional-Chapters

Okay, so this information isn't secret, but if you aren't part of your local chapter you are missing out on a great resource!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fairy Tales



Pulled from the Humblearts archives. 
Hmm, I may have to work on some more lettering, that was fun stuff.
Run jack run!

Need to work on your porfolio?
Take 3 classic fairy tales and illustrate 3 scenes from each one to tell the story:
1. Illustrate one for the board book market - simple shapes, bright colors, easy to read.  Here is a tip, the character size doesn't change in a board book. 
2. Illustrate one for the picture book market, which is usually 3-6 years old.  Only put a twist on the fairy tale, mix it up, place the story in an unlikely setting, etc.
3. Illustrate one in an early chapter book style - black and white, for 1st-3rd grade.  Bonus points if you create a mock-up cover for the fairy tale chapter book.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let's Get Crafty!


You may not know that I'm a well published designer in the jewelry/bead magazine world.  In fact, I have a jewelry how-to book proposal out in the publishing world at the moment awaiting it's fate.  (Fingers crossed, knock on wood.) 

I've had the idea for a kid's craft book in the back of mind for a while and have often been told I should write one. Something just clicked this week and I ended up writing up the outline and possible projects for one.  Yeah!    So while I work on sending out submissions and marketing my work, I will sneak in a few minutes here and there to work on this project too.  Fortunately after a few years of publishing credits, writing crafty directions is as easy as pie. 

So here is tip for illustrators, want work but don't have art directors beating down your door just yet?  Create your own!  If you aren't up for writing a book, kids magazines are always looking for illustrated puzzles & games.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Work





Brown or black ink?  Bright colors or muted? 
Let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Artist Spotlight - David Ezra Stein

David Ezra Stein is a picture book genius, if you'd like to see genius at work take a look at his process for creating his latest book, Pouch.  I love seeing all those character sketches!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Postcard Sketch


This guy is going to do double-duty as my website banner and then cropped postcard size for my next promo.

We are all about the goggles at my house lately and this little fellow was inspired by my daughter's adventurer Halloween costume.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twitter Links for Authors and Illustrators

Below are a few little sketches for a twitter icon for my blog.  You know, since it's all shiny and new I want to give it a little extra spiffin' up.  I think I'll carve up all three and see which one I like the best and then offer them for the general public to use if they wish. 




I LOVE the children's book twitter world.  There is inspiration and information to be had on a daily basis.

*Remember to mind your manners on twitter, it's public and you never know who might read your tweet. 

*Don't be a pest and direct message agents or editors, I think that's right up there with passing the manuscript under the bathroom stall at a conference. (Also a no-no in case you were thinking, yeah that's a great idea.)

*Your tweets should be entertaining, informative or inspiring.  (No lunch or laundry tales unless it fall under one of the three categories just mentioned.)


Here are some good links if you want to get started.






 See you around the water cooler.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Holiday Mania


There's a 12" paper mache turkey on my dining room table and two christmas wish lists posted on the fridge.  Ah, the holidays with kids!  They are just taking a cue from our local stores that have Christmas  displayed before back-to-school.

I'm feeling a little surge of the holiday rush myself, working on plans to survive shows, online sales, family and travel.  And in the midst of that dealing with my own Christmas nuttiness.  I can never do things small, it's all handmade, over-the-top ornaments, gifts and celebrations.  I say bring it on - the busier I am, the more I seem to accomplish. 

I'm determined to design an advent calendar this year.  Better add that to my master to-do list, I only have 3 weeks left!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2010 CWIM


I certainly can not talk about marketing without mentioning the 2010 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market.  I never miss picking up a copy of this annual guide.  This year they added an online feature for up-to-date listings, which is so vital in an industry that is constantly changing.

Along with the listings of publishers I love the articles and features.  I have saved all my market guides and refer back to them over the years.  There is a little nugget in each one and as you grow in your career articles that you once glanced over suddenly become critical information.  This one is jam packed with online marketing tips that I'm loving! 

I've been working on updating my mailing list for 15 minutes a day and I have a new postcard sketched out and need to work on carving that bad boy this week.  Moving right along.

21 Day Marketing Plan


Nothing like the excitement of a new project to get my creativity rolling.  I love the beginning of projects, when all possibilities are open and the road is yet traveled.  So here we start Humblearts Journal on blogger. I've had my blog for a few years but over the last two years it's been beyond neglected. My old computer is not a fan of typepad and I'm over here blogging almost everyday anyway for my beady empire.

So what shall we start with?  A list and a plan for November.  I'm giving a presentation at our next SCBWI meeting on Marketing for Authors and Illustrators.  So I need to practice what I'll be teaching and preaching.  I'm great at the knowing, not so good at the doing!

Daily:
twitter/facebook/blog - keep up with what's going on in the industry, get my name & work out there.
Update my mailing list for 15 minutes day.

Week One:
Create new blog
Update website with new work
New promo image

Week Two:
Work on 2 new dummy samples
Send out postcards
Outline for craft book proposal

Week Three:
Send out dummy
Write query letter
Marketing research for craft book proposal

Bite size, specific and with a deadline.  Now that's how you set a goal.  (Illustrator quakes in boots, must stay consistent...)