A Soda’s Valentine Coloring Page

Just finished this line drawing for Soda’s Valentine, and I think it makes an excellent coloring page!  So, I’m posting this afternoon.  This illustration will be in the new book as well, but I will probably alter it a bit….

Have fun!soda val

 

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

Soda’s Valentine–More Visuals

Quick blog today, heavy on images, light on words–which is sometimes a blessing for both of us, Dear Readers.  Worked hard last night to complete pages for the upcoming book Soda’s Valentine, and digitally “altered” photos are my main style.  Here are some samples of what I have done thus far, before and after things.  Feel free to print the “before” pix and use them as the basis for your OWN altered photographs.  Colored pencils and pastels work really well for this–you can see the process on this Halloween blog post here.  Children and adults really find coloring on photographs a fun, freeing activity.  Art is involved in the project, but no one is looking at your actual drawing skills when you do this–it is about having FUN without feeling intimidated by a blank piece of paper.  Instead, you are decorating a photograph!

Okay, here we go with a few of the photos I’ve worked on for the book!

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Before…

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After…

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Before….

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Before….

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After….

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After…

Three out of….like 26 or so pages, I know…..LOTS MORE to be done!  But, it is happening.  Next blog will be about actual illustrations I am doing for any “empty” page space there is between and around the photo illustrations.  So, arty-art-art is coming atcha!

In the meantime, print out the BW images above and do some Soda art on them!  Have fun!  Back to work I go….

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

The Style Of It….

So, here we are, down to the nitty-gritty where Soda’s Valentine is concerned.  Thursday–day-after-tomorrow–is Valentine’s Day, and I doubt I’ll be finished.  AH, such is life.  But, as with most projects, I got new ideas when the illustrating began.

I know, I know, I was going to do it all with photos.  And I still am.  Well, mostly.  But, since it is a kid’s book, and since I love visually interesting things, and so do children, I decided to do it right the first time and fulfill my vision.  It might take a little extra time, but so what?

First, I had to determine what my vision for this book is.  I started by thinking of what kind of LOOK I wanted.  I didn’t want it to look boring.  And, when I viewed my photos all together, they felt a little, well, blah.  They were okay, mind you, just not eye-popping.  They were pictures of a cat in a house doing what he does.  Now, normally, I would throw some really fun, jazzy illustrations in there to pop the visual interest up a bit.  But I didn’t want to get involved with full-scale illustrating on this project.  We are talking 6 hours or so per page.  I wanted to spend no more than, say, an hour per page.  So, how about altering the photographs?

Good idea, I said to myself.  So, I had a couple choices.  I could print the pictures out and draw on top of them.  I could color them selectively, add all sorts of squiggles and shapes and just have a good time.  Here is a blog post that shows that very project, albeit a Halloween post.  I thought this was the way to go, initially.  But, as I thought it through more, I realized that then I would have to scan all the pictures back into my computer to prepare the files for the printer.  Okay, I know that doesn’t sound like too much work, but trust me, it is.  We would be looking at possibly doubling the time it takes to produce the book from this point on.  Now, don’t get me wrong–there is something beautiful and fun about a black and white photo with art applied on top of it.  But, fortunately, I have a computer set up that allows me to do much the same thing digitally, thus eliminating the printing, waiting for the prints to “set” for 24 hours, then applying the art and risk messing up the art (and then having to repeat the above process) and then scanning, putting the page together, etc.  So, wanna see what I use for digital illustration?

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There it is.  My Wacom pad and pen.  I have a couple of these, for different computers, and they are different models, but they all do the same thing.  They allow you to use the pen, or stylus, just like you would a colored pencil or an ink pen or a paintbrush.  At first, when you get one, it feels very awkward to use instead of a mouse, but after a few hours, you will never use a mouse again.  These tablets and pens are pressure sensitive, so they respond much like a real art tool would.  So, I decided to apply ART to my photographs using the pad and pen, inside my image editing program, which for photographs is good old Adobe Photoshop.  Note–you can use whatever editing program you want.  I just happen to have lots of experience with Photoshop.   Now, there are TONS of tutorials on Youtube for learning Photoshop, so this isn’t going to be that kind of how-to.

I opened up a shot I thought would be fun to start with—Soda contemplating the messed-up toilet paper roll.

