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08. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Art 4 Sale, Illustration, Tour/Appearance

As many of you are aware, I sell prints of my art. Archival quality, open edition, full-sized images can be purchased in my on-line gallery (here). If you read my previous posts about Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, you heard about the original art in mini frames I made. They are all one-of-a-kind. At $5 a pop, they were a big hit during the show. I have a few left and want to share the opportunity for you to grab them while they last. I’ve added a couple of bucks to cover shipping costs. Here are the original art in mini frames left over from SFAL.


Ace of Swords Art Mini Frame 


Lady on a Tightrope Art Mini Frame 


Band Practice Art Mini Frame 


Basketball Court Portal Art Mini Frame 


Little Tree Climbers Art Mini Frame 


Forest Ax Murder Art Mini Frame 


Mirror Iris Garden Art Mini Frame



Green Eyed Sue Art Mini Frame 

Remember, these are all one-of-a-kind. If you see one you want, grab it now as it might not be here later. Any of the images in my gallery are available as prints, if they aren’t set up with a buy button, all you have to do is email me and let me know you which image has caught your fancy. If you’d rather pay by check than use PayPal, I’ll be happy to accommodate you.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up on my event experience.

I had a wonderful weekend. I must admit though, I had a lot more fun last year when I was just an attendee and not an exhibitor. But even though I love my artist job, work is still work, and not as fun as play-time.

I realize it looks like the people behind the tables are mostly just sitting there, but being on display, answering the same 3 or 4 questions everyone who stops by your booth seems to have as if it’s the first time, and being cheerful and smiling for a 9 hour day without anything more than a bathroom break if possible is very tiring.

Since I’ve been to umpteen book signing events and given as many workshops for my children’s book promotional efforts, none of that sort of thing was new to me. Being in a huge room full of artist, many of whom are better than me, or more experienced, or (yikes) award-winning super stars was a new experience entirely. At the events with the children’s books, I was often the only creative, and more usually the only illustrator. Big fish, small pond. You know the deal. At Spectrum Live I was a minnow in the great big ocean. Talk about feeling intimidated.

Still, many of these wonderful and talented artists are people I know from my IMC experience or people I’ve connected with via social media. Not total strangers, in fact, some are dear friends.

The thing about Spectrum is that everyone I spoke with, without fail, was complimentary and helpful. It’s like being a room full of brothers and sisters. They may give you a hard time once in a while, but they are never anything but totally on your side. That’s one thing that was quite different from the general events I’ve exhibited at in the past. There may have been less friendly stuff going on but if there was, I didn’t see it or hear about any.

I was all nervous about what I would find when we finally arrived at Artist Alley, but I needn’t have been. There was plenty of space behind and around my table to place my banner and store my containers. Since I had done a quick run through on a table at home before packing up, it took about 20 minutes to set out all my merchandise and settle in.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up

practice table at home

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up

practice table at home

Friday was the initial day, and we got there shortly before the doors opened to the general public. I tried to do a quick run through once my table was set up, but a combination of nerves and a headache that would not quit helped to make that less than successful. When the announcement that the room was open for the general public came over the loud-speaker, I went back to my table and stayed there the rest of the afternoon.

The table on my left, the one across from me and the one next to that remained empty all of Friday. I could see people glancing down the aisle but just continuing past and not making the trip to the end where I was situated. I told myself not to worry, Friday was a slow day and Saturday would be better. I showed my husband how to use the Square on my phone and added the tax required for Kansas City sales to the app. I smiled at anyone who ventured down the aisle past the empty tables and chatted with the people at the tables behind me.

Activities for Friday night included a meetandgreet cocktail, the premier of an artist at work movie and late night live model sketching. My husband I skipped the cocktail hour to eat a nice sit down meal and arrived in time to get good seat for the premiere. Sadly, my memory is being cranky and I can’t remember what it was called. It was basically an autobiographical look at several people working as fantasy illustrators answering the question “how do you do what you do?” I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was hoping to glean useful information on furthering my career in fantasy illustration. Maybe other people did, but I found the show a bit repetitive and on the long side. Seems the most important thing to succeeding in the fantasy art world is being in the right place, at the right time, and knowing the right people. Oh and working really long hours at perfecting your craft. Yeah, that.

