Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!

We've been busy with travel and holiday prep around here, and not too many pretty pictures I'm able to share (only Top Sekrit projects:).

What's inside those tins? I'LL NEVAR TELLLLL!!!

Here is my holiday e-card! I've lately begun an obsession with the narwhal (the unicorn of the sea). One of these days I'll do a book about one. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Art for YA debut, SACRED

            While I was "toiling away" for the Halloween party, I was marinating on a project I’d signed up for months ago – an art piece illustrating a scene from a fellow YA writer’s debut novel, SACRED

            She had sent me an e-ARC months earlier, and I had chosen the passage I wanted to illustrate, but after a few frustrating tries at sketching the scene, I’d put it to my subconscious to come up with the solution. And so it did, although I’m not sure my technical skills were up to the task at hand.  It was one of my few attempts at a nighttime scene, and I was really interested in developing the effects of the different light sources. This of course gave me a choice about preordaining the brightest points of light, or figuring it out later using the screen or dodge tools in Photoshop. Those lightening tools can sometimes have a heavy-handed effect, and I’m not sure the distortion of the gazebo really worked – it might just look crooked. I am not sure if the two figures are convincing as teens, but it’s hard because they are dressed up for prom, and some kids do look like adults when they’re gussied up like that. Nevertheless, I received a decent response to it and it was, as always, a good experience for me. I got to be interviewed on her blog and it was fun to be a guest somewhere else (it gets pretty lonely around this here blog, just me and the tumbleweeds ;).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hipster Zombie Halloween

            This was an off-year for my family’s every-other-year Halloween party, so I decided to help my friend plan one at her house. We chose the theme "Hipster Zombie" and used Pinterest to brainstorm. I painted a giant zombie apocalypse mural for the photo booth we created, made jello worms, and jello brains, along with other delicacies and spooky accouterments. We hauled out my parents' impressive collection of black lights and fog machines, and a good time was had by all.

            But this was not work, no matter how much craftiness went into the party’s creation, so I'm not exactly sure why I'm including this on the blog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012 Working Writer’s Retreat

            For the second year in a row, I attended SCBWI-LA's Working Writer's Retreat. Here's a pic from last year's retreat:

            Luckily, this time I did not get laryngitis from singing too much karaoke. As I mentioned in the previous post, I had just begun a total rewrite of my book, which meant I was reading some pretty raw stuff to agents and editors, but also it afforded me the flexibility to make some fairly drastic changes in between sessions, rather than being a phrase hoarder (people usually say this as "Kill Your Darlings," but I'm a nonconformist). Though frustrating at times, it was definitely a learning experience to be that fast and free with my words.
            In the meantime, I’d been dragging my picture book dummy with me to every focus group, and finally one of my group members told the editor who was faculty to take a look at my book. (I was so averse to being seen as shoving it in her face, I couldn’t work up the nerve to do it myself.) After the final readings on the last day, I approached her with the picture book and she took a look at it. 

The working cover:
            She laughed at it and kept saying it was cute, but we were in the middle of the hallway and I felt terrible, like I had basically done the "hand the manuscript under the bathroom stall" move. She recommended I send it to a particular agent, who I came to find out is like one of the best agents for picture books in the business. Whoa. She also said I could send her the new draft of my novel when I was done with it. *choke*  
           Post-edit: So Julia, you ask, did you query the agent she recommended? Did you send your novel to the editor right away after finishing the rewrite? No. No, I did not. Because I am chicken. This has got to change. And it will.

Friday, August 10, 2012

2012 SCBWI Conference

            So the conference came and went. I had my manuscript critique done by a fairly high-up editor at one of the Big 6. She basically told me stuff I already knew, but was hoping I could fix later. Apparently, they have to be fixed now, before I submit.

Of course, this means I’ve decided I need a full rewrite of my YA novel. I need to streamline the plot by combining characters and making my MC less passive. I have a new synopsis and outline now, and though I don’t know if it’s going to work, I have to give it a shot.

However, as I’m writing this, I’ve got two weeks before the SCBWI-LA Working Writer’s Retreat, and I have nothing to read at this point. This is unsettling, considering the fact that I thought I had a nearly complete first draft up until two weeks ago. But since I’m essentially changing the entire core of my main character, nothing I’ve already written really makes sense anymore. This will be my third total rewrite of this manuscript, though my writer friends assure me that this is completely normal.

Not to say the conference was entirely frustrating. There were lots of fun bits, too, as always!

Friends came to support me at the Portfolio Showcase:

In between sessions, I met up with a group of authors and illustrators who dubbed ourselves "The Circle of Awesome."