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Now, what to DO with it?  First, I went black and white.

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BOOOORRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGGG!

Then I cropped the image to the correct proportions for my book, which will be square, 8.75×8.75 inches all the way around.  Then, I went crazy, using my pen tool and all sorts of fun ideas for a bathroom.  And this is what I ended up with.

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Okay, I love it.  But then again, I don’t.  It seems too….random.  Too un-Valentine-y.  So, I went to bed.  Sometimes, going to bed is the best solution.  And when I woke up this morning, I did THIS, in about 20 minutes.

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And I LIKE it.  I feel like it is what the book needs—some whimsical, fun, altered photographs with a Valentine theme.

Teachers and parents—feel free to download the BW image above and print it out–encourage the children to apply art to it using colored pencils to achieve some really cool effects like those detailed in this blog, to which I already referred earlier in this post.  You can also have them write their OWN narrative or poem based upon the photo that they decorate.

So, here we are.  I have my STYLE for the book down.  At least, most of it.  As you noticed, the book is square. And not all the photos I took for the book will work in the square format.  So, that means there will be space….and I hate space that isn’t doing ANYTHING.  An upcoming post will be about all that empty space, and what I intend to do about it.  Now, I’m off to work up some more photo-illustrations.  I will do a couple more blog posts about them over the course of the next couple days, but without the long narrative, just so you can see progress.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

The Great Soda Motivator

So, finished shooting the book Soda’s Valentine!  Thought I would recap all the action in one post, so we can get on with the next step in illustrating, which I will come to in a moment.  But, first thing is first.  We need to talk about chicken.

Soda is ready to do another book.  All because of chicken.  He has found his reason for living.  And that is….chicken.  For those of you mailing him Valentines this week, make sure they are made of…you guessed it…chicken.

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I agree….not my idea of a great meal, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There were 4 different shot “sets” I needed to get for the remainder of the book.  And chicken factored heavily in all of them.  First, Soda needed to “eat” a box of candy.  Now, I’m not going to feed my cat chocolate for 2 very big reasons.

1.  Chocolate can kill cats.  So, that one is out.  He’s not eating a heart-shaped box of candy.

2.  I love chocolate.  So, Soda is not eating a heart-shaped box of candy because I’m going to eat that candy.

Instead, to make it look like he ate the candy, me and my kids ate the candy (most of it) and put some tidbits of chicken in the holes where the chocolates were in the box.  Then, we scattered a couple chocolates around, and even bit into a couple so it looked like he HAD eaten them.  Of course, with chicken around, he completely ignored the chocolates.  And we got the pictures pretty quickly.

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He didn’t even GLANCE at the chocolates once.  Clearly, he and I are going to get along famously, because, as a vegetarian, I don’t eat chicken.  So, all chicken goes to the cat, all chocolate to me.  It works.

The next shot set was one with Soda and candy again, but this time, those little conversation hearts.  I just wanted a shot of the cat reclining on the hearts–a close-up.  This one didn’t even require chicken.  We simply spread the hearts out, and my husband petted Soda on his tummy while I shot the pics.  Easy peasy.

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Then we moved on to Soda and the high heels.  Chicken was again required.  I wanted pix of him messing around with the shoes in whatever way cats mess around with anything.  So, I pulled out a pair of red high heels, concealed some chicken in the toes, and let him have at it.  Now, Soda is adorable, but he isn’t a great ball of fire in the brains department.  He is pretty catered to in our house–he isn’t allowed to be outside, so he doesn’t exercise his hunting “problem-solving skills” very often, and his food appears in a bowl every morning.  We had to show him where we placed the chicken to get him going.  But after a few minutes, he got into the act in a big way, and pushed the shoes all over the floor, stuck his paws inside them, and generally used all his rusty brain synapses to figure out the puzzle of the chicken in the shoes.  We got some cute shots.

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By the time we got to the last set, Soda was actively demanding chicken by attempting to paw it out of our fingers.  I wanted a shot of him wearing a pair of cupid’s wings, sitting next to an arrow and a bow.  The wings are a prop I keep in the Studio for children’s portraiture.  The bow and arrow were easy–sticks from the yard, construction paper, string and hot glue.  So, we set Soda up on the pretty red loveseat, put the bow and arrow next to him, and promptly realized the feather wings were going to be too large.