By the time the movie was over, I was literally falling asleep on my feet. I never made it to the sketching. Oh well.

Saturday was a beautiful day. The weather was delightful and after a leisurely and filling breakfast, we headed over to the con. I again tried to take a quick run through to see all the other artists, but only made it to the second row of booths before the doors opened to the public.

I headed back to my table. My left-hand neighbor wasn’t around yet, but the team across from me were setting up. They had a few pencil sketches and some pen and ink drawings but not much else. People started stopping at my table and looking at things and asking questions. At some point the table on my left (really two tables) got set up and the artist started a brisk business. He had oodles of sexy pin-up gals in poster form, a few 3D selections and an amazing backdrop display. His prints weren’t archival and he was selling them singly or in a bunch with a discount. His tables were mobbed most of the day.

I’d signed up for two portfolio reviews. The first one was with Lauren Panepinto, the Creative Director for Orbit Books. Lauren is a connection from Facebook, so we “know” each other a bit already. In fact, she’d visited my website before Spectrum and was familiar with my work before I even opened my portfolio.

I was very nervous, I have no idea why. Lauren’s first comment was that my work would be perfect for children’s illustration. O.o

I told her, I already worked in kid lit and wanted to expand into fantasy book covers. She was very helpful in explaining what I needed to do to ramp my art up from kid appropriate to what would be needed to be useful for Orbit. She was complimentary of my style, but as hard as I tried to be “adult” I missed the mark. By a lot. That was discouraging. But, she was very specific on what I needed to do the level up. In fact, my 10 minute review stretched out to 18 minutes and would have gone longer, but the next hopeful was waiting his turn. Color me embarrassed.

My next review was with Andy Christensen with Fantasy Flight Games. He also said my work would be perfect for kid lit. :/

The piece he liked best was actually one I’d done in watercolor and not digitally. His comments basically mirrored Lauren’s with the added caveat of having to be more painterly to be acceptable for FFG properties. He did suggest studying the Android NetRunner art for inspiration as the metal space (as opposed to meat space) characters would be most suited for my Art Nouveau leaning style. Only much more painterly than what I do now.

I have my work cut out for me.

Meanwhile, back at my table, my husband was doing his best to answer questions about my art. He deserves extra sushi! I rearranged my table to make room for my portfolio and sent my husband off to get himself some lunch.

The table mates across from me had become just one guy. He spent most of the day with his head down buried in his sketch book. The table next to him was still empty and would remain so for the entire con.

Sales picked up after lunch. My biggest seller, to my surprise were the mini frames. I sold half of them. Of the prints, the 8.5′ x 11″ ones sold.  People loved the masks, but not enough to buy them. That was a big surprise and a bit of a disappointment.

From my experience, I’d say most of the people who stopped by my table and spoke with me were students from the local area art colleges. They wanted attention and time, but being students, were disinclined to spend money.

The people who purchased prints from me were people who already knew me and were familiar with my work. This was also a surprise, but a pleasant one.

Lots of people picked up postcards and business cards. Some also signed up to join my mailing list.

Saturday evening was the Spectrum Awards Ceremony. My husband and I went back to the hotel immediately afterwards and were asleep before 10. When did I get to be such an old fart?

Sunday was another beautiful day, as well as being Mother’s Day. I didn’t expect much in the way of sales because of that, but I sold as much Sunday morning as I had all day on Saturday. Because of the long drive back home, I packed it in by noon. I took some time before we left to try to see more of the rest of the show, but my energy just gave out and I only made it about halfway through before giving up.

All-in-all, in conclusion to my Spectrum Fantastic Art Live follow-up, I’d say I had a positive experience for my first ever art con. I did learn a few tricks on how to set up my booth better, and decided I need to get me one of those awesome backdrop displays. But that will be somewhere into the future, because from both the ADs’ comments and those of others, my art isn’t quite ready for the fantastic art venue.