Me with my illustrator buddies, Jennifer Gray Olson (left), and Christina Forshay (right) at the SCBWI Hippie Hop Afterparty.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Comic-Con 2012

            I’m not exactly sure when I became aware of Comic-Con’s existence, but I do remember thinking it appeared to be the Olympics for nerds. Not being the sporting type, I’d never bothered to find out more about it. Until now. A friend of mine had made a yearly pilgrimage of it and had made it sound like so much fun, I decided I simply had to go. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing, so I looked online and of course it had been sold out for eons before I got there. Luckily, professionals (who get in for free, by the way), are allowed to bring guests, and while I could qualify as a professional, apparently the intertubes are full or something, and it’s like getting a green card in the US – far easily to hitch yourself to someone who already belongs than to wait your turn in line with the zillions of other qualified foreigners. Am I stretching a metaphor? Yes – but it still applies, I think. Except I didn’t actually have to marry my friend (my hubby would have objected greatly). We stayed in neighboring hotel rooms and traveled to and from the con together. My friend Abby came with me and she dressed up one of the days as a character from The Avengers.  (You won’t find me dead in a catsuit). 

            We met up with a bunch of our friends for meals and panels, and even went out to a unicorn rave in some old warehouse district. (Though by the end of that night, we were all complaining about our sore body parts – ah, the joys of getting older!)

          But, the crowds. Oh, the crowds. Thousands upon thousands of People of A Certain Demographic (nerds) pushing and nearly trampling one another, as though you’re in one big open air New York City Subway at rush hour. I fit right in, awkwardly.
            I brought my sketch book and my iPad (for Scrabble on the go!) and even made it a few laps around the pit (we spotted Nathan Fillion and cast members from Glee!) Look at Nathan:

           It helps to go into that giant room with some sort of purpose or goal. Our goal was to take pictures of all the other Avengers so we could have a full set. I think we got everyone except Hulk. I guess there aren’t enough steroid-sucking nerds out there with a penchant for green paint and purple pants.
            Anyway, I had a reasonable time, but when asked if I wanted to attend again in 2013, I passed. Sometimes putting things on a bucket list happens because you don’t know any better. And now I do. ;)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

ALA 2012 – to ARC or not to ARC?

            ALA was in Anaheim in 2012, and since I’d heard so much about it from the Twittersphere in years past, I decided to go along with a couple of my friends. I’d read through the loglines of all the books that were going to be there (at least, from the larger publishers,) and I created a “Wish List” of ARCs (advanced reader copies) I wanted to pick up. And I got some -- hooray! (When they have pallet-sized stacks of books, it's okay for non-bloggers/journalists to take them). I also got to meet and hang out with a bunch of cool writer folks afterwards at a couple of bars, as well as rub elbows with a few agents – though I felt too awkward to actually talk about my work with the agents, so instead I just came up with pun-filled and borderline offensive one-liners. Like I do. So, while I didn’t get on a first name basis with any of the agents, I did become online friends with a couple of writers who are pretty cool and who have stayed in contact with me somewhat. Which I appreciate, since I am the Unpublished Unwashed, and sometimes (not so much in the kidlit world, but sometimes) people can be a bit snobby. Here's a picture of me with YA writer extraordinaire Andrew Smith, a man who is decidedly UNsnobby, and therefore We like him (the royal We -- I'm getting a head start in snobbiness!;)

            Sidenote: if I ever become snobby, someone give me the what-for.

           Sidenote #2: I convinced my friend Abby to take a picture with GAME OF THRONES author, George R. R. Martin.

No, he did not come to the mixer afterwards. ;)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Graphic Novel Toolbox

            I attended a graphic novel workshop on March 17, 2012 in Pacific Palisades. Mac McCool and Marla Frazee were the lecturers.  I was worried that I wouldn’t learn anything new, since I’d taken that 12-week long Graphic Novel History class at Art Center last summer. However, this workshop was more geared toward the production rather than the history of the medium. Whereas I’ve read quite a few books on the topic, it is always easier to take in the information in a lecture format, at least for me. Sure it was a superficial overview, but it was still a helpful refresher. And Marla Frazee’s talk reedified the need for thoughtful composition and emotional communication. Pictures to come...

Monday, May 28, 2012

DrawSomething Drawings

The free app DrawSomething has been a fun way for me to do warm-up sketches. It's like Pictionary except you get a pool of letters to choose from to make your word guess. If you haven't already, try it out!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cat Series

In case you haven't been following along on my Facebook art page, my rhyming cat series is nearly complete. It's been fun, but I'd better move on to the next topic so I don't come across like a crazy cat lady.