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In the process of discussing this with my husband Mike, Soda Pop did a very cute thing….he sorta jumped on the wings.  And in my mind, I got the hilarious picture of a cat pouncing on Cupid.

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Now, I know I write children’s books, but I also have a fairly black sense of humor at times….So, I felt I had to put this little image collage together….simply because it made me laugh.

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But I don’t know if I will use these images in the book.  I will have to think about it, and make that decision probably the day before I submit the digital book file for printing.  So, I needed to make the images I intended to make, which is Soda with the wings ON.  In order for that to work, I had to take pictures of Soda in the correct position, AND pictures of the wings separately.

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Then, I could digitally combine the wings with Soda, and shrink the wings down so they fit the cat.

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Here is the result.  And sorry, but I still like the one of him jumping on the wings better.  Oh well, it will require a bit of rewriting too.  We will see.

So, today we learned a few things.

1. Chicken is important.  It makes all Soda Pop photo sessions just FLOW.

2. Building your own props is an easy solution–and they don’t have to be that fancy.  The bow and arrow took about 5 minutes.

3. Sometimes the props won’t work exactly as planned.  Our angel wings are too large for Soda.  So, I had the choice of getting smaller wings, or digitally altering the ones I had.  Digital alteration is easier and quicker, so that was the route I chose.

4. Sometimes, you get something unplanned that you like better than what you originally had in mind.  I am undecided about which Cupid shot to use, but I’m going to prepare them both so I can choose.  I am also facing the possibility of some rewrites.  But that is okay.  Projects grow and change during execution.  I am still on track for finishing, I am just not entirely sure what the finished project will be like.  That’s okay.  Be open to changes.  Good ideas strike at strange times!

So, we are pretty much done with the shooting.  Now, I am on to page design for the next step!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

A Break For Snow Angels–The Redux

Tomorrow, I’m back on the Soda Pop Valentine book, but today, I need to make a quick post about my new “old” book, Snow Angels.

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Its a story I wrote several years ago–actually, it started out as a bit of verse I wrote for a Christmas card, along with a photograph I took of my kids making snow angels in the yard.

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I went to the trouble of writing the verse, which happened in about 10 minutes–it literally wrote itself–and then designed and printed the cards, but for some reason, I never got them mailed out.  However, I always thought it would make a nice book.  Then, a couple years later, during a very snowy winter, I decided I would write and illustrate a complete book over the course of a month.  Snow Angels, Edition 1 was born.  It was 12 pages long, and the unique thing about it was that I did the WHOLE book from scratch.  That’s right–I didn’t have it printed.  I PRINTED IT.  From beginning to end.  I created “page pockets” and stuffed them full of photos of winter scenes and other little goodies.  I put them all together and made my entire family crazy.

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That’s us….and we were CRAZIER than normal.

See, they were my labor.  We turned the entire kitchen into a book factory.  We trimmed, we spiral bound, we ordered pages and stuffed the pockets and packed them all.  And wow…the book was great, but WOW, IT WAS TEDIOUS.  My family would make maybe 30 books a day.  They loved the book, but hated making it.  And I knew, that even though it was a cute book with a lot going for it, I was never going to be able to mass-market it, because I simply couldn’t make enough of them and stay sane.

Sanity is important.

So, from the beginning, I knew I was going to have to rework this thing.  And I finally did.  Luckily, last winter, we had one really freaky snow in an otherwise snowless winter, and I took my boys out to one of my most favorite places in the world–Waubonsie State Park in Southwest Iowa.  The snow was one of those that stuck to every twig on every branch on every tree.  It clung thickly to everything.

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It was magical, beautiful, like a crystal-encrusted wonderland.  And I took loads of photographs.  And it occurred to me….why not rework Snow Angels with some additional pages and some additional photos.  Then, I would outsource the printing and get it out there in a big way.

A year later, the project is done.  And it is different, yes.  There are no pockets, or stuff filling the pockets.  But, there ARE more pages, a more complete story, and visuals that will knock your socks off.  And I’m going to post many of the things that were in the page pockets of the old version of the book online for free download, so that content isn’t lost.  But if you are one of the few that purchased a handmade Snow Angels book, well, you are the proud owner of a collector’s item.  And you can get it here, right now!