If we go back to Spectrum next year, (I hope we do) I want to go just as an attendee. It was more fun and less stressed for both me and my husband. I can’t work ALL the time after all. Plus, I want to hang with my friends, something I was unable to do at all this year!

04. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Illustration, Tour/Appearance · Tags:

Spectrum Live was fantastic, but not very profitable.

Get it? Fantastic Art. Yeah, it was a stretch. Give me a break, I don’t drink coffee.

IMG_0086I didn’t really expect sales to be huge, but ever the optimist, I was hopeful.

However, I do think it was, on the whole, a huge success for me as a first-time con exhibitor.

My detailed digital style in Adobe Illustrator takes me a long time. Most of the fantasy images I’ve produced in the last year have taken over 100 hours of computer time. That figure doesn’t include the hours I spend in research for reference and finding tutorials on techniques to create the visuals I envision in my head out onto the computer screen

I suppose it would be easier to use Painter or Photoshop to paint, especially since 99.8% of all tutorials for fantasy art are created using those programs, but I am in live with the graphic look of the vector program.

I had a long-term plan to create several new pieces of art specific for the fantasy genre. My idea was to age my art up to be more appropriate for an adult market. More on how successful that was later.

I planned to prepare for Spectrum in the months and weeks leading up to the event, so I wouldn’t forget anything or freak out too much leading up to being in the public eye for the first time in ages.

Part one of the plan was to create new pieces. I was able to paint 4 pieces with adult characters. Along with pieces I created for my kid lit needs, I had 12 images to put on display on my booth. I purchased a space in Artist Alley. This SFAL was the first time the less expensive option was available and I was happy it was. The price difference between the weekend tickets for me an my husband as attendees and the cost of the booth was minimal and we planned to go anyway. The booth was a 6′ x 2′ draped table. There was a 6′ space behind the table shared with the vendor in the other aisle.

After I selected the art I planned to exhibit, I was at a loss as to what sizes, how many and on which paper would be best. In the end, I guessed. Since I was on a tight budget, and wasn’t sure how my art would be received, I decided to use an archival photo grade paper which I could print out on my large format Canon printer. I chose 11″ x 17″ and 8.5″ x 11″ standard sizes. I ordered the paper and a complete compliment of inks. My Canon has 8 ink cartridges; C, M, Y, K, R, G, PC, PM. After the paper and ink arrived, I started printing. I printed a few images a day when I needed a break from other projects. By the time Spectrum Live came around I had dozens of images in two sizes. I placed each one in a protective clear envelope with a board backing.

In March, I volunteered to help at the local Wizards World Comic Con. I took the opportunity to haunt the Artist Alley there. My game plan was two-fold. I was considering the possibility of vending at next year’s Wizard World, and I wanted to see which vendors were having the most success. I’m still undecided about doing Comic Con, the booth fee is pretty high. But, the informal information I was able to receive in my observation while walking the area showed me that the vendors with only prints seemed to be having the least amount of traffic. My Spectrum plan up until that point had only been prints.

Change of plan.

I needed something to stand out from a sea of prints.

I’m not sure how many of you know, but I also create hardened leather masks. Totally fantasy creatures. I pulled out my current stock, took inventory, and made plans to produce 5 new masks, my best sellers, the ones I can’t seem to keep in stock.

coyote-2 jaguar AthenaOwl2-C manedLion2-D redfox-D

This brought my mask inventory up to 18. Normally, when I sell masks at an event, I use a shelf. However, the shelf would have taken up most of the table and blocked me from interacting with people. I had to come up with some other way to display them, one that was inexpensive, and didn’t take up a lot of horizontal space. After investigating a lot of display options, all of which would have run into hundreds of dollars and not really worked for the masks, I had an epiphany. I bought a weighted metal wire shoe tree. It was less than $100, even with shipping and would accommodate up to 48 pairs of shoes. Not a perfect solution, I’m sure, but it would work!

That left one item. In all my research, (I know, I love my research) everyone advised having a booth banner. Again, I wanted to keep costs down. I also didn’t know if I would be able to attach the banner to anything, either on the front of my booth or behind the table. I opted for a 5′ stand with a vertical banner. My logo is horizontal, also, the original was create in Photoshop to display on business cards and my web site. The file I had was way too small for a banner. Plus, the young girl on her flying paintbrush is so specific to kid lit, it really wouldn’t suit the SFAL audience or event.

