Thursday, January 22, 2009

A New Year's mouse

Keeping my New Year's resolution to draw and write each day, even if just a little, I began creating a character for a new children’s book I’ve written called "Dru Drew". I kept changing my mind on the size of her ears, her age and height/weight ratio so I decided to call on an old trick: create a model and draw from that.

I make my models out of aluminum foil over a wire armature then cover the whole thing with florist's stem tape. Stem tape is flexible and slightly sticky so it sticks to itself. It is also slightly stretchy so it conforms to the shape and comes in brown, green and white. Sometimes if I need great detail I will cover the taped-over piece with non-hardening clay. Today she only has sewing pins for eyes and nose. Her head arms, legs and tail (which is also removable) are fairly flexible allowing me to pose her.
Dru Mouse KAH 2009
I will now draw her in several positions and from several angles. I will also probably draw her in strong light to get a handle on the shadows that follow her.

Drawing Dru over and over gives me the opportunity to get to know her. And it keeps my characters consistent. I highly recommend this technique. You make a new friend…literally.

Next step will be writing a biography, a family tree and a personality profile. Too much you think for just a mouse? Well, if she has a personality that is well established, her written character will have more depth and be more believable. Even for a mouse.

Thought for the day: No one is perfect, even a mouse. Isn’t that a great concept!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reading, drawing and judging a book by its cover

I knew I had to prepare for this picture book journey. I needed direction to start this path to a childrens book written and drawn by me. I knew I needed to read and draw and write and read some more. Most of all, I needed to focus. For someone who is known for her phrase “I have an idea”, focus was going to be the most important aspect of negotiating this multicolored road.

So I took an intensive certification class at the University of Washington – "Art for the Childrens Market". I learned much but was inspired even more. I sat on the ferries for hours observing and drawing kids and some adults until I'm sure the parents were beginning to think I was some sort of pervert...that is until I showed them the drawings. It was hard to tell them they weren't for sale.

Drawing ‘ferry folk’ made me think a lucrative business could be of drawing people on the ferry and selling them their candid portraits, but I'd tell myself this was research. Focus Kate.
Billy's cricket KAH 2009

Just reading, reading and reading kid’s books was probably the most important part of this early education. Sitting on the floor of the childrens section in the local library and bookstores, I would carefully list all the books that children immediately snatched off the shelves. “Can I have this one?” they’d beg. I knew then that the cover mattered as much as the content. Hummm, interesting marketing lesson.

What made a great cover? Color, subject and what could be seen clearly and brightly by the child, all added to the attractive mix. Most of the covers chosen were not the ones I thought would be the most compelling.

Lesson one: Don’t make assumptions about what children like. Observe.

Remember this, although what Grandma or Mom chose was very different then what little Jenny chose, the first book the child wanted was usually included in the purchase. Covers are as important as the insides. Who knew? So much for the adage “Never judge a book by its cover”.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The multicolored path

This blog is for anyone who would like to follow me on the picture book path.
I know this path has twists and turns and trips. It has hills and dips and signs that read, "Watch for falling rocks". But it also has great vistas, wondrous bridges and fascinating side roads.

I may meet wicked witches, gorgons, dragons and ghosts. I may also meet a red queen, mermaids, flying pigs and a man with magic beans.
Orville Pig realizes that balloons
are not a very comfortable idea!

I hope to discover muses and mentors. I am compelled to seek out the end of this multicolored brick road. How scary. How exciting!

I do have a map. A worn and magic map that changes it directions and blurs it borders.
Hey look, there a big X! That must be the spot.
Now all I have to do is find my way.

You are welcome to join with me on this expedition. If you want to.
But please be patient, I fear it may be a long trip.