Friday, February 27, 2015

PICTURE PROMPTS: Chris Beatrice












 
Welcome to PICTURE PROMPTS! This is my way of 'paying it forward' for all the beautiful illustrations found in picture books all around the world. For the next year you will see me visit with guest illustrators, spotlighting their beautiful artwork and sharing their answers to a few questions I thought my readers might want to know about these illustrators. On the Friday when an illustrator hasn't stopped by for a visit and a hot cup of green tea, I will put up a random PICTURE PROMPT that has inspired me to write a little flash fiction to share with you!


If you are an illustrator, established or just starting out, and would like to participate in my PICTURE PROMPT series, just shoot me an email over to donasdays (at) gmail (dot) com and I will send you the information on how to join the fun!


Please welcome talented illustrator, Chris Beatrice and check out his answers to my interview questions...
 




Why did you decide to become an illustrator?

As long as I can remember whenever I would read stories I would see them in my head, and I’d want to make those pictures!  After running game development studios for several years what made me want to do illustration professionally was probably a bit of a backlash against managing large groups and large sums of money… it’s nice to be able to do all the work myself and if I get behind I can just work a little harder and catch up.




Where do you get your inspiration?

This really comes from the given subject (the story or project I am working on) – and I am interested in a lot of different things. I really like history, and quasi-science (or pseudo-science), so historical settings tend to click well with me. I also like children’s stuff, because it doesn’t take itself as seriously as, say, fantasy. With kids’ stuff it’s okay to be silly. We know it’s silly, and that’s why we like it. A lot of classic fantasy stuff is really silly as well, when you think about it, but I think people can take it too seriously sometimes. When I’m just doing my own pictures (which doesn’t happen very much anymore), I often draw inspiration from classic fairy tales.




Do you have a favorite illustration of yours? Why is it your favorite?

That’s a tough one!  I guess it’d be The Girl in the Iron Shoes. That picture will always have a special place in my heart. I guess that’s true of a few pictures I did around that time, right when I was learning how to paint digitally but not really professional yet (so doing my own pictures mostly).




If you could invite five other illustrators (alive or deceased) to dinner, who would you invite and why?

Howard Pyle because he is kind of the grandfather of American illustration, and was a really good teacher.  Frank Frazetta because his particular gift for composition and abstraction is something I would really like to get some insights on.  Leyendecker and maybe Rockwell because I think I could gain a lot from understanding their thinking processes and working methods better, and probably Greg Hildebrandt because his work has influenced me a lot.




What are you currently working on?

I’ve been heavily involved in the Maurice’s Valises series for a couple of years now, so I’m working on the eighth book in that set, plus some cards for American Greeting and a couple of book covers. I am also trying to get started on my own story project, but not finding the time.




Do you work in different mediums? If so, which style is the most challenging?

These days it’s pretty much just pencil for thumbnails and sketches, then Photoshop for finished work.  I do work in other physical media (oil, charcoal, pastels) as well as digital media (3d studio), but not so much for professional work lately.  I don’t particularly find any medium more challenging – they all have their own challenges that you need to deal with. For example, with physical media obviously one big challenge is there is a consequence for every mark you make (or remove), which means you might need to plan more, and you have to think before trying something that might not work. But the flip side of that is I find myself much more aware and sensitive, in the moment, with physical media, because it’s more of a “performance.”  With digital it’s the opposite, but the challenge there is trying too many things, not committing, and losing the focus or point of the piece. 




What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying to become an illustrator? 

Ok, I have a lot to say on that subject so here goes:).

a) Make sure you really love it because you won’t do good work if you don’t.

b) Try to find the right balance of improving your skills, which can mean learning from others have done or are doing, but without sacrificing your own personal voice.   

c) Try to identify some kind of artwork you like to do and can do well that also has a place in the market (so you can get paid for it and keep doing it). 

d) Don’t undervalue your work, don’t work for free just to get exposure – put a price on your work and have confidence that it is worth it or will be some day.

e) Don’t worry too much about trying to develop a signature “style” – as long as you are careful not to waste too much time trying to be all things to all people, your style will emerge on its own (and this is the only way it can emerge)

f) As you progress, don’t get too comfortable just doing the same thing because it comes easily - at some point that will likely look dated and will not be in demand.  It’s much better to keep growing than to try to reinvent yourself after being in a rut for a really long time.

g) Illustration is a job, a profession, and like all jobs a big part of your success has to do with basic professionalism and work habits, not just how much of a superstar artist you are. So don’t just focus on developing the quality of your art - also think about how to deal with clients, advertise, manage your schedule, track your time, network, and so on.  You can still be a successful illustrator even if you are not the world’s greatest picture maker, or if what you do isn’t in the highest demand.  There are lots of opportunities for illustrators and the best fit for you may be something you haven’t thought of or encountered yet. 

h) I think some formal education is also a good idea, as long as you are getting the right education. Again, illustration is a profession, and learning the craft is not just about finding and making your own art. I didn’t go to art school for illustration and I think I really feel like I missed a lot, which I have been and still am figuring out on my own. I did go to a vocational high school, though, where I was taught what it means to actually work as a commercial artist, to think of myself and conduct myself as a professional artist, and that is really huge. 