I ended up grabbing the fox from the art I created for my first quarter postcard mailing. After creating half a dozen different permutations of a banner, I finally decided on one and sent the files off to the printer. And crossed my fingers.

It was 9 days before Spectrum, and I had my prints, masks, banner and display pieces, freebies in form of postcards. I also had one of my children’s books. I did a last-minute Google search on Artist Alley advice and decided I needed to add a mailing list sign up and a low-end price point item. I brainstormed and came up with what I dubbed my mini framed collector art. I printed out a baker’s dozen of mini images about 1.5″ x 2″ and put them each in charm frames from Hallmark.

The day before Spectrum I packed it all up into as few packages as possible and tried to breathe through my pre-show nerves.


Where’s your Waldo? Seriously, it all  about location – location – location.

I read somewhere, I don’t remember, that your background should be interesting with your main characters removed.

Location - location - locationWhat makes an illustration appropriate for a children’s book as opposed to an advertisement or package art is the story telling ingredients. This butterfly is an illustration I did as a demo for my students during my Techniques of Watercolor Pencil class. It’s pretty, it has a focal point and a background. But it is completely lacking in story telling and the background could be anywhere. As an illustration for a children’s book it is a failure.

What would change that? In connection to this post, having this blue beauty in a specific type of tree, perhaps with a frog or other butterfly eating creature lying in wait for a yummy meal. That gives the image, the main character – in this case, the butterfly, a story and something to draw the viewer into the image.

I hope you’re not filling your portfolio with lots of pretty pictures of kids or kittens calmly staring at the viewer on a white or plain background.

Being a good artist isn’t enough to be a children’s book illustrator. Being a great artist isn’t either. Your job, mission, journey as a book illustrator is to tell that story in 1,000 words with no words at all.

Let’s say you have a little boy holding a ball.

Location – location – location.

Where is this boy? What is he wearing? Where did the ball come from? These are only the beginnings of the questions you need to ask yourself when sketching out an image appropriate for a picture book. Interview that character. Ask him why he has the ball, what he plans to do with it, and where he plans to do it.

If you decide he’s going to the park to play catch with his dad, that’s great. But don’t stop there. Where is this park, what is the weather like, is it crowded? Does the dad live with the boy or is he a weekend visitor, maybe he’s on leave from the Armed Forces. Will there be other little boys at the park for him to play with? Depending on the time of day, such as after lunch or during dinner time, will create two very different environments, even in the same park.

Take a look at the images in your portfolio. If you take your main character out of the picture, literally, is there still a story going on without him or her? If the answer is no, you have your work cut out for you.

Once you have your storyline in mind, you’re halfway there. Yes, only half way.

Having a place in mind is only part of what needs to be portrayed. The other half, the important half is making this place, this environment specifically yours. A generic park just wouldn’t have the same impact as the one where your grandma took you to. What made that park special, what makes it stand out from any number of other parks you’ve been to in your life?

Location – location – location.

A list of 10 places a story might take place:

  1. Kitchen
  2. Basement
  3. Rooftop
  4. Abandoned building
  5. Swimming pool
  6. National monument
  7. State fair
  8. Seashore
  9. Zoo
  10. Shoe store

The list can go on from there. A generic location can become a powerful visual story telling tool. It’s up to you as the illustrator to take it to the next level and make it individually and interestingly yours and yours alone. Happy painting!


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Recently, on Facebook, generous kid lit aficionado, Harold Underdown, began a page entitled A Webinar: Researching the Right Agent, Editor, and/or Publishing House. I asked him about it and researching the right home for your kid lit.

Researching the right home for your kid lit with Harold UnderdownWM: It’s exciting to hear you’re hosting a webinar about researching the right agent, editor, and/or publishing house. This is your first webinar. What prompted you to hold this class on-line?