So, here is my advice when coming up with a “cool idea”…

1.  Make sure it won’t make you crazy-nuts to execute.

2. If it does make you crazy-nuts, you must charge more for it.  But realize, you may not sell ANY if you price it what it is actually worth.  In which case, see Rule #1.

3. If a project isn’t working the way you thought, don’t be afraid to rework it.  Change the format.  Add to it.  Make it more enjoyable.  Make it more sellable.

4.  Sometimes, it is okay if a project just remains a personal thing.  I have many book ideas and many stories that I have loved writing, but that, for one reason or another, just won’t work as a commercial, for-sale item.  That’s fine.  I still love those things.

5.  After you make your changes, execute it.  Get it out there while the project feels new, while you are still excited about it.  Then, promotion is easy AND fun.

So, here is the link where you can purchase my book Snow Angels.  It will be available on Amazon in this version soon.  And coming after that–a Kindle version.

Tomorrow–Soda’s Valentine.  Can’t wait!  Nearly finished!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

Soda, T.P. And Stew

The next set of photos I need for my book involve Soda Pop tearing up a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, which is something he used to do in real life if left to his own devices when he was a kitten. Soda Pop is going on 4 years old now, and although he still plays when one of our family plays WITH him, he rarely tears up anything on his own. He does have a cat-wrestling buddy in our other male cat, Sunny–they spend much of the humans’ sleeping hours pounding up and down our hallway, pausing to whap each other around righteously before chasing each other to a different part of the house. But, that is a completely separate story.

Sunny-boy

Anyway, my 11 year old son was recruited to help me do the photography for this part of the book. He is very good and patient with our animals, and I needed a cat-wrangler for this one. The bathroom we worked in was small, and Soda is not normally in there, so this was a challenge in comfort level with him. However, after a few tries and much petting, he relaxed in the bathroom on the floor, and watched intently as we “decorated” him with swirls of toilet paper.

He purred and allowed his picture to be taken for several minutes. Then, we cleaned up the t.p., and we were done!

The next shot involves Soda eating from a pot of stew on our countertop. Soda doesn’t like stew, normally–he is crazy about his cat food and treats, but stew isn’t his “thing”, normally. My son and I thought he might be curious as to what was in the empty pot to just stick his head in, but, no dice. He isn’t usually allowed on our counter top, so I imagine the unfamiliar surroundings had something to do with it. We put dried catnip in the pot—still not interested. Finally, I busted out the leftover chicken breast, and that did the trick.

Soda clearly loves chicken breast. After the shot of him with his head in the stewpot, I thought we should try for one of him jumping up on the counter. My son waggled a stem of artificial flowers (what we had on hand) over the counter to lure him into leaping, but the only thing that really helped was the unplanned barking of our dog, Sophia. After we had nearly given up, the dog barked, the cat lept, and I got the pic.

And here comes the bark!

And, Soda was rewarded with some more chicken breast. We all won.  Two photo “sets” was enough for one day, so we folded up production to continue the next day.

Lessons learned:

1. Have a good, patient person to handle animals for photo shoots.

2. Figure out what motivates your animal and have it on hand–chicken breast = success–with Soda Pop, at least.

3. Plan every shot ahead of time and source what you need–for these shots, I knew I would use one roll of toilet paper, the stewpot, and of course, bathroom and kitchen locations.

4.  When you and the animal are tired, stop.  Cross what you managed to finish off your list and start the next day.

5. Reward the animal richly for desired behavior, even if it is just sitting still.  And love them up afterwards as well.

Equipment used—Canon 7d camera, a couple different lenses that function well in daylight without flash.  I am trying to use natural light as much as possible in this book, because I feel flash spoils the look of the story.  I want the book to look like Soda Pop in his house, not Soda in a photo studio shot with a bunch of professional equipment.  Other than the camera and lenses, and the few props mentioned above, that is it.  Of course, the computer and software to edit the images are very important as well.  But these shots can be done with simple point-and-shoot digital cameras as well, so please don’t let the lack of “professional” gear stop you from photographing anything creatively.

