Tag Archives: artist

Lifting A Tonne

934892_738271862904934_5882419844042137199_nWhen teaching kids, I very regularly equate the skills they’re working on to working out physically. “Could I wake up today, having never run a kilometre, and complete a marathon, and feel good at the end of it?” They all harmonize on their enthusiastic “Noooo!” I answer, “So, then you need to think of (fill the blank skill: this math problem/writing a story/revising a story/creating art/and on and on) as you would working out. You can’t just start lifting a tonne – you’ve got to start somewhere, and maybe that’s at one pound. It’s the same thing. Let’s start somewhere and practice, practice, practice, until we love it. Then, let’s practice some more to get even better.”

Well. I can dish it out, but I don’t always take my own advice. Maybe that’s why I’m a fairly decent teacher, but I can’t run, or lift weights, or sometimes … draw.

Tonight, I feel like my hands must be broken. They just won’t draw! No matter what I do, no matter what I visualize, no matter how I copy and alter and alter and change and reorganize the features of a model … it’s just not working. I was getting frustrated, so I stepped away.

Then it hit me.

I haven’t actually drawn in about 2 weeks.

What my studio looks like when I follow my own advice. Reference materials, paints, sketchbooks, works in progress, it's all out.

What my studio looks like when I follow my own advice. Reference materials, paints, sketchbooks, works in progress, it’s all out.

I was drawing every single day for a month, and it was getting so great. I was loving what I was doing. Then, I added colour to the images, and started playing with them on the computer, and put together marketing materials with finished images, and changed up my website, and did all of this art-related stuff. But, I broke my own rule. I didn’t make art.

So shame on me. I’ve learned my lesson. I need to draw every day. I’m putting a sketchbook in my bag, and I’m going to put in the time, so that I can lift the metaphorical tonne. The images in my brain need to find their way out, and I’ve got to practice, practice, practice until I love it. Then, I’ll practice some more to get even better.


Leave a comment

Filed under Process

52 Weeks: Week 2

This week, I’m presenting you with two illustrations … of the same thing.

Part of this whole process is in refining my style and finding a voice. I’ve drawn this character a whole bunch of ways, but these two are my favourites.

This one was done in Sharpie with water colour paint, then scanned and edited to colour the background. I like the cut and paste feel of this, in the way that Oliver Jeffers often does his “Boy” books, and wanted to experiment not only with this, but with Photoshop. I also wanted to get rid of the mucky white of the sketchbook page behind Miss Molly. This character is inspired by a real-life Miss Molly, who I’ve never met, but know through an old friend’s/her mom’s Facebook account. She’s hilarious and sassy. I like a lot about this, though I’m not entirely sold on the quality of the marker or the scan.


The next one was done in Sharpie, then scanned and painted in Photoshop with multiple layers. Talk about a learning curve. I actually darkened the outline in a layer, removed all of the “inside” white and laid it overtop of the coloured layer. If you don’t use Photoshop, then this is gibberish, but it was a good learning opportunity for me. I like the style of her legs and arms – they’re fun and carefree, but I’m not sure they’re totally “me”, y’know? I’m not convinced I LOVE the computer paint … it feels a bit … cold and cheap. Some people paint incredible pictures in photoshop … I’m not there yet. The lines in this one I’m not crazy about either. I like a lot of the “feel” but go back and forth.

Miss Molly Try 2

Overall, I think (in this moment) I prefer Miss Molly #1. Maybe you don’t. That’s okay! It’s all just about practice and exploration for me at this point in the challenge. Constructive criticism is certainly welcome.

Next week, I’m hoping to build an entire page … however, it is Hallowe’ek, so that may not happen. Stay tuned!

Leave a comment

Filed under 52 Weeks of Art

52 Weeks of Art

I’ve been writing for years now, and I believe it’s been 10 years (on and off) that I’ve been tinkering away on picture book and chapter book manuscripts. I’ve been telling people I illustrate, and I did actually illustrate 3 small charity press picture books, but they are no where near the level of illustration I believe I could and should be working at. In addition to all of this, I’m dying to find an agent and market myself as an author/illustrator, author AND illustrator. Before I can fully submit myself to agents as all of these, I need to build my art portfolio in addition to my polished pieces of writing.

