Dozer Counts to 10 Complete!

This year started out pretty strong with the blog, and all these things I was hoping to accomplish on a professional level as I pursue this illustration and writing career (when my girls feel like letting me).

What I’ve discovered as time has passed is that too many projects and too lofty of goals were a recipe for results that I was less happy with than I wanted to be, and it also meant that I was regularly disappointing myself by failing to meet my own deadlines. Setting myself up for failure again and again is a powerful way to demotivate yourself.

Instead of continuing to beat my head against a wall, I’ve slowed down, focused more on improving my ability so that the books I illustrate look more the way I want them to, and so that even if I only finish one book a year, then it will be one that I am happy with and hopefully one that my daughters will enjoy.

It’s taken a lot of time to figure out a work flow that makes sense and is manageable, and now I feel that I’ve actually done it. I finished my youngest daughter’s first board book that I put together and ordered from Pint Sized Productions; I’ve used them twice before, and I really like the work they do. They’re expensive (50 dollars after shipping costs), but it’s an American company, and I don’t know if there is any competition at all for people who want a single board book printed. So this is my option, and fortunately they make books that are well constructed.

I’ll likely use them again when I do another book for my youngest daughter. But if you are interested in making board books for your kids, this is the site to use. The books are sturdy and the print quality has been great. Once the finished book arrives I’ll post some shots to back that up. I only mention this stuff here because there must be some other fool parents out there trying to write and illustrate books for their own children, and some of them may be looking for a place to get them printed.

Today I’m sharing the pages that I worked on for the book I started….in March? I wasn’t working on it non-stop, thankfully. But I had hoped it would be finished months ago. It is finished now; this is probably just the way it goes for parents who stay home with a couple toddlers. Maybe not? I don’t know. It’s how it goes for me, and I feel pretty lucky that I get time to work on anything I want to work on at all; I know there are plenty of people who never get to work on the things they want to.

I was able to do a couple two page spreads for the first time, and I really like the way they turned out: some racing snails and Pinky Panda and Dozer having a dance break before counting to number 8.

Thanks for reading. Here are the illustrations:

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This Year of Childrens' Books #26

Finally Snailiarty and Snailarina are out the door, and I'm on to the next book. I could've rushed it, and I think that the style I did the book originally worked okay, but I feel that all the revisions I've done since completing the first version have helped the book to be a lot more fun (both the art revisions and also the story revisions.) Thanks to my wife for reading this book about snails and looking at all these snail pictures over the past couple of months. I'm sure she's ready for me to move on too. 

Here are the two final paintings that will be included in the book dummy done in the style I have landed on for the book. I think this style is more fun and colorful than the line art style I was using before. And, after all, the more fun I have doing the illustrations, the more likely the people who read the book are to have fun when they look at them.

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Okay. Onto this little book about Oinkby.

 

This Year of Childrens' Books #25

I'm already digging in to the character design phase for my book about Oinkby or Oinkbert or whatever I end up naming the guy. I still have to do a mom and dad for him, and then it'll be off to the races on that book. I'm trying to focus a lot more on composition and painting realistic stuff with watercolor currently, so it'll probably be digital. I want to continue improving using both mediums, so it probably makes the most sense to keep working on both of them concurrently. I dumbed Snailiarty down a bit regarding color and line work. Snailiarty had a fuel gauge and some spiky hair, and although I like the idea of those additions to his character, they didn't really do much more than create problems when I wanted to make him more expressive (something that has proved difficult for me while working with a character who has no hands, but I do think it's been a great exercise in building expressions in ways I may not have considered otherwise. I also dumbed down his shell to make it mostly a simple sphere as you can see in the first image below. I changed that, though. It's still simplified but it looks more interesting in the second image. I'll take two of the sketches in the book to final in the style of the second image, and then I'll move on to Oinkbert Breaks the Big Blue Rock.. 

 This was the simplified sketch version from yesterday's revamp.

This was the simplified sketch version from yesterday's revamp.

 This is the style I've landed on.

This is the style I've landed on.

I like the line art miked with a loose painterly style. I can slap a background in and focus on simple shapes with contrasting colors in order to make Snailiarty jump off the page more. 

Away we go. Have a great week.

This Year of Kids' Books #24

All right. So here I am talking about The Snail Who Ate Too Many Mints again. I've decided to redo the style for the final images of Snailiarty and Snailarina because of speed of process as well as my confidence in the style. I love digital painting, but in order to keep things moving, I am going with this simpler style so I can move on to the next project. I believe (fingers crossed) the dummy is actually done now.

There was a section of the story that was funny to me because it was confusing, but then I remembered how irritating something like that is when I am reading a story with my girls and they want me to explain something way too complicated for someone their age. I am all for keeping the language at a level that challenges  kids a little, but getting into circular logic with a book aimed at 4-6 year olds is probably not a good plan. I mean, I did it in a book for adults and I can assure you that it didn't work out well there either.

Anyway, here are Snailiarty and Snailarina hugging it out. Weekend's almost here, deeds!. Hooray!

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This Year of Kids' Books #23 Oinkby's Alive!

Things are changing around here all the time. We've had a lot of great news as a family and I'm extremely grateful for all the wonderful things that have happened for us over the past few years. I know my wife doesn't have time to read this stuff, but I am going to say congratulations. She knows what I mean. She's the hardest working person I know and she motivates me to work harder every day. 

Priorities got shifted for a while. I'm in the middle of an 18x24 watercolor for my wife's new office, and paintings that large take me a long time. I can't just work on it for a few days in a row for hours on end each day. Anyway. It's getting closer and that means I am about ready to dig back into the next book.

Pinky the Panda Bear seemed like the right place to go before I got off track, but I'm probably moving away from that for the next couple of books. I have a few simpler stories with fun characters that I've bumped up on the list. One of those characters is Oinkby. He's a nice and furry monster that Shannon asked me to draw. But I know if I try to keep up with all the book ideas she hands me day to day then I'll never finish another book so long as I live.

So here is a picture of Oinkby:

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I plan to do up the dummy for his first book soon.

Have a good weekend everyone.

This Year of Kids Books #22 Draw This June 2018

Every month SCBWI hosts an illustration competition. They provide a prompt, you illustrate something that goes along with it, and then, well, that's it. I'll do it every time that I can.

Here is my entry for this month's prompt of "Magic". 

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I did this as ink and wash, and then had to take a picture with my phone. For anyone interested in seeing how you can add the text with Affinity Photo, I'll post that short tutorial to the BDJMakes Youtube channel soon.

Have a great week.

This Year of Kids