Speaking of, my Facebook page is updated at least weekly, as I prefer how much more interactive it is compared to a blog. Comment there, and you'll definitely hear back from me!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Photographing Art for the Web

A letter came over the transom today inquiring about how I prepare my images to be posted online, (specifically, it was about my images at Fine Art America). I thought it could be helpful for others, so I’m sharing here what I do.

Scanning Smaller Works:

An original should be scanned at no less than 300 dpi at 100% size. 600 is the norm, and, if your scanner can do it, 1000 dpi is recommended for works that will be printed at a large scale. However, RGB is fine. (see my note on color below for why I think this is so.)

Photographing Large Works:

First things first: TAKE YOUR OWN PHOTOGRAPHS. Unless you have a contract that gives you all the rights, the photographer will own the rights to the photo itself, and thus, any profit made from it, if they choose to be a jerk about it. Yes, even though the photo is of YOUR work! (BTW, it goes without saying, but I AM NOT A LAWYER, I’m just breaking down what I do for my own work.)

If you don’t have a good quality camera, borrow one from a friend or rent one from a camera store. Renting is not that expensive, and it’s a great way to test out camera bodies and different lenses anyway.

Avoid direct light – especially if your work is glossy. Just like cloudy days make for the most-detailed outdoor pictures, a soft, allover light will make the details of your painting more discernible.

Leave some room around the frame – leave a little bit of room so you don’t accidentally lose a border when processing your image in Photoshop.

Use the right lens for the job - Use the longest lens you can, as the more macro the lens, the more distorted the edges. We’ve all seen photos taken with a fisheye lens. Well, all lenses distort the image the way, just to a lesser extent. Reduce the distortion by using a long lens.
Shoot from an appropriate distance – the closer you are to the work, the more distorted the edges will become. 

Use a tripod – No matter how bright you think your lighting is, or how steady your hand, don’t assume that because the screenshot looks good, the photo isn’t blurry once you zoom in. It most likely will be blurry unless you zoom all the way in to focus manually, AND shoot the photo using a tripod.

Shoot in RAW Mode -  Like scanning at a high resolution, shooting in RAW mode is a must as it offers the most flexibility when adjusting your image in Photoshop.

Photoshop – yes, you will need to use some photo editing software to get your art to look right. There are filters that reduce the lens distortion in a photo, meaning the edges can be straightened digitally.

Transferring Files to the Web:

Your native files will be gigantic, so you’ll have to rejigger the image size and “save as” for a web-friendly version. The average laptop screen is something like 960 pixels across. 150 dpi seemed to be okay in the past, but with all these retina-screens and whatnot, that may be changing. It’s up to you and how much storage space you have available on your website.

A Sidenote on Color:

This post pertains to photographing art for the web, not for book publishing. For publishing, the word on the street is that working in CMYK shows that you are more professional and understand the printing process. But CMYK doesn't appear as vibrant as RGB on a computer screen, and thus doesn't look as appealing. I want my art to look its best when people see it for the first time. This is why I choose to work with RGB color even for the images on art print websites.  Sure, it's possible that this just means I'm being naive and/or shortsighted, but that's how I feel as of today. Order a test print of the same image in each color mode and see what you think. Ask your non-arty friends which image they prefer. Show the images on a computer screen and ask them the same question.


This post just touches the surface. I realize I didn't supply any details or examples. In case it wasn't already obvious, not only am I not a trained lawyer, but I am also not a trained teacher. If you have any technical questions about art photography or Photoshop, there are tons of forums online with plenty of information.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Ephemeral Life and Phoenical Death of the 'Stache

read below for my eulogy to my husband's moustache...

Since time immemorial, men (and women) have striven to attain lofty heights (and lengths) of hirsutism. For the past 27 months, Justin Collard was just such a man.
Now, it's been said of the Biblical Samson that a man's strength is sapped at the cutting of his hair, but in fact, 'twould be folly to believe such lore.

The truth is, while many a hipster has clutched his fedora in mourning...

...and perhaps even angels have shed a tear or two...

...the hewing of Justin's moustache should not be seen as a death...

...but as a rebirth...

Truly, for it is only through the fall of such a great and powerful mass of curls that a newborn force may rise:

A werebaby has taken its place in this world, "plucked," as it were, from the spectral realm, to take its (f)rightful place amongst society's margins...

So friends, do not feel betrayed by the exposure of Mr. Collard's upper lip, nay.

Feel humbled, and rejoice.

For the 'stache is reborn.

And will live again...