The challenge, as with any creative activity, is to find your voice – that style that is nothing other than YOU. I paint all of the time, but those are not illustrations, nor are they the style I want to illustrate in. So it’s been bogging me down – how do I build a really great portfolio? What do I include? How do I do this and not lose focus, when I’m working full time, side-jobbing part time, and now have a new (awesome) baby to be Daddy to? The answer struck me a couple of weeks ago, and fermented in my brain:

One illustration a week, for a year.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am committing to producing a MINIMUM of one QUALITY illustration per week, for a year.

The end goal is to have enough high quality pieces to build a portfolio that I can use when querying agents and publishers, but also I am hoping that much like PiBoIdMo does for those of us who do it (Picture Book Idea Month – 1 idea a day for a month), it will kick-start my creative brain and focus me in on producing. Once producing, I will certainly produce some garbage (just today I spent the afternoon TRYING to create … it didn’t work … but I tried …) and will eventually produce my voice on paper, visually. I’ll be posting them here as a motivator to keep me going. It’s a game I’m playing against myself! Your feedback will also come in handy (but be gentle, please!)!

I will organize these by having a focus per week, which will help me to build the sections of my portfolio. They include:
– children
– animals
– settings
– black & white (chapter book illustrations)

Sub-categories could include any of the above (ie., Children is the category, but there was also a focus on the setting, like a barn or field, etc.), and things like: high-action, holidays, music, etc.

During this, I hope to illustrate for my own pleasure and practice, the lyrics to some of my favourite songs by Angus Stone, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, and The Beatles.

I’ll post my illustrations on Saturday mornings, for the next year. By (Canadian) Thanksgiving next year, I hope to have a lot more to be thankful for than I already am!

Now, while Kingsley sleeps, it’s off to the drawing board – literally. Look for my first illustration on Saturday, October 18.

Leave a comment

Filed under 52 Weeks of Art

My ADHD (Artistic Distraction with Hyperlyunfocused Disor … what?)

WHOA. Major hiatus from me recently. Apologies all around.

Here’s what’s been going on: I’M HAVING A BABY!!!!

Well, I’m not literally carrying it – my wife is doing the hard work part of it – but my father-drive has kicked into high gear and I’ve been too distracted to focus on much other than what needs to be done to prep for this little, amazing, mind-blowing creation that is the combination of:

a) me: weird, obsessive, self-critical, self-promoting, enthusiastic, over-the-top, and highly creative


b) my wife: generous, kind, funny, genius, weird, strange, peculiar, beautiful, driven, motivated, motivating

This is bound to be the best piece of art I’ll ever create (along with any future potential siblings).

So I’ve put my creativity into personal spaces, and have put together most of our nursery, artwork for it, and so on.


The fox, which was a practice in form and colour application for the bigger piece (below). This is so charming for me that I will find a way to include it in the nursery!


Fox & Moose – This is a large acrylic piece that I created for the nursery. It hangs over the crib. I love it – the sweet innocence of the fox, with the friendly curiosity of the moose. I am so happy with the colours, application and form in this. It’s my favourite piece to date.

I’ve been so distracted that the book I started 2 months ago is still untouched since the day we found out. My writing and arting has decreased. My teaching has improved as I view these little beings in my class through different eyes. I’ve become so much more concerned with safety, and I don’t know where that came from – all I can think is that it is due to this little growing thing that is making my teeny-tiny wife look like she is pushing out her little tummy as hard as she can. It is the cutest, most attractive thing!

But now I feel this surge of creative energy coursing through me. I don’t know what is coming. This happens a few times a year. I get a little bit sad, for no apparent reason, and then I start to visualize snippets of things – books, stories, artworks. Everything becomes inspiration, but for what, I don’t know. I will sit on it for a while longer, and it will explode through me – it might be an artistic turn over (I think it’s going to be visual this time), or it could be a literary growth – a new focus.

It’s a highly distracted, overstimulating time in my life right now. I love it.


Filed under Uncategorized

No ideas? Reflect instead.

