Partner Sketching at Detcon

my sketch

Over the summer, I attended the North American Science Fiction Convention in Detroit.  What a blast!  During a drawing workshop, we were asked to pair up with another artist and practice sketching each other.  Part of the challenge of such an exercise is that the person you are drawing is not facing you the entire time, so you really have to concentrate on getting details down while you can see them.  You almost have to take a mental snapshot.

I thought it would be fun to include both the sketch I did of my partner and a photo of the sketch she did of me.  Afterwards, as we were talking, we realized that we had both quickly identified one feature about the other that we wanted to focus on.  The identifying feature that we felt we just had to get right.  For her, I wanted to capture her interesting nose.  For me, she said she was drawn to my big eyes.  You can see how people create characterizations this way.

Enjoy!  (especially on this particularly gloomy Friday)

sketch by Lisa J. Schmidt

 

 

 

 

NJ SCBWI Conference 2014

Illustrator Floyd Cooper teaches us how to use negative space to create a painting.

So I’m back from a recent SCBWI conference in New Jersey. Can I just say, wow! Action packed. I’m still processing it. Some people call it conference hangover 😉 The travel alone was an adventure. A quick recap on that. I took a plane from Detroit, but my first flight was cancelled. I had to shuttle over to another terminal to check in a second time with another airline. I then took a taxi to the hotel because it was too late to take the train. On the way back, I took the hotel shuttle to the train station. Then had to take another shuttle to the airport. Then another shuttle at the airport to my terminal. Then the plane ride back. All while carrying a backpack, an art portfolio, and a small suitcase. But was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

This conference focused a lot on illustration. I appreciated the chance to take actual mini art classes as well as attend lectures. We also had a lot of opportunities to connect with industry professionals. Yet the conference had an intimate setting, which was nice. Sometimes you feel like a small fish in a big pond at these types of events. But NJ, it’s like my sister group now.

There’s a lot I could share with you here, but I think what would be most valuable would be to share some quotes from the final keynote speaker, Rachel Vail.  She wrote an adorable picture book called Piggy Bunny and a middle grade series about a worrier named Justin Case.  (Get it?  Just in case…LOL)

She said she learned that bravery isn’t the opposite of worry.  (Translation: It’s acting in the face of worry.)

Vail also shared a wonderful Van Gogh quote that I’d never heard before.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

Other advice:

1. Beware of nice lunches.  (They might serve bad news with a smile.)

2. You can survive ground zero.  (Translation: You can start over.  Revise your entire manuscript.  Fix your painting.  Write another book.)

3. Sometimes you have to chip away at your creation with your fingernails.

4. Listen to children.  (They have their own stories to tell.  Let them know they matter.  Try to remember the first adult who listened to you…)

I remember being like Justin Case.  Thinking and worrying.  Imagining.  Quietly observing.  My grandfather listened and taught me about poetry and art.  My grandmother listened and taught me piano lessons.

Did it make a difference?  Yes.  Do I still worry?  Sometimes.  But am I also brave?  People tell me so.

My wish for you:  Go forth and be brave!  But you have my permission to worry, too.  It’s the secret ingredient that leads to success when coupled with action.  May your worries fuel your creative work.  YOU can make it happen!

 

 

Mind Worm

When I attended the Midwest SCBWI conference last spring, I had the chance to hear author Franny Billingsley speak.  She talked about the power of fear and how important it is to understand what scares your main character the most and then exploit it.

To explain this, she started out by introducing the term “Mind Worm.”  Yes, it really exists (at least metaphorically speaking)!  The Mind Worm burrows into the brain and in so doing discovers an individual’s dreams and fears.  The Mind Worm then has the power to create an event that forces the person to go on a unique adventure designed to help the person learn something deeper about him or herself.

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  The writer is a Mind Worm!

How can you be a Mind Worm for your main character?  Start by pushing your character out of his or her comfort zone.  Push your character to her limits.  Make him squirm.  Make her jump right out of her skin!  A powerful antagonist can help with this.  So can an unforeseen event or tragedy.

Then see what happens.  Guaranteed the character will be forced to grow and change.  Which is what we want, isn’t it?  That’s how we create someone to root for and maybe even identify with.  Someone to believe in.  And once your readers are invested in your main character, they’re ten times more likely to follow him or her until the end.

So my advice to you today is:  Be a Mind Worm.  See where it takes you.  More importantly, see where it takes your character.

SCBWI: WWMW Conference 2013

Mixed Media

Howdy partners!  I’m back from the Wild, Wild Midwest conference in Fort Wayne, IN.  One word: inspiring!

Above is the piece that I submitted for the art show.  I consider it an exploration of style, one of my goals for this year.  It’s a combination of my favorite mediums right now: collage, watercolor, and ink.  I really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of it, even as I hoped the glue would hold 😉  And I also got the salt trick to work!

“The Queen of Spades” was inspired by my very own Philodendron.  I promise that no plants were harmed in the making of this piece 😉  My plant did have a few adventures away from its usual tabletop spot in the living room…  I’m just glad it survived!  It’s my only plant.  I credit it to my best friend who gave it to me.  She’s like mother nature when it comes to plants.  I, on the other hand, am known for having a “black thumb.”

In Japanese culture, everything has a spirit, including trees.  Here is my representation of this concept.  In this case, I wanted to capture the spirit of my own plant.  If I were to pitch this piece as a story idea, it would sound something like this:  What would you do if you found out your plant was truly alive?  One illustration concept that art director Laurent Linn mentioned at the conference was the idea that everything in a scene is a character.  I really took his idea literally 😉  He also said that the difference between children’s illustration and other types of art is storytelling and emotion.  You should shape your portfolio around this concept.  Good advice!

Check out other great entries from the Michigan chapter here.

Event photos!

Dinner with illustrators at sushi restaurant: Who could ask for anything more?

One of the best parts about conferences like these are the opportunities to network and socialize with friends 🙂

Jane Yolen and the Naked Mole Rat, unlikely friends: One wild Midwest party brought them together

I’m sure you all know Jane Yolen.  She’s considered ‘The Hans Christian Andersen of America.’  BUT, did you know she teamed up with the Naked Mole Rat, star character of Mo Willems infamous book: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed?  It just goes to show, friendship develops in unlikely places, including the Wild, Wild Midwest!

All good things must come to an end.  Kathi Appelt, author of Keeper and The Underneath, left us with some great parting thoughts.  She said that all the best words, all the ingredients needed for a great story, start with the letter P.  Brilliant!  Think about it…  Can you guess the final word she mentioned?  POSSIBILITIES!

My friend Katherine Carver challenged me to come up with one word as my theme for the year.  Can you guess what word I came up with?  I mentioned it in a previous post.  Hint: it’s not serendipity, although that is also a great word.

To see how this challenge works, go to her blog.  What will your word for the year be?  Please share!

SCBWI: LA Conference 2012

Award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier gave a heartfelt keynote speech.

An empty ballroom after the conference just ended…

Bryan Collier inspired me when he talked about approaching editors every week for 7 years to drop off his portfolio.  He said he felt inspired just sitting in the office where exciting things happened.  He knew he wanted to be part of this world.  Seeing this empty ballroom where so many exciting things took place, I know that I too want to be part of this world.

Bryan Collier also mentioned that the door to this world is open just a crack.  I’ve been joking ever since that I just might be small enough to fit through there 😉