This time of year - Wishes and More

It is just a little less than a week before Christmas and well, a little over two weeks before 2013 ends and a new year starts with new adventures and things to tackle.

This has been a wonderful year for me, business and most of all family-vise. I am grateful for what I have and where I am in my life. I've met many wonderful people that inspired me and also helped shape ideas of new ventures to dive into, if on purpose or mere accident.
I wish many things for the next year, but just wishing for them won't make them true. So I am ready and motivated to go after those dreams of mine and make them come true. Maybe not right tomorrow or the day after. I will take one step at a time and make it a steady journey. Because a journey it is and an exciting one each and everyday too. But what is a journey without a map? I wouldn't know where I am going if I didn't take the time to at least dream up where I want to be. And wouldn't it maybe even be better to have a teeny tiny plan? Not saying you can plan life in all it's details, but surely the milestones you want to reach.

So my homework over the festive days will be to sit down and make a plan or map of that journey. Where do I want to be in a month, five months, a years time from now? What are the things I can go after easily and which are the long term goals, which require more time and maybe even learning new skills? How do I want to grow and support others around me making their dreams come true too?
I am the captain of this ship called "my life" and I'd like to at least know where I am headed, a little bit, if you don't mind. And I will look forward to all the surprises and obstacles that might come into my way. It will be exciting and fun to master them and see what else life holds ready to experience, learn and enjoy.

I wish you all a wonderful festive season and a wonderful start to the new year! Maybe you are ready to plan out your journey too! Ahoi, fellow "life-traveler"! See you next year!

A new Promotional Postcard

The year is almost over and before finalizing all the projects I am currently working on, I wanted to get out a last promotional postcard. The lovely Dana Carey just happened to interview me about this very postcard that will hit desks of Editors and Art Directors over the next couple of days (or weeks, depending on how quick they arrive ;-)!). However, my card will not arrive on it's own, but be mailed as a group mailer along with some of my very talented SCBWI gals here in our tiny SCBWI Germany +  Austria region.

If you would like to learn more about this card or promotional postcards in general, make sure to read not only my interview, but also those of the other illustrators, who have to share some good insights and information!

Sketch and original art

printed postcard :-)

A Fairytale Illustrator's Retreat with Lisbeth Zwerger ...

Last weekend we had our very first SCBWI illustrator's retreat here in the Germany + Austria region. Many of you will know SCBWI, if not check it out!
Our region here is really small so we never had as big an event for illustrators solely as this retreat. It took place at Lake Constance, which was so lovely, although we did not see too much of the surroundings due to being just too busy painting :-).
On Friday I drove down to lake Constance and as soon as the other participants had all arrived we took our one and only real stroll at the lake together with Lisbeth. It was lovely to chat and get to know each other and I think it made everyone feel more at ease. I was so nervous as not being good enough and looking like a don't know how to paint right before the workshop. So meeting everyone and talking to all other attendees and Lisbeth helped getting over my initial fears.

After breakfast on Saturday Lisbeth started the workshop with a discussion about our favourite picture books. She had already send us a handout with questions on how to analyze the books in advance. You can see us here with Elisa Vavouri just talking about the book she had to analyze with her group.

After that we went to fetch our art supplies and get cracking. Lisbeth took time to talk to everyone and give feedback and tips on how to improve the sketch and painting and also technical tips on how to achieve certain effects. She discussed colour palettes and composition with us and warned us of things we might run into, but also encouraged us to simply try and not be afraid to have to start all over again. Believe it or not she confessed that this still happens to her too!

Before I started painting Lisbeth talked about my sketch and colour choices with me. This was kind of an eye opener to me. The fairy tale I chose to illustrate was "The Nightingale" and the scene I chose to go with for my illustration was the emperor's garden. Initially I planned to go for a blue sky and greens in the garden. Well, Lisbeth helped me to come up with something far more interesting that also resulted in a tighter palette and a very lovely mood in the final piece.