I ended up shooting over 200 shots for these two different “sets”, which will amount to maybe 4 pages in the book.  I only have a few more “sets” to shoot–we’ll start with Candy next time, and maybe do Cupid as well.  Then comes the more interesting, difficult part of setting up the book format, page design, and any other illustration work that needs to be done.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Foggy Perspective Makes Sharp Photos

When you go to someone’s home, and they cook you a great meal, do you ask what kind of stove they have? I am always amused by the question “What kind of camera do you use?” I hate to tell you all this, but it isn’t what you have, but how you use it that matters the most.

I went for a walk in the fog yesterday—for 2 days here in Southwest Iowa we’ve had a luscious, velvety fog enveloping our world. And, yes, I realize that fog is sucky when you are driving. But for photography purposes, it is AWESOME. Several years ago, I went out in a fog very similar to this one and took photos in the cemetary that is just up the street. I got beautiful images, and yes, I took my pro gear. Here’s a couple, and I love them.

 

Yesterday, I decided to walk the daughter to school, simply for the fun of walking in the fog. And, I decided to bring a camera. BUT, I didn’t want to drag out the studio cameras and the bags of lenses and go trotting 13 or 14 blocks with all that rattling gear. So, I grabbed a small Canon point and shoot camera that I keep around because it has an awesome zoom lens and I don’t have to think much when I use it–hence, the name, point-and-shoot.

And I got beautiful stuff. Now, it isn’t the same stuff. It has some technical differences that i can see, but many people won’t be able to. In fact, I might like some of the point-and-shoot pics better.  My point here is this….no matter where you are in your own creative journey, no matter what gear you have, or how long you’ve been doing whatever it is you do, when the moment is there to do something creative, SEIZE IT. Don’t worry about whether you have tools that cost 5 grand or 50 bucks. Just go do something.

My grandmother ran a motel when I was little. She had a guest once that did some art with ballpoint pen and cocktail napkins, and it was AMAZING. He left them behind, because, to him, they were probably just cocktail napkins with ballpoint scribbled on them, but wow….he had talent. That stuck with me. I spent hours drawing on whatever I could, WITH whatever implement was nearby, all because of this man’s inspiration.

Use what you have. Use it as often as you can. Practice, practice, and don’t be discouraged by your first attempts. Artists of all types discard many more “pieces” than you can possibly imagine. You don’t have to have expensive ANYTHING to be creative.

Snow is coming tonight (I hope. Please, weatherman, be right for once!) I’m gonna photograph everything in it. I’m gonna use all sorts of gear. I may even break out the black and white film and the old medium format cameras.

Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in my life were cooked over campfires, no fancy stove required.

Photo-Illustrations–The Beginning, With Flowers…

So, the cover has been designed. And the next step is the illustrations. As I have mentioned, I decided to use photography for the bulk of the story simply because it is a little faster for my production schedule. Don’t get me wrong….I LOVE doing actual art illustrations, but, for this book, and because it is about a REAL cat, I think the photography will add to the story rather than detract from it. So, the first thing I must do is make an illustration list.

I do this with every book, no matter if I use photography or art for the visuals. I read through the text and decide which parts of the text should be illustrated in some form. Not everything that happens in a story needs a picture, but for children’s books, I always feel the visuals are an extremely strong and necessary element to actually tell parts of the story. I need fewer words because the images are effective.

So, my illustration list, or my “shot” list, as I will refer to it from now on ( in photographic terms) goes something like this for this story.

Flowers (2 shots)
Stew (2 shots)
Shoes (1 shot)
Candy (2 shots)
Bathroom (2 shots)
Hearts (1-2 shots)
Cupid (2-3 shots)

Now, I know, from experience, that I will actually take many more photos than those during my shooting time with Soda Pop.  I also know that my text may change slightly while I am shooting–the cat may do something unexpected and interesting that can be incorporated into the book, and I will photograph it, and then write it in.  So, even though I have 14 or so shots listed there, I will probably end up with at least 20, and maybe more for the book.  And that is EDITED shots.  I will actually take maybe 500 pictures in order to get exactly the ones I want for my book.  There will also be a few pages of illustrations as well, but I will execute those after the photography, because then I will know exactly what I need to complete the story.

If I were doing art illustrations for my book, I would make a similar list, and then start sketching ideas for each item on the list.