Do you have another job in addition to being an illustrator?

No, though I still handle anything that comes up with my game studio (Tilted Mill Entertainment www.tiltedmill.com). We are still selling games and have games out there that need to be supported, but I am a full time illustrator and have been so for six years now.  I should reiterate that my experience running companies and teams has proven really valuable for managing myself, my company of one.



Author Bio

 

Chris' work has graced the covers of classic books such as Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Daniel DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe, and Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant, in addition to games, packaging, magazines, posters, private commissions and several other books.

His clients include Simon and Schuster, MacMillan, Scholastic, Disney/Hyperion, Penguin, Nelson, Pearson, Weekly Reader, Bloomsbury Childrens Books, Walker Books for Young Readers, Gamewright Games, Lighthouse Creative, Kingfisher, VIA Group, Jerry Bruckheimer Games, Noteworthy Books, Smithsonian Magazine, Berkley and Fernleigh.

Chris' work has been featured several times in 
SpectrumExposéExotiquePainter and Fantasy Art Now 2, receiving two awards for Excellence in Fantasy and another for Excellence in Humor.

His work has also appeared on display in the 
Lyceum Theater Gallery in San Diego, California, The Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, Massachusetts, and The Gallery at Mount Ida College in Newton, MA.

Maurice’s Valises, illustrated by Chris won the 2014 USA Best Book Award for Best Children’s Picture Book (fiction), as well as the 2013 Moonbeam Gold Medal for Best Picture Book Series, while Swamp Things, also illustrated by Chris won the 2013 Moonbeam Gold Medal for best Children’s Picture Book (ebooks).

Chris received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts. He now lives in Natick, Massachusetts with his wife and daughter.

Twitter handle: @_ChrisBeatrice


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Donna M Bateman






Title: Deep in the Swamp
Author: Donna M Bateman
Illustrator: Brian Lies
Publisher: Scholastic
Ages: 4-8


Synopsis: 
"Deep in the swamp, in the warm morning sun,
Lived a mother river otter and her little pup One.
'Splash!' said the mother. 'I splash,' said the One.
So they splashed and they played in the warm morning sun."


Why you should read it: 
I have read many versions of this type of story but, being Cajun, of course the fact Ms. Bateman's putting a twist on a bayou tale captures my interest right away. Illustrator Brian Lies brings the creatures of the swamp to life while incorporating vibrant detail of the flora found in southern Louisiana. If you've read a lot of variations to this original story you might not want to read another one. But if you are new to this basic tale or just love reading about life on the bayou, you will want to add this book to your collection.
Like-o-meter Rating scale**: 4 out of 5...think about it.
 
**Rating scale**
 5 out of 5...grab it!
 4 out of 5...think about it.
 3 out of 5...take or leave it.
 2 out of 5...maybe not for you.
 1 out of 5...forget about it!



Monday, February 23, 2015

THE "I's" HAVE IT...





When I was growing up in small town in southern Louisiana I was a very timid child. Nuture and nature fueled my imagination that the world was a very scary place. I was polite and helpful but didn't feel comfortable interacting with others on a personal level so few people knew the real me.

Being an adult doesn't change the fact I'm a private person. That doesn't make me stuck up or self centered...just very introverted and prone to moments where the slow pace of silence is a welcoming sound in a world hell bent on loud, fast action.

There are two moments in my life helping me to change how I see the world. The first is when I became an instructor at my TaeKwonDo school. I'm not sure why I even agreed to enter the program because I lacked the poise and confidence I saw in the faces of other instructors. Even my best friend wasn't sure I would make it as an instructor because he knew how cautious I was. But here I am, fourteen years later, surprising everyone including myself at my ability to command a class while sharing my love of the martial arts.

The other moment helping change me is when I decided to become a professional writer. Every time I begin a new story I am putting a little bit more of myself out there for people to get to know me. My author's 'voice' comes shining through in my words, helping others to see a different side of me. But I think the most amazing thing I have discovered by becoming a writer is the fact it liberates me in some ways from the shy person I used to be. It's all in the "I's"...

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD

There is no guarantee anyone will actually LIKE what I write, but I still have the freedom to put my stories out there. The worlds of my imagination dance around in my head until I have the chance to share them with others and have even managed to gather a group of readers who look forward to what I write.