I was again so nervous to lay the first layer of paint. I did a quick test in my watercolour sketchbook and then just went with it. I had certain areas masked out to keep them white. I lay a first layer as an overall wash of sienna and light yellow ocher and mixed some olive green in on the bottom. After that first layer had dried I quickly watered the paper again, to not mess with the parts I was already happy with, and darkened the bottom slightly more with a mix of sienna and olive green. I kept the parts in the distance very soft and worked with lots of water. (process pics follow a bit further down the post ;-))

In the tiny breaks I had to take when waiting for the colours to dry I so much enjoyed seeing what all the other artists were up to. It was also nice to sit in on the feedback they received from Lisbeth and learn with them.

On Sunday morning Lisbeth took a look at our portfolios or any other art we had brought to share and discuss with her.

Unfortunately the weekend past by far too quickly and I did not finish my illustration in time. But with the last tips and feedback from Lisbeth in mind I finalized it at home. I did not take any process pictures during the workshop but happened to remember doing so at home :-). So here is a little recap in pictures on how this painting evolved and the final illustration. I really enjoyed working on this piece and trying out new things, materials and technique!

A huge thank you to Lisbeth, it was an amazing experience meeting and learning from you! And thank you to everyone who took part in this lovely retreat with Lisbeth Zwerger! It has been fantastic getting to know you and growing with you as artists!

A Thank You To You All ... let's paint

You cannot always win in life, but even though this is the case, a "defeat" in whatever way it crosses your way should never make you feel bad or discourage you. This is a lesson I learned ages ago and to tell you the truth I dearly heart it and embrace it. And it really works for me. Even better, a rejection or losing something like a competition fuels me to try even harder, to give even more.

Yesterday I learned that I did not make it to the final round of GTS and I am really fine with it. Some of the finalists are people I have got to know a little through the internet and I am so happy they made it! What I did, when I learned the news was start a painting :-). Yes, I really did and I even pushed myself to work in a way I would never do for my book commissions, but which might turn out great to have for my Art Licensing portfolio. Because one thing I know for sure, I want to build my Art Licensing portfolio until I feel confident to submit it to an agent. So off to the brushes I am happily painting away and exploring new creative ventures!

But before I rush off to my drawing table I want to say thank you to all of you who voted for me and even spread the word for me! Thank you, this means a lot to me and I hope to be able to return that support one day!

So here is the painting I did along with some process pics. Just not too many, sorry I forgot taking pictures when I was having fun with it :-) ...

A Shout Out for my Tote Bag Design for GTS 2013

As you already know from my previous post I am participating in the Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search, short GTS. Today marks an exciting day in this competition as from the 50 semi-finalists one will be chosen by public voting (voting is open from 3rd - 9th September 2013) into the final round. The other five finalists will be chosen by a jury.

I really really want to make it to the next round! Of course I do! This is a dream opportunity for me and I cannot even imagine where winning this competition could take me. Even if I don't make it, which surely is something I have to really embrace too, this whole experience has taught me so much about art making and served as a wonderful momentum to create art and not just for the competition itself.

For the second round of GTS we were assigned a brief to create artwork for an Autumn themed tote bag with topics to touch themes such as apple picking, autumn flowers, pumpkins and so on. We were encouraged to also include characters and some hand-lettering. I brewed days and days over my design until I came up with an idea and sketch that felt right pursuing. So here is my entry to the second round of GTS for you!

My stomach feels like a thousand butterflies going crazy right now. I need all your support!!!! So please, if you have a spare minute pop over to the public voting gallery and if you put in your vote for me you would make me so very happy!!! And maybe even help spread the word ;-)!!!!

What a day! - Lilla Rogers' Global Talent Search 2013

Today is an amazing day. Not that any other day wouldn't be, but for the artist within me that always struggles and thinks "you could do better, you know!", today has been a magnificent day, indeed. But why is this you wonder? Well, this very morning, while still sleepily browsing the internet and checking Lilla's blog I learned I am one of 50 semi-finalists of Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search.