So, the first item is “Flowers”.  I decided to go with daisies, so, I sent my dearly beloved to the florist for a few stems.  Then, it was time to set up the shot and retrieve Soda Pop from wherever he might be having his nap-attack and take the pictures.  He is pretty cooperative, although he isn’t extremely intuitive when it comes to understanding what I want him to do.  So, here are a couple of flower pictures…..

I shot around 50 images to get these.  I’m not sure that these will be the ones I use, and I won’t know for certain until I have all images and illustrations in front of me.  But these are “possible-maybes”.  I still have to work with the flower images some more, in another image set….but a few things have to be secret about the book, right?

Overall, Soda Pop was relaxed during these shots.  His attention was captured pretty well by the flowers, and he sniffed and posed for me just fine.

Next post….the bathroom pix.  These were more challenging.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative.  You may learn more about her here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Soda’s Valentine—The Beginning and The Book Cover

So, last Sunday morning (a week ago) I woke rather early, but stayed in bed and let my thoughts just wander.  Early morning is my favorite time of day for creativity.  I come up with my best ideas before 7 am, usually in a semi-conscious state.  My brain drifts from one subject to another with an ease that is well-nigh impossible during my normally busy days.  Insights happen.  Problems my brain has been grinding on, in the background, solve themselves simply and clearly.  My thoughts have a flow to them that just can’t be replicated once the sun comes up.

Primary creative time….

So it was on that Sunday morning.  An entire Soda Pop book “wrote” itself for me in that dreamlike version of consciousness, rhymes and all.  In fact, I believe I had about 20 pages pictured in my brain, and all the ending words in the entire book rhymed with one another.  For those of you unfamiliar, my Soda Pop books are fully illustrated with art and photographs, and up until Sunday morning, none of them rhyme.  When I finally stirred into fully functioning life, I grabbed a piece of paper and jotted down some ideas for this book, which would celebrate Valentines day.  I decided I would illustrate most of it with photographs this time, simply because I felt like the real Soda Pop would be fine with the scenes I had in my brain, AND I wanted to get this book finished rather quickly, perhaps in time for a Valentine’s preview on this blog, Facebook, etc.  I would have liked to have actual paperback copies in my hands by Valentine’s day, ideally, but, I realized that type of shooting and production schedule would not likely work for the rest of my family and my other responsibilities.  However, I also wanted to hand-draw the cover design as much as possible.  I had a strong image in my mind, and I just wanted to get my hands dirty again.  Many times, I draw on my Wacom Tablet and computer, so my drawings are digitized immediately.  This time, I went old school, at least to start.

First off, I organized my tools.

Paper–I used 14×17 drawing paper.

Pencil–I favor Ticonderoga #2’s for a lot of drawing tasks.

Then, I sat down under good light and proceeded to draw.  As you can see, I started with a cut-out of a heart, which I made before I sat down.

 

I traced it in the center of the paper, and began to sketch what I had “seen” in my brain.

After 45 minutes or so, I had the basic shapes down where I wanted them, and I began to ink-in the image with a fine-tipped black art marker.

I spent a great deal of time working this drawing, being very careful with the black marker.

 

I used a lot of detail, and in all, I have about 6 hours of work to get the drawing to this point.

 

Then, I stopped for the day.  The next morning, I wrote the story in pencil on white copy paper.  I realized that I couldn’t rhyme every line exactly the same, although it seemed to my brain that I had succeeded with that when the book had come to me that early Sunday morning.  After spending an hour or so of writing, I felt I had the story where it needed to be, and I was ready to start photographing Soda Pop for the photo-illustrations.  I also needed to photograph the inked illustration I had spent so much time on the afternoon before in order to create a digital file of the image so I could work with it on my computer.  Normally, this would be a job for my scanner, but I drew this larger than the 8×11 scanner bed.  So, I set up a tripod and my studio lights and took the photos of the artwork very carefully.

Download this for a nifty coloring page…

I then downloaded the pictures and imported them to Photoshop to tweak them a bit, and I decided I liked the image in reverse, meaning, I used the software to flip everything to it’s exact opposite color value–all blacks became white, and all whites became black.

Pretty cool…..