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO FALL DOWN

I'm a perfectionist in most things and used to take rejections of my work as a personal mark against my character. How foolish of me to think agents and editors would factor in such a personal slant on such an impersonal decision. Publishers have to consider the marketability of a particular project, no matter how much they might love the work, while writers have to realize it's okay to get rejected...to fall down and struggle to get back up. Just as long as we DO get back up every time...

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEEK THE HELP OF OTHERS

The old saying goes that no man is an island and that goes for writers as well. While writing is a solitary endeavor, the writing industry is not. It's a swirling, throbbing mass of positive energy and support for all things writerly. I shouldn't be afraid to ask others wiser and more experienced for their help because I know there will come a day when others will ask the same of me.

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE UNSURE

Publishing is such a free-flowing industry where deals are make in a blink of an eye and success can seem to happen overnight. No matter whether a newbie author or an established one, all writers have moments of self-doubt. Times when a writer wants to pull their hair out and give up. But it's not as simple as that. Writing has a life of it's own and  is the driving force behind my waking moments...and many of my sleeping ones as well. I can't allow any doubts of future successes...or failures...to cloud my judgement of the here and now. I was BORN to do this despite what anyone else may say.

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE ME

I may never become the next J K Rowling or Stephen King. My books may never win any awards or be made into movies. But that doesn't mean my stories have no value. It doesn't mean I shouldn't announce to the world I'm a writer. While I continue to improve my skill as a storyteller every single day, I will never be able to alter the core person I am. A part of me will always be shy. A part of me will always be unsure if anyone will like my stories. A part of me will even wonder if I'm ever going to find an agent (something I've been working on for three years now).

But one thing I AM sure of...

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO WRITE

And so do YOU!






Friday, February 20, 2015

PICTURE PROMPTS: Cassandra Federman


 
Welcome to PICTURE PROMPTS! This is my way of 'paying it forward' for all the beautiful illustrations found in picture books all around the world. For the next year you will see me visit with guest illustrators, spotlighting their beautiful artwork and sharing their answers to a few questions I thought my readers might want to know about these illustrators. On the Friday when an illustrator hasn't stopped by for a visit and a hot cup of green tea, I will put up a random PICTURE PROMPT that has inspired me to write a little flash fiction to share with you!


If you are an illustrator, established or just starting out, and would like to participate in my PICTURE PROMPT series, just shoot me an email over to donasdays (at) gmail (dot) com and I will send you the information on how to join the fun!


Please welcome talented illustrator, Cassandra Federman and check out her answers to my interview questions...




1. Why did you decide to become an illustrator?



I was obsessed with Disney fairy tales and with any and all gruesome artwork as a child.  As I got older I discovered comic books, which contained artwork that was both beautiful and gruesome! It was perfect! So I wanted to be a comic book artist for a long time. I gave up that idea around age 13, thinking it was a pipe dream. I decided to become an actor instead. Hey, I didn’t say I was logical!




2.  Where do you get your inspiration?



I’m constantly analyzing my artwork for areas that are weakest. Then I try to draw something that will force me to strengthen that area. And I try to be creative about it.







3. Do you have a favorite illustration of yours? Why is it your favorite?



I seem to fall in love with whichever one I’ve just finished. This can be dangerous because I get so excited that I show it off to the world through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Then a few months later, (hopefully) I’ve gotten better as an artist and I look back and think, “Ugh, why did I show anyone that terrible picture!” And I show off some new one that I’ll come to hate 6 months later. It’s a vicious cycle.







4. If you could invite five other illustrators (alive or deceased) to dinner, who would you invite and why?



Michael Turner (deceased) and J. Scott Campbell. Their comic book styles are stunning to me. Also Brian Froud, because he’s a man who marries the beautiful, the creepy, and the fantasy world together like no one else. I’ll leave the other couple seats open for a Disney/Pixar animator and an impressionist painter. First come first serve.







 5. What are you currently working on?



I’m working on writing and illustrating my own children’s books right now. I finished my first book called Creatures of Habit and I’ve just started looking for a Literary Agent.  I’ve also got several manuscripts I’ve been revising with the goal of drawing up a dummy for one of them soon. The problem is, I always like whichever manuscript I’ve revised last... I’m very much looking forward to getting an agent so they can help me with my decision-making issues.







6. Do you work in different mediums? If so, which style is the most challenging?



I usually sketch something out the old fashioned way and then paint it in Photoshop. Reproducing different styles is challenging and is always a learning process. Watercolor style in Photoshop is new to me and most difficult right now. 







7. What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying to become an illustrator?



Be critical enough that you know where you need to improve, but not so critical you depress yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to pursue other creative endeavors. It all feeds you. Lastly, follow other artists on Instagram. It’s inspiring!





8. Do you have another job in addition to being an illustrator?



Yes, I write and act. I’m also a Hand Model.








Author Bio:



Cassandra grew up on the East Coast. She spent her childhood daydreaming, reading comic books, and playing with action figures until—well, she still does all of those things, but she lives on the West Coast now.