HU: I was contacted by Carrie Pearson, who was organizing a series of webinars on the overall theme of “From Manuscript to Submission” for the Michigan SCBWI—you can see more about it here: http://michigan.scbwi.org/2013/10/20/announcing-the-scbwi-mi-webinar-series/. My webinar is actually the third in the series.

I was reluctant at first, as the webinars I’ve experienced have either been Skype sessions, with possibly pixellated video, or glorified Powerpoints. But I was impressed by their format, which allows for the presenter to be seen in a video window while the presentation is displayed AND the audience chats via text. They use the text chat to gather question, which the presenter answers at the end. So it’s a good format, and they provide support and training to the presenters.

Both the support and being part of a series made this look like a good opportunity to try this out.

WM: Why is researching agents, editors, or publishing houses before sending out a manuscript a good idea?

HU: If you don’t, you’ll just be submitting at random, and may waste a lot of your time. You also may not know about all of the possible places to send your manuscript, or about changes that have happened since .

Almost everyone has to do some research before submitting. My aim in this presentation is to explain the kinds of research that are likely to be the most useful, and how to go about them, and also to show some kinds of research that people may not know, such as how to analyze a catalog to learn about a publisher.

WM: Do you feel researching is an under-utilized skill among authors and illustrators?

HU: That’s a bit of a loaded question! No, I don’t, not at all. In fact, I think that it’s possible to do too much research, which is one of the issues that I will be addressing. But I know that authors and illustrators are always looking for more information about editors and agents and publishers, and my intention is to show them, from an insider’s point of view, the best ways to go about acquiring that.

I’ve talked about most of this before, of course, at conferences, and much of what I’m covering is also covered in my The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books (http://www.underdown.org/cig.htm), though in different form, and I’ll be talking about using social media to do research, which wasn’t really on option the last time I updated the book.

WM: You will be touching on submission etiquette in this class. In your opinion, what are the top 5 red flags in a submission packet that turn off agents or editors?

Researching the right home for your kid lit with Harold UnderdownHU: That’s tough, but here are five things to avoid:
• Carelessness—bad spelling, poor punctuation, getting the editor’s name wrong.
• Comparing your writing or illustrating favorably to such greats as Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, or Judy Blume.
• Telling us how much your children/students/grandchildren loved the story.
• Making statements that reveal how little you know about the agent or publisher (better to say nothing at all).
• Not following the guidelines. Professionals always follow the guidelines.

WM: The webinar filled up almost immediately. That’s wonderful for you, but sad for the people who missed out. Will you hold another session?

HU: It’s not strictly true to say that it filled up almost immediately. It was announced at the beginning of January as part of the MI-SCBWI webinar series, and they publicized it through the usual SCBWI channels. I also announced it on The Purple Crayon. At the end of February, I think they had 75-80 “seats” of the 100 they can handle filled. That’s when I set up a Facebook “Event” (https://www.facebook.com/events/402818103189026/), and the response to that led to the remaining seats being filled.

However, people can still sign up for the archived presentation, and watch it as many times as they want over the three months after the webinar happens.

Will we hold it again? That’s not entirely up to me. As I said earlier, I think there’s a good possibility I’ll be doing other webinars in the future. Whether that will include an encore performance of this one or not, I don’t know.

WM: Is there any additional information you’d like to add, either about the webinar or the submission process in general?

HU: In addition to my book, people can find a lot of information about the submissions process on my website. I particularly recommend “Getting Out of the Slush Pile” (http://www.underdown.org/slush.htm)

Thanks for asking good questions!

WM: Thanks for visiting and for sharing your knowledge on researching the right home for your kid lit with us, Harold!

About Harold and the work he does: He’s a children’s book editor, working as a consulting or independent editor and writing teacher. Previously, he was Vice President and Editorial Director at ipicturebooks. Before that, he was editorial director of the Charlesbridge trade program, and have also worked at Orchard Books and Macmillan.

He is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, now in its third edition. He gives workshops through Kid’s Book Revisions. He speaks at conferences, provides editorial services to publishers and authors, and maintains the Purple Crayon website.

If you want to know more about him, please explore his website, or you can see a (very out-of-date) list of books he’s edited.


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