Thursday, March 29, 2012

Illustration Friday # 19: SWAMP

© Cheryl Kirk Noll,  Harriet Tubman escapes slavery
I've been SWAMPed this week with a wonderful weekend conference, a niece getting married, and family visiting from the other coast. So here is an older piece, done for a set of story cards for Graphic Learning, a Divison of Abrams & Co.,  many years ago, illustrating Harriet Tubman escaping from slavery through a SWAMP in Maryland.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Whispering Pines Retreat

Whispering Pines conference center
I'm home from my second Whispering Pines event, a small and intimate writing retreat held at URI's Alton Jones campus conference center. The retreat is sponsored by SCBWI. With rambling paths and footbridges leading to rustic cabins tucked into piney woods by a lake, the setting could hardly be better.

URI's Alton Jones campus in West Greenwich, RI
The mentors included illustrator Suzanne Bloom, agent Andrea Cascardi, author Jo Knowles,  Delacorte editor Michelle Poploff, author and school-visit guru, Alexis O'Neill, and multi-talented Charlesbridge editor, Yolanda Scott. The mentors did individual critiques, gave presentations, ate meals with the participants, and critiqued anonymous first-page submissions in front of a big stone fireplace each evening.

Of course, I sketched while I took notes, as I do at all meetings. It's my way of paying attention.
(My apologies to the "sketchees" for all poor and less-than-flattering likenesses.)

Sketch by Cheryl Kirk Noll

Here's what the folks really look like.

Mentors Alexis, Michelle, Andrea(hidden), Yolanda, Jo and Suzanne

For more information about the individual presentations, you can check out author Jo Knowles' journal post. By the way, Jo's presentation was my favorite... so insightful and thought-provoking. That said, I enjoyed and learned something from each and every presenter.

It was a especially great to have Suzanne Bloom as a mentor. I've known her for years, thanks to the good folks at Highlights for Children, and it was a treat to spend time with her.

Suzanne did this pastel painting during the conference, and generously offered to donate it for fundraiser auction.
Just a few of Suzanne's books.

As if all of this wasn't enough, the participants make this retreat feel warm, caring and nurturing. About half of them are published (the rest pre-published!), and a handful of illustrators (and author/illustrators) attend.

Author-illustrators Barbara Johansen Newman and Carlyn Beccia, author Julia Boyce, and author-illustrator Liz Goulet Dubois.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt leads the events with games and giveaways. Not only did I win a signed copy of a book by participant Anika Denise, illustrated by her husband Christopher, but I also won a can of octopus!!!

After getting quite a laugh, I was informed that the octopus was accompanied by a 10 page critique by agent Andrea Cascardi. Now, that was quite a thrill.

Lynda was celebrating her debut middle-grade novel, One for the Murphy's, which is coming out this spring. 

 To add frosting to the cake, a fellow instructor and two students from the RISD-CE Children's Book Illustration certificate program attended. 

Brook Gideon, Cheryl Kirk Noll, instructor Marlo Garnsworthy, and Sue Fraser-Perotta.
To the mentors, to the warm and wonderful participants, to Lynda and Mary Pierce and all the folks who organize the event, to the cooks and staff at Alton Jones, to those who contribute baskets and books for the auction and give-aways, I offer a hearty word of thanks and appreciation. 

Jo Knowles worded it perfectly in her journal when she said, "I have never come across a group that was more consistently caring, supportive, friendly and, well, LOVING." 

Thanks and hugs to everyone. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Illustration Friday # 18: SHADES (of spring)

Shades of Spring © Cheryl Kirk Noll

I did a new piece this week, loosely using my niece's husband and son as models. The prompt word is shades, so I'm calling it "Shades of Spring." I did it with my "new style," hand-painted figures done in watercolor,  and photographs manipulated in Photoshop.

It's been a glorious week here in New England... maybe even a bit too hot yesterday. Daffodils are up, and the ones in the illustration are from my garden (but not this year.)

Hope everyone is enjoying the early spring. We can cross our fingers and hope we don't get frost next week.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Illustration Friday # 17: YIELD

© Illustration by Cheryl Kirk Noll
Once again, I've been remiss in my attempts to get a new piece out for Illustration Friday, so here is another older piece for the word YIELD.

This was an illustration for a story about a woman homesteader in the 1920's. Among the mountainload of problems that homesteaders faced was the dreaded "plague of locusts" (the swarming phase of grasshoppers), which could strip a farmer's summer yield in minutes. What a heartbreak that must have been.