As I continue through this 30 day challenge, I find myself wading through a pond of pointless ideas. Not that the ideas are pointless in their existence! What I mean is, the ideas have no point. There is no meat to them. At all! I have flashes of ideas and then they fizzle. I am hoping that over the month, some of the ideas can come together, colliding into genius. The sort of genius that makes me a million bucks would be great, but I’ll take an idea solid enough to turn into a manuscript at the very least.

I am fortunate to have an extremely supportive partner. My wife fully, absolutely supports my art habit. She recognizes that writing, painting, drawing … creating, in general, makes me happy. It makes me my truest form of myself – all pros and cons involved.

She lets me make a disaster of the main floor as I wade through paintings. She lets me banish her to her upstairs office (it’s not that bad, actually – it’s a darn nice space!!!) while I work on manuscripts. She lets me say “We’re going to have to eat at the coffee table, because this painting is wet,” even though I have a studio space in our unfinished basement.  There’s just something about that space that doesn’t excite me, and it’s been limiting my creative output lately. Most recently, I’ve taken to painting at the table, while we listen to music or movies.

See? Here is some of my mess!

ImageHow many wives out there would let their husbands paint at the dining room table? Granted, it’s making us some money, as it’s a commissioned piece, but still.

With a number of Christmas commissions on the go, I’ve been forcing my mind to create. You’ve heard it before – creativity is 5% inspiration and 95% hard work. I’d be willing to say it’s more like a 1/99 per cent ratio. This weekend, rather than taking it off as a normal teacher would, I worked through both days to create this mural:

ImageIn doing so, I continued to refine a style. As I worked away at it, I considered how I was painting. I mean, nine hours of painting a white tree with similar branches and leaves isn’t the most inspiring work, but it sure does give you time to reflect. As I stepped away, I found myself pleased with the form. I thought, “I wonder how this would look smaller, on a large canvas. I wonder how this could become part of my illustrative style.” These wonders are what I need to keep moving. I always fear, no matter what I am doing – teaching, writing, arting – that if I do something the same way for too long, it will grow stale, and I will be seen as lazy. I am constantly on the reflective hunt for things to keep, change, or toss.

The painting I’m working on now is a style I have been working on for a little over a year. I am starting to wonder how it would look in a picture book. I’ve only ever illustrated in ink and water colours – but what if I built a better portfolio, with acrylic paintings as well?


So many wonders. While my pond of ideas is a bit shallow, this PiBoIdMo focus has certainly re-energized me and sent me into a highly constructively-critical self assessment. It’s time to get serious!





Filed under Uncategorized

A New Notebook

Today I got a new note book for PiBoIdMo, courtesy of my wonderful wife, who is adamant that I continue to create. She knows it makes me happy and keeps me as myself, and so she insists. I am a lucky writer/artist.

I wasn’t overly pleased with the selection of note or sketch books available in town. WalMart’s were lame – too many pages for what I wanted. It makes me feel like a failure when the books are left 2/3’s empty (because I’ve moved on to another book, because these are too long and I’ve lost interest). The Moleskins at Staple’s were only lined, and the lines were too dark. I prefer the blank ones, or faint lines. Then we went to Cole’s, the ONLY book store in town (which lets me down almost every time), and I found some blank Moleskins, but they only had the black covers, and I wanted the brown, organic looking kind. Also, they were $22. Give me a break! I’m not made of money! I just need an inspiring place to keep my ideas.

They had some beautiful ones, but they are clearly for women, or too filled up with art already, and so I was displeased. As the people who worked at the store were closing up for the night (because in Cornwall, things close at 5:30pm on a Saturday – ugh), I found one that was manly, with faint lines, and not TOO thick (although maybe too thick, we’ll see). I think my next goal will be to learn to make my own books, because the selection for WRITER-ARTISTS who are MEN is very poor. I’d like to make my own paper and bind it and make it really awesome. I just need the time and some more information on how to do it… oh, and space to do it.

Anyway, I am pleased with the notebook, and I also found these AWESOME pencil crayons that are double-ended – 2 colours in one pencil! They aren’t the greatest quality, but they are cool and fun and new. They will help me get my ideas down quicker, too!

I’ve come up with 6 ideas for PiBoIdMo so far, none of which will sell (probably), or at least none I will likely pursue as I don’t know that they’d suit the brand I am after. But, we’ll see. The more ideas, the better chance I have of finding that treasure. Right


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized