Halfway Wild promo 1

Watch me get wild in honor of the September launch of Halfway Wild!

Written by Laura Freudig.  Illustrated by me.  Published by Islandport Press.

Preorder your copy today!

Recess Sketching

I’ve recently started an unofficial art club with some kiddos during recess.  We’ve had about 20 minutes to sit and draw whatever comes to mind.  Admittedly, I’ve been noodling a little after school, still itching to draw.  The content is random – whatever is falling off the pencil.  Though the ninja turtle came by request, and who could deny a little Michelangelo?

I’ve relished the opportunity to sketch freely.  Recently, I’ve been clickity-clacking on my keyboard more than drawing, and the kids provide an ideal cohort/crit group for some care-free paper scratching.

Here are my sketches from the first week of the group.

photo 4 photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

The Next Big Thing Blog Tour meets The Stone Man

The Next Big Thing blog tour has arrived at Made of Lines.  It is a global blog tour that was started in Australia to bring awareness about authors and illustrators and their current book/project.  Obviously, it has spread.  I want to give a huge shout out to the stunningly talented (and just plain great) Greg Matusic for tagging me on this tour.  Do check out his work.  His pirates will surely make you smile, me hearties, and who could ask for more.

I’ve been asked to answer 10 questions about my current book-in-progress.  So let’s have at it.  Brace yourself.  Once I get started.  It is hard for me to stop.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

My book is called The Stone Man.

Stoneman-sketch

Earliest Stone Man sketches from way back.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

 The Stone Man arrived through a relationship I had with a kid I was working with a number of years ago.  See question 9 – Who or what inspired you to write this story?

 3) What genre does your book fall under?

The Stone Man is a fantasy picture book.  Something of a fairy tale.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Stoneman-character-sketches

Main character sketches.  I’ve changed her look a number of times.   I like to sketch in stark black and white. It keeps me working fast and loose.

Can I go back in time and grab young Jodi Foster?  I really don’t know the names of today’s ultra talented child actors.  While the Stone Man would have to be animated, he would need a voice actor with a deep, gravelly voice.  Has James Earl Jones done any voice work? 😉

The-Stone-Man-Sketch

The Stone Man sketch

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A broken-hearted little girl seeks to separate herself from family and friends by moving to a small uninhabited island (with unexpected results). <—– No one said anything about parentheticals.

6) Who is publishing your book?

Who knows?  The truth is that The Stone Man is a work in progress.  It will be shopped out to publishers once it is a more polished product.12-stoneman2-b

7) How long did it take you to create the illustrations?

I liked Greg’s answer of “forever.”  That feels about right this Sunday morning.  With The Stone Man currently being a personal project without deadlines, I have taken it all back to scratch a couple times to redesign my approach or examine character design/costuming/setting/etc.  That said.  I believe all the details are worked out now, and things are starting to move.

To address the true intent of this question, it seems like the average illustration is taking me between 10 and 20 hours.11 stoneman1

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

While I wouldn’t dare compare my story to these, when I think about heartfelt fantasy for children, there are two books that I hold in highest esteem.  Those are The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux by the amazing Kate DiCamillo. I love how these books do not pander to children.  They tell fantastic stories in ways that feel authentic to the human experience, both the joy and the pain, in a way that is completely relatable for kids.  I read both books each year with my class, and we always end up in sniffles and tears at the end.

Another book that is way out of genre, but I feel relates, is Patricia Polacco’s Thank You Mr. Faulker.  Man, that book is heavy.  The anguish of poor Trisha in the story is palpable.  As an adult, I sometimes find it tough to read.  But the kids in my class?  They cheer when I bring it out.  That’s no hyperbole.  Cheers from eight-year-olds for a book about a dyslexic girl who is being bullied.  That is righteous stuff.

Like I said, I wouldn’t compare The Stone Man to those classics, but I keep the spirit of those stories in mind while I write and illustrate.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The Stone Man was inspired by a 9 year old girl I worked with a number of years ago.  She had experienced a tragic loss in her life and had begun the process of building walls around herself.  Very specifically, she built a wall right in front of me.  Frankly, this made my job incredibly challenging and frustrated me to no end.  I can’t tell you all the strategies I attempted to crack through the stony surface.  No luck.  Truth be told, I don’t think I ever could have broken through that wall.  Too strong.  She would have to disassemble it herself.  What I could do though, is put myself out there for her.  It turns out we all have walls of some sort.  So I took down my own and waited.  The Stone Man is for us.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

While The Stone Man is a very personal story, it is also very accessible.  The fantastic elements will grab those interested simply in a little story escapism, but I believe the human element is what will stick with readers.  I know the story, and I still can’t wait to see it.  I hope others will feel the same.

Stoneman---story--color

Color test

An extra thank you to Greg Matusic for getting my rear back into gear on this project.

iPad Is Coming to Town…Digital Painting on the Go

Self Portrait – Digital – Click to Enlarge 
Christmas night.  The Barrys were engaged in the ritual viewing of Christmas Vacation (still funny).  Clark Griswald was engaged in his pool fantasy (Mele Kalikimaka everyone).  I was engaged in a fantasy come true.  I was painting digitally on my brand new iPad – THANK YOU WIFE!

I have to say that I have been skeptical about the abilities of an iPad as an art creation tool.  I adore my Wacom tablets.  With them, I have become so accustomed to pressure sensitivity that the idea creating a painting without it could be likened to handing me a couple of stones and expecting fire.
Mr. Teeth – Digital – Click to Enlarge
I was using the $2 ProCreate app.  I can’t express how impressed I was with the experience.  This app emphasizes the paintbrush, smudge, and eraser tools.  This suites my digital painting style perfectly.  Even without pressure sensitivity, I found that the size and opacity adjustments were so easy to access, that I after a few minutes I was no longer longing for my Wacom. 
Ultimately, what the iPad experience comes down to is portability.  Did I create anything that I couldn’t create with my Wacom tablet and Photoshop?  No.  But I created something completely comparable while sitting on a sofa, watching a flick with my family.  
Cheers to the iPad.  
More digital sketches to come…

All Around the Mulberry Bush…

All Around the Mulberry Bush... - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More
Click this link to help get my design printed
On Monsters

The outer world may be full of full of terrible people doing awful things for insane reasons.  You hear about them on the news or read about them online.  You stand aghast.  You shake your head.  You ask why.

What next?  You move on and forget about it.  You know that in your world, you are safe.  There are no monsters…
…But there are monsters.  In the inner world, they are legion.  They creep through your imagination with free reign needing little more than a dark corner or an creaking floorboard in the night to reach out and grab you by the throat.
Since I was a child, there have been clowns stalking through my nightmares – waiting.
Threadless Tees is running their third annual Threadless Loves Horror competition.  I could think of nothing more horrific than the emergence of a nightmare clown through a jack-in-the-box (the most fundamentally deranged toy ever given to a baby).
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Compostitional sketch
Click to Enlar

On the Design


The artwork for this piece was created entirely in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq Tablet.  I began by loosely sketching the concept in various compositions until I found one that felt right.  At this stage, I am thinking in broad strokes.  What is the audience going to take away from this piece when seen in the blink of an eye?  If I am doing my job, then they will see a child shocked and terrified by a horrific clown.
Once I find my composition, I have to sell it.  This is in the details, and for me, the details are the really fun part.  This is where I get to work out just how vile this jester will be.  The wrinkles, the jagged teeth, the fake nose that may not be fake.  This is also the part of the process where you can catch me making funny faces and weird gestures.  It is invaluable to act out the parts of the characters in your scene.  I strongly believe that you will be able to draw your subjects with more authenticity if you (at least on some minimal level) have stood in their shoes.  Elbows raised with huge snarling grin?  Leaning back, hand draw close to the body?  Yes, I was both the clown (his name is Twinkles) and the kid (place your name here if you are afraid of clowns).
Black and White Art
Click to Enlarge

The next step was digital inking.  I created a new layer over my sketch and started to create the final artwork right on top of it.  I leave my sketch loose enough that this part is still an exciting, creative process – not tracing.  I was surprised at how little of the kid I had in my initial sketch.
 Clown Final Art
Click to Enlarge

Next comes the color.  I had decided on my black, white, gray, and red palette during the sketching phase.  At this point I was just following my plan with a bit more finesse.  The colors are rendered using halftones (tiny little dots).  You know what these are if you ever looked way too close at the Sunday funnies when you were a kid.  You can make the dots so tiny that they are virtually imperceptible or leave them big enough so that the viewer is entirely aware of them.  It depends on your preference.  For this Piece I wanted to play the middle ground.  You can see them if you dig into the illustration, but you probably won’t notice them with a passing glance.  If anyone is interested in how to create halftones in Photoshop, let me know.  I’d be glad to do a step by step, pure art nerd post about it.

The finished piece is to the right.  Click the link below to rate it on Threadless.
All Around the Mulberry Bush... - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More
Click this link to help get the design printed

Thank you, and remember…monsters are real.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Brush and Ink, digital Color – Click to Enlarge

Welcome to Made of Lines, Love EditionI know that it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you Baby.  Now, I know you’ve been hurt before, but I’m here to make it all better.  Let’s fill that hole in your heart with A FREE PRINTABLE VALENTINE created by Yours Truly. 

1.Click here to download the printable Valentine
2. Click here to download the Valentine Interior

If you like the card, do me a favor and share this link with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  Why do you have love, if not to share it?      ———————————————–>

Printing tip:  I set my printer to borderless printing and the cards turned out great.  I used Avery Note Cards, but you can use whatever paper you have around.  Cardstock or photopapers would be best.  All you have to do is print and cut that beautiful baby down the middle.  Bingo-bango!  You now have 2 copies of the cutest little Valentine to come out this year. 

Original Art and the finished product

* I included the interior for those who would like it, but I recommend using the inside to write a special message for your sweetie.  Something along the lines of, “I know you aren’t into flowers so I got you a card with bugs on it.”  Awww yeah!  It’s business time.

Click to Enlarge

This card is more than a year in the making.  I created the original pencil sketch as a Valentine for my lady last year (she being of the flower hating/bug loving majority).  I like the concept, but I wanted to take it further.  This year I stretched out the image so that the card would have a continuous front and back.  I printed this sketch in light blue (20% cyan for you art nerds – leave a message if you want more info on this).  I then inked over my light blue print.  I rescanned the image, removed the light blue lines, and colored the whole thing in Photoshop. 

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The Batman

Brush and Ink – Click to Enlarge
PUNKS BEWARE!

I have had an itch to put brush and ink to paper.   Today I scratched it.  Scratching it didn’t help.  It just turned into a rash that looks like Batman.  Weird!

I called my Dermatologist.  He told me that it wasn’t a rash, but a drawing.  He also told me that having an itch doesn’t always mean having an itch.  That is even weirder than my Batman shaped rash.  I think I need a new Dermatologist.

About the drawing:  This is one of those sketches that I created without even an inkling (sweet pun) of a plan.  I had a piece of watercolor paper, a brush and some ink.  It is always one helluva party when art supplies and the subconscious get together.   You never know who else will show up.  Could be a mouse on a mission.  Often it is Wolverine.  Sometimes it’s David Byrne or a fowl-esque dragon.  Today Batman arrived in a dark alley.  Helluva party! 

Start to finish, the sketch probably took 25-30 minutes.  It is a mess, as it should be.  I didn’t plan a bit of it.  The anatomy is a mess.  There is no clear light source.  Some parts are way over-done (head and face).  Others are way under-done (the mist/smoke effect).  There are some bits that I really like about it.  This is the first time I played with dry-brush on rough cold-press paper as an inking technique.  Cool effect.  I really like it in the bricks.  I also enjoy the brushwork in the cape, though I am still trying to suss out what is appealing about it.  What I like more than anything else is the smirk on the dark knight’s face.  It looks as though he is really going to enjoy whatever punishment he is about to dish out on some punks.  Batman as a maniac vigilante always made a lot more sense to me than Batman as a super hero.