This might not seem so special, but when I read that those fifty artists had been chosen from over 1500 participants, this really makes you feel giddy and happy. Many of the people who have made it into the semi finals are classmates from the e-course I took earlier this year with Lilla Rogers. And let me tell you, I have seen tons of amazing work from other classmates as we shared our work with the deadline for GTS approaching. I think it must have been a very hard job to select only 50 from all these fabulous pieces created all over the globe.
The assignment was to create a cover for a journal and treat it as we would design it for PaperChase. The theme we had to incorporate was playground and playground items. We could do a pattern a scene, draw animals or people in any medium and style we chose. At first I thought I'd do kids but then I thought this a bit boring and not so challenging as I draw children most of the time for my commissions. So in order to challenge myself and also do something a bit "new" and different to most of my picture book work I did animals. I wanted to do a busy piece so I started sketching all the animals you see below and then scanned it in to arrange them in a nice design. When I was pleased with the layout I printed my sketches out, transferred them on watercolour paper and started painting them with acrylics, watercolour, coloured pencil and ink. The finished animals I scanned back in along with a wood plate and arrange it all in photoshop according to my sketch.
So this is what I submitted. Now I am very nervous about the next assignment. I wish everyone participating in this contest all the best. I cannot wait to see the amazing pieces that will be brought to life!

And a tiny shout out to all the MATS classmates, it is a pleasure to know you all and I so much appreciate the spirit of support we have developed during this short period of time. Keep up all this wonderful work you do!!!

The Final Week of "Make Art That Sells"

This past five weeks with Lilla Rogers class "Make Art That Sells" literally flew by. Theme of the final week was to create a piece for a sipper pouch that is lush and we were also allowed to use  photographed pieces of things we collect. I am not much of a collector and went for a completely digital piece of art.

I played around and went really beyond with the colors, which is not what I usually would do, but I liked it. It gives my design a bit of an 80's feel, at least in my opinion. The one I did and submitted is the bottom right piece on the collection of all the pieces I created during the course. The one on top of that I created past deadline as I felt I wanted to play a little more and create a second design to go with the other. Also the second one has a slightly more girly touch to it, which I like.

It is really amazing to see what you can achieve in 5 weeks if you stay focused and organized. I will keep this momentum and create as many pieces as possible within the next weeks, as I hope to put together a nice and strong art licensing portfolio. And I look forward to part B of Lilla's class in October to help me push and grow even more!
Hope you enjoy my five weeks accomplishment! :-)

Week 4 of Lilla Rogers Course - Wall Art

We are already way into week 5 of Lilla Rogers e-course "Make Art That Sells" but I had no time to write up a little something about week 4 yet. I cannot believe how fast this course is going by and how many things I am learning. I really discover so many new things while seeing to the assignments every week. It helped me push myself as an artist I did not think about or expect to happen when signing up for it.

Week four was all about Wall Art. What I loved most about this market and the assignment that went with this week was the freedom and painterly approach. The market leaves room for so many things, as Wall-Art is needed not only for adults but also for kids not to mention the different rooms and occasions one might go crazy about. But the fun part was really to paint and collage, which was what we were to do. We had to create one or two pieces and use colours according to our star sign, which made me end up with blue and red, which are in fact some of my favourite colours I happen to use quite a frequently in my art. The pieces we were to create should be painterly to abstract using collage, real paint and type with some kind of quote or maybe just a word and also some kind of plants. Of course we could go loose and explore.

So what happened with my piece? After some pondering I went to the shop, got myself some wood plates and drew on them. A first time for me and also the collage was new to me in that way, as I hardly ever use that technique. I also did some linoprint for the background to create a bit of an abstract pattern to go with my pods. The flowers I drew with acrylics and collaged them on the wood plate. The type I added digitally as I was too afraid to screw up and ruin my piece. The text I used is inspired by one of my favourite poems and poets J.v. Eichendorff. Can you guess which poem it might be?

Week 3 in "Make Art That Sells" - Picture Books

This weeks topic for Lilla's course was picture books. One would guess an easy one for me maybe, as I have illustrated a few books. But you are wrong! To be honest it has been the toughest assignment so far, maybe just because I already did picture books and vowed to push myself in this class. It took me almost all the week to figure out how to approach this weeks assignment.

One reason was the story, which is not a typical picture book story in my opinion, but perfect to stretch the brains in new ways. Lilla gave us "The Snail and the Rose Tree" by Hans Christian Andersen. We could choose to either do a spread or the cover but also do hand lettering. As the story is a bit morbid and kind of has a sad touch to it the thing I struggled with the most was deciding on the style of the illustration. We were to develop a snail character, that is engaging and would carry through a whole picture book. I new I did not want to do a simple snail so I pondered what my snail could be like and how to show that best. In order to not just make it the grumpy old fellow I kind of heard at first when reading the story for the first time, I came up with a hopeless artist snail, a musician that is a bit depressed by nature. Maybe not too original either but I somehow liked it and more importantly liked him. Another thing that needed to be figured out was the character of the rose tree. The story has a lot of dialogue between the snail and rose tree so I wanted to really personify the rose tree. Just one blossom with a face did not seem right though, so I gave my rose tree a rose tree fairy that sums up it's rather idle personality.