 

After that, I imported the image into Corel Painter, and, using my digital pad and pen, I picked colors and, very carefully, colored the image exactly like you would color in a coloring book.  Last, I added text.  I still need to add the written-by and illustrated by lines on the cover, but I will leave that for the end.

Okay, so, that is the beginning of THIS particular children’s book.  All of them, like people, have slightly different birth-stories, but there are several constants here for me.

1. Idea generation happens fast, usually when I’m in a dreamlike state.  Doesn’t matter where you are, when you get an idea or an inspiration, WRITE IT DOWN in some way.  Even if you don’t have a complete mental picture of how it will end up, write it down.  Write down MORE ideas if you have them.  For lots of people, it is either feast-or famine with ideas.  Write them down, so, when you are in the middle of an idea-famine, you can go back to your lists and have something to work with.

2. Imagery is very important to me.  It sets the tone.  The cover came first this time, but it doesn’t always.  However, just like the words, I try to get whatever imagery I have down as quickly as possible.

3. Have the correct tools for the job.  For me, always, it starts with pencil and paper–even for NOVELS.  It’s the nuts and bolts of how I take notes and how I generate art.  Then, after the basics are there, I digitize it all, and drop it into whatever programs I need to in order to get the look I want.  You don’t need to have professional software to do this, but I find, for illustration, that my digital pad and pen are invaluable.

Next post—for this book, I’m illustrating primarily with photographs.  So, I will give you the scoop on my process, and of course, the reactions of my star, Soda Pop.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative.  You may learn more about her here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

He’s not incredibly impressed. But man, he loves candy! (Not really.)

A NEW BIG Project….

I’ve been away from official blogging for a few months now. What can I say…life happened. Some of the changes are good, but one, at least, was quite sad for me. My 95 year old Grandmother passed right before Christmas.

So, that changed a few things for me, and made me rethink priorities. I’ve now got the weighty responsibility of archiving all of her photographs—there must be at least 500–and transferring them to digital format. Some of them are as old, or older than she was, so they are very precious to my family. I am amazed at how much looking at all this ancient history makes me simultaneously miss her, and also makes me feel close to her. I am lucky.

In addition, I’ve renewed my connection with BETWIXT, and we are hard at work on what we envision will be an animated pilot for a children’s television show based upon Inclement. The first episode is a retelling of Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly, with some added characters.  It has been written, and we’ve done basic recording for scoring purposes.  Now we are searching for the right animator to bring it to life.  In addition, I’m storyboarding the script.  So, lots of work ahead.

 

And I’ve started serious work again on my next novel, The Western Radio Hub, which is the sequel to Buck’s Rodeo.

Lots of exciting things happening there, and currently, our heroes are caught in a mysterious fog settling upon some version of the Loess Hills and an unknown person in pursuit behind them.  How I get them out is brewing in my head for tonight’s writing.

Finally, I have a BIG project I’m working on, one which I wish to share with anyone who may be interested.  Soda Pop has a new book!

And I am going to journal about the making of this book, from the beginning ideas clear through the publication process.  I’m hoping it will encourage others to follow their own creativity wherever it may lead them.  However, during this process of documenting the making of a book, there will be other “side trips” of creativity.  I am also a professional photographer, running my own portrait studio.  I am also a Mom, running my own family.  Writing and illustrating is just a part of what I do.  So, my BIG PROJECT is more than documenting my journey with Soda’s Valentine.  It is also about the entire process of my life, and how the process is messy.  Seemingly disconnected things all come together to form projects in ways that cannot be predicted.  That is how creativity works.  Randomness of experience, of talent, and complete chance all mesh together at exactly the right time in exactly the right way to form….well, hopefully….magic.

Some of the “magic” I was able to capture this morning, on what I call my Super-Fog-Walk….just a random impulse to walk in the fog with my camera.

So, join me.  If you are a teacher, please feel free to follow my progress as I work to bring Inclement into our “real” world, whatever that may be.  I may post excerpts from my novel one day, photos another, and then illustrations after that.  I may post creative ideas I did with my kids, or coloring pages, or game ideas, or how-to articles.  Follow along and spread the word.  Creativity is like that—like the revelation Dorothy Gale had at the end of the Wizard of Oz–all she was ever looking for was right there, in her own backyard.  Creativity is there, right there, in our own backyards.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative.  You may learn more about her here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.