Social Media Links:



Personal Website: www.cassandrafederman.com

Twitter: @CassFederman

Instagram: cassfederman

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Robert J Snead with Robert A Snead




Title: Patriots Redcoats & Spies
Author: Robert J Skead with Robert A Skead
Illustrator: Wilson Ong
Publisher: Zonderkidz
Ages: 9-12

Synopsis: 
When patriot Lamberton Clark is shot by a British Redcoat soldier, he has only two hopes of getting the secret message he's carrying to General George Washington: his 14-year-old twin boys. Upon discovering that their father is a spy and express rider for the Culper Spy Ring, the boys accept their mission. They set off to find the General, but the road to the commander in chief of the Continental Army is full of obstacles including the man who shot their father who is hot on their trail.

Why you should read it: 
To someone who is fascinated with the people behind the historical events, I was especially excited to be able to review this book. The Civil War may be my first choice of wars to study, but the Revolutionary War is a close second. The father-son writing team of Robert A & Robert J Snead recreated a time in American history where patriots fighting for the American dream of being in charge of their own destiny came face to face with loyalists determined to retain their ties to their motherland. Add to the mix British soldiers commissioned by England to squash the colonists' rebellion and it's almost the perfect adventurous storm for readers interested in learning more about the times leading up to the birth of our nation.

While Ambrose and John are twins, the authors take great pains to create unique personalities for each character. Readers can appreciate how the two feel when they are forced to do things against their moral code in the name of their secret mission. Even when they encounter people determined to prevent them from reaching General Washington, these young patriots remain true to the oath they made, fighting courageously to reach their goal and make their father proud.
PATRIOTS REDCOATS & SPIES is a wonderful book to introduce children to the lives of colonial Americans and the real danger involved in taking up arms in the fight for freedom.
 
Like-o-meter Rating scale**: 4 out of 5...think about it.
 
**Rating scale**
 5 out of 5...grab it!
 4 out of 5...think about it.
 3 out of 5...take or leave it.
 2 out of 5...maybe not for you.
 1 out of 5...forget about it!







(Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers http://booklookbloggers.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx 03/16cfr255 03.html ("Guides Concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.")


Monday, February 16, 2015

THE 5 TYPES OF WRITERS: WHICH ONE ARE YOU?





I spent this weekend working very hard to upgrade a writing area in my living room. I posted pictures on Facebook last week of the initial working area, but realized this weekend what I had created really wasn't going to work for me. The office I put together was for a different kind of writer than who I wanted to be. And that got me wondering just how many types of writers are out there? After thinking about qualities I've noticed over the years from different people either saying they want to become a writer or in some way having achieved some level of success, I've come up with five different types of writers in the world today. Which one are you?

The "Gonna Write Me A Story Someday" Writer

I was talking to someone this weekend who was showing me this great micro recorder he carried around his neck to collect his thoughts. He told me he had always wanted to write a book and taping his ideas helped make sure that 'next great novel' didn't get away. The only problem is he never actually WROTE anything and I imagine when it comes time for him to retire, he will STILL be thinking about how he is 'gonna write me a story someday'.

The "I'm The Next J K Rowling" Writer

You know the kind. This writer has a very inflated ego and thinks just because they have strung 150,000 words together, they have somehow managed to create the next great teen series. Doesn't matter the storyline stinks, the characters are flat, and the writer has never heard of spell check. Surely that is what agents and editors are for...to clean things up to make their 'best seller' marketable while they sit back and wait for the royalty checks to roll in.

The "Marathon Researcher" Writer

This writer might have an original or even clever plot but they believe in going the extra mile to cover every angle of basic research needed for their story line. Before you know it that 'extra mile' turns into a marathon race to collect every conceivable tidbit of information connected to their story, whether they would ever be able to use it or not. These research hoarders just don't know when to put the note cards down and actually start writing the story.

The "Revising Until It's Perfect" Writer

Finishing a story isn't easy and most experienced writers know as soon as they type 'the end' on their story, the revision stage isn't too far away. But the 'revising until it's perfect' writer simply doesn't know when to stop. They have no understanding of when enough is enough and end up spending useless hours switching the same words around when they should simply step away from the computer and call it done.

The "Doing The Best I Can" Writer

The writer most of us would probably wish we were are the 'doing the best I can' writer. This type of writer stays focused on their goal of completing their story. Just the right amount of research is done to add authenticity to their manuscript and  revisions are done with the reality only so much spit shining can be done to one story before you've got to let it stand on it's own merit. The 'doing the best I can' writer takes the time to learn their craft, seeks the help of others in the writing community when needed, and constantly strives to become a stronger story teller each and every day.

I'm sure we have all run into some of those other writers along the way but when I think about all the wonderful writely friends I've made over the years, I'm so proud to know they are more of the last group than anything else and that makes for lovely company...