I also kept to my vow to work more traditionally so the piece you see below was created in watercolor, colored pencil and ink. The only thing I added in Photoshop is some highlights and I changed the hue of the hand lettered title, as this was done in black ink only originally.
I feel very good about this piece, as I think I pushed further but also stayed true to my voice. Hope you guys enjoy it too!!!

Home Decor Design - Learning new Things

Week two in Lilla's class was dedicated to home decor. A market, I have never worked for before and so many new things landed on my plate. Again we had an assignment, which was to design four plates that would go together as a collection.

As I mentioned in last weeks post, this course is not only about learning new markets but also to push yourself as an artist. So yes, there is a lot of experimenting involved, which is really just fun! I would love to work more traditionally and also explore ink and watercolor, but in a more loose style, than I do at the moment when it comes to picture books. Who knows, maybe it will transfer into my picture book work, but that is still something I have to see for myself.

What I do find hard though and really learned about me as an artist this week, is that working on "expensive" or fine art paper makes me kind of freeze. I just loose the looseness and get worried too much about my lines. So what I did is this:  I got a sketch book with really good paper and drew all my inky stuff into it to scan in later. Yes, I fooled myself, but believe it or not, it did work and I am happy about the results too. After a lot of inking I then did the watercolor bits on watercolor paper but just scribbled away without freezing. I also think keeping the watercolor bits kind of simple helped in not freezing up too. I'm loving those assignments and here you get a peek at my collection of floral plates!
Let's see where the next week in this course will take me!

Pattern for Bold Fabric - Learning new Things

At the moment I am taking an e-class with Lilla Rogers, which concentrates on art licensing and gives a really great overview of many different markets. Week 1 of this really amazing course went by so quickly and I honestly had a blast designing patterns for our assignment. I learned a lot about how to make a bolt fabric collection and enjoyed experimenting so much.
My two designs, of which we were only to submit one in the end, are very different in look and feel. It was extremely hard to decide which one to submit to Lilla for review. I am still not sure whether I picked the right one. But here are my designs so you can have a peak and can decide which your favourite pattern of the two might have been.

The topic of the patterns was kitchen and we had to include mushrooms and casseroles. Lilla encouraged us with a special exercise to loosen up our styles and push boundaries, something I think we all need to do from time to time to grow as artists but tend to forget or maybe even purposefully push aside. I am already looking forward to this weeks assignment and taking an "artistically adventurous dip" into home decor. More to come next week!
Would love to hear which design you prefer and why?

Some Characters - A Monster Girl and a Robot Boy

Last week I had fun playing around with some ink and coloured pencils. I did two characters to help out my talented writer friend Gabrielle Smith-Dluha. I tried to work a bit more loose then I usually do as I felt this was the right way to go with those two characters, a monster girl and a robot boy. It was lovely to push my comfort zone and try to explore working in ink a bit further. I really have to do this more often, but we all know what it is like with a full schedule and life you sometimes do not get around these things. These are all single illustrations I composed into one piece to showcase them a bit better.

I hope you enjoy them!

Spring Themed Greeting Cards

Now that it is May and the temperatures are rising it finally is spring here too. All trees are in bloom and if the sun makes an appearance from time to time you can call me a happy girl.
I had ideas for new greeting cards on my mind for a while but with only a grey sky to discover whenever I looked out my window felt it was impossible to get them done. Well, the seasons changed and I have my pens and brushes ready to go for it. To give you some of my spring inspired cards here you can have a peak at one I just finished yesterday. More to do, so back to my drawing board it is. Have a lovely time everyone!

A Newspaper Article and An Award

On my way from hall 25 to hall 26 at the Bologna Book Fair my phone rang. I was so occupied with all the impressions at the fair that I didn't even answer the phone correctly expecting my children at the other end of the line anyway. But it wasn't them. I heard a woman's voice who introduced herself as a journalist from a local newspaper in my area, the Stuttgarter Zeitung. She asked me whether I was interested in doing an interview for a short coverage on how an illustrator works. I said yes I would certainly be interested, the only problem at hand being I wasn't in Germany but in Italy at that very moment. She said she would see whether they could postpone the article to a later date and we said goodbye for the moment.
When I already thought I had missed out on a great opportunity to promote my work locally she called me again the week after Bologna and we arranged a date for her to come and visit my home studio. I was quite nervous about it and hoped I would actually have something to tell her worth of a report. The interview was really great and the reporter Johanna Trommer made me feel at ease. In the course of our interview I found out she is actually a published author herself, so we had something to connect and talk about. Time flew and well, here it is (of course in German ;-)) my very first newspaper interview for the Stuttgarter Wochenende (it is on page 5).
Thanks so much Johanna Trommer for this great article. She really has a way with words, I tell you!

And I have some other very exciting news to share. Exciting for me also because it is the very first time a book I illustrated has won an award. (If you follow me on FB this might not be entirely new to you).
Yesterday the publisher Magination Press send me an email to let me know "Ben's Flying Flowers" has been awarded the Nautilus Silver Award! I am thrilled beyond words as you can imagine and very grateful to the people at Magination Press to have given me the opportunity to contribute to this fine story written by Inger Maier. The winners will be officially announced in May, so I might have to think up something to celebrate this in a proper manner ;-). What a week!

Bologna Book Fair 2013 recap

Wow, Bologna Book Fair came and went so quickly. It was a great fair and I have a lot of info, impressions and inspiration to share with you.

Lets get started with the overall impression. This was my third time in Bologna, so I feel I can start comparing the different years of attending the fair and also kind of get an idea of how to go about the fair best, even though this is of course my personal view and not everyone might agree with me.

What caught my eye straight away when entering the halls was the open design of the illustrators corner. The illustrators wall was at least twice as big as last year if not even more, which was  fantastic, as not too many people would stick their posters and cards upon yours or even go as far as ripping them down (yes, had that last year, not so nice, if you ask me). The whole exhibition felt very welcoming and of course we will have to come back to it when speaking of inspiration.

The wall early Monday morning after I put my stuff and my Storybook Brushes Group Calendar up with art by Katriona Chapman, Angela Matteson and Juana Martinez-Neal.
The wall later ... so many amazing things to discover!
 I got to attend only a few talks at the fair but the ones I sat in on were very interesting. One was on digital publishing withe Peter Sis, André Letria, Klaas Verplancke and Roger Mello. The most important message out of this talk was to me that when creating digital content, be it an ebook of sorts or app that the story is still to be key. It was pointed out that as with movies too, all emphasize seems to be on the sole use of what is technically possible, which results in very weak if sometimes even almost non existent stories. The possibilities to enhance a story are manyfold. One very interesting example though was an augmented reality book project called Mr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde . This project really uses technical support to enhance the experience of the book and story. Surely something to be on the look out for and maybe experiment with, if one gets the chance.

Another talk I happened to sit in on was about the rights of authors and illustrators. It was more of a very passionate talk held by Mats Lindberg (IAF), Paolo RUI (EIF President) and Anders Suneson (EIF Member). It is a topic widely discussed around the internet not only by art its within the book publishing industry, but also in other creative fields. Emphasis of the talk was on art its not working for free and in order of valuing their service to increase the respect and value on the client side too. Fees have dropped reasonably in the last few years and also a lot of other bad things for authors/illustrators have happened when it comes to their copyrights. The speakers really pointed out to be aware of ones rights and step up for them and not undervalue what we can offer to our clients. I think this is crucial to talk about and it was great to hear and see that there is an understanding of an issue throughout the industry that can lead to a change, if it gets more known and also followed by art its around the globe.

Inspiration could be found in every corner of the fair. From the illustrations exhibition to the illustrators wall and all the booths. I spotted books from fellow illustrators I know, if only through the internet but nonetheless, it is always so wonderful to see others published work, when you can connect it to a person. So here are a few pics for your inspiration taken from the fair.

Got nice presents here for my kids!

 I met with other illustrators and had lovely food, but just one gelato, as it was freezing cold in Italy.