This piece was one of the first where I employed the use of Photoshop. I hope that you will find it difficult to see how I cloned, copied, and re-sized after painting the first half of this piece. Did I save time?

Hmmmmm. I think so, but the Photoshop process is time-consuming and involves drawing and design skills, too, so I don't want folks to think it was a cinch.

Here's a close-up of part of the piece.
©Illustration by Cheryl Kirk Noll

Hopefully, next week will YIELD a new piece for Illustration Friday.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Setting Up an Illustration Studio

I posted about setting up a studio for my students on the RISD-CE blog, Drawing Together, but I thought it might be of interest to those who read this blog as well. So here is a little advice, and some pix and links to working illustration studios.

My own workspace is in tight quarters... a sun room.

1. Create your own dedicated space.
When you need to clear your work off the dining room table before you can feed the family, you're wasting precious time. Get your own space... a place that's yours, and yours alone... even if it's a small desk tucked into a corner.
CE's children's book writing instructor, Marlo Garnsworthy, set up her own art space recently. It only takes a corner of one room, but is practical and inviting.    

Marlo's newly created workspace

Marlo's space hard at work!
2. Get good light.
Illustration comes from the Latin word that means "to light up." Follow that advice! 
Traditionally, north light is supposed to be best for artists, but I like any and all the natural light I can get. You also need at least one of those adjustable neck lights so you can pull it exactly to where you want. Fluorescent or incandescent can be debated for days... your choice. The fluorescent lights with a magnifying glass are great for those little details.
RISD CE-instructor Judith Moffatt has a wonderful studio. The L-shaped configuration of desk and worktable is an especially efficient set-up, and accommodates her computer as well. And check out the lighting!!! Heaven!
Judith Moffatt's well-lit workspace

3. Get comfortable.
If you're hunched over with no back support, you're going to have neck and back problems down the road. Get a chair with an adjustable seat and have place to rest your feet. Many artists prefer desks that can be tilted. Some folks use high desks, and stand instead of sitting.
Illustrator Don Tate works standing up, and shows us that messy can work, too!
link to Illustrator Don Tate's studio
Artists often suffer from repetitive motion injuries, too. Pay attention as you work to creeping aches and stiffness. Even with good seating, stand up and walk around at least every hour. Do a few stretches, gently roll your shoulders and neck, or stand with your back against the wall and do a few pelvic tilts. 

4. Have your tools handy.
Set up hooks for rulers, T-squares, etc. Use lazy-susans or other tabletop organizers. Office, art, and scrapbook supply stores offer many options. Mobile taborets are popular, although I've never gotten mine to function that usefully. Drawers, shelves, racks... you get the picture.

I love this double lazy-Susan from kitchen storage at Target.

Specialized containers can be useful.
5. Create adequate storage.
You need a place for materials that you only use occasionally, such as papers, reference books, specialized tools, and finished art. If your space is limited, you can put these in a separate room. My basement is dry, so it works well for storage, but attics and basements can be problematic because of heat, cold, damp and pests.
Deep, professional quality legal size file cabinets are useful, and flat files are fabulous, but they can cost an arm and a leg. I was fortunate to get many of my storage containers from used office supply stores for more reasonable prices. Cheap file cabinets aren't cost-effective if they stop opening when fully loaded, and I don't mind the few dings in my high-quality used file cabinets with overloaded drawers that roll with the push of a finger.

Flat files in my cool, dry basement.
Don't forget a place for the peripherals... close enough so they can get wired up properly. Printer, scanner, computer, back-up hard-drive. A place to do cutting is good too. And a self-healing mat.
Judith Moffatt's flat files, printers, and reference books.
Judith's studio. You can never have too much storage space, light and decorative touches (or purple). 
5. Create a place to display your work in process.
Ideally, you'll have a place to view reference materials, inspiration boards, sketches, etc while you're working. Try to have a bulletin board or open wall space nearby. If you checked out Don Tate's link above, you'll see that even the floor can work.  Pin or prop up your work, and stand back to view it from a distance from time to time.
For a few peeks at spaces to aspire to, here are some links.
Illustrator Susan Kathleen Hartung's studio tour. click here
Blog tour of the ultra charming studio of Jenny B. Harris, "illustrator, designer and generally artsy crafty person." click here
No matter how little space you have, you can make it work for you!