As far as tips go when attending the fair I can only encourage you all to make as many appointments as possible. I reached out to the people I hoped to see 6-8 weeks ahead of the fair. Some did not attend, but at least I got to talk to them and a few asked for me to leave samples at the booth to be handed to them personally. I also had my cards and portfolio prepared and got in cues, when I had the impression my art might fit the publisher. Apart from that, never hesitate to simply walk up to a booth and ask if you can either show your work or leave a card. This got me two more appointments, so it is all worthwhile. 
This year my portfolio felt very good to me and responses were very positive, which only encourages me to push further and make an even better portfolio for the next year. I leave you for now with this credo I came up with when strolling the aisles with Kirsten Carlson.
 "Get inspired, not intimidated!"

Winners of the Kollie Books Giveaway

So here they are, announcing them right before I hop on the train down to Italy, the winners of the double giveaway.
A copy of "Kollie in de creche" will go to ... Elisa Ferreira!
And a copy of "Kollie op de fiets" goes to ... Lori Meyers!

Please get in touch via email and send me your addresses so I can send the books off to you as soon as I return from the Bologna Book Fair!

Preparing for the Bologna Book Fair 2013

Just a couple of days and the Bologna Book Fair is upon us once again. I am all set. I have my postcards printed and also my business cards, my portfolio is updated, both the printed and my online one and I have booked a room and my train down to Italy, not to mention the meetings I have scheduled.

All this has been taken care of over the last couple of weeks while also working away on commissions. I very much look forward to the fair: To meeting fellow artists and clients and being inspired by all the lovely books I will see on display there.
Here are just a few photos of my postcards and the portfolio I am to take with me. Have a great fair everyone! I hope to be back with lost of things to share  - impressions and inspiration!

If you are also in Bologna and would like to meet for a gelato and a chat, drop me a line!

And don't forget to enter my giveaway! There is still a little time to win a copy of either "Kollie in de creche" or "Kollie op de fiets"!

Kollie Books Giveaway

I have been postponing this blog post far too long, but life and work kept me too busy to get it done. But here I am on this rainy Sunday afternoon finally taking the time and typing away.
Yes, I am about to give away a copy of "Kollie op the fiets" and a copy of "Kollie in de creche", both in Dutch and published by Clavis.

But before we get down to the giveaway business, I would like to share a bit of the process of the illustrations with you. As mentioned in my previous post about how I was commissioned with the books, I had very little time to get them both done. All in all I think it was merely 8 weeks for both from draft to finished artwork. But I made it and am even happy with the outcome.

The best part of this commission was getting to draw animal characters. I had a lot of fun thinking up what the different characters could be. And to enhance the fun all these animals should and could be from around the globe. Kollie is the main character and a tiny koala, this was already settled in the brief. But I got to come up with what all the other tiny animals could be. So I made Kollie's best friend a monkey.
I sketched the books and send the sketches in for feedback. Revisions were minimal so I could almost directly start on the final art. To safe time I skipped the storyboard and did the full size sketches right away. Here are just a few sketches with English text. As I do not speak Dutch, the publisher translated it for me, although the books are not published in English so far but will also be available in French and Danish soon.

Roughs for "Kollie in de creche"
For the final illustrations I wanted a look not too digital but also soft and bright in colors. So I created lots of watercolor textures and scanned them in to use them as my flat colorshapes I would then add shading to give the objects a more three-dimensional look and create some more depth if needed. The advantage of using scanned in textures of watercolor or whatever other medium is, that the illustrations get a nice handmade touch and feel to them and it also accelerated my drawing speed. As creating a similar effect without using textures takes a lot more time and seems impossible to me, but maybe this is just me.

Process of creating the final art for "Kollie in de creche"
Final art from "Kollie in de creche"
I ploughed away on the final art and voila, here we go with your chance of winning a copy of either "Kollie in de creche" or "Kollie op the fiets".
You can only win one book, which means I will pick two winners randomly at the end. All you have to do to be counted in is:
1. leave a comment here on my blog or on my Facebook page.
2. If you want to double your chances you can also share the following tweet: I just entered the Kollie books giveaway on @mariabogade 's blog!

The winners will be announced 24th March 2013 (just before I leave for Bologna). Good luck!

"Kollie op de fiets" published by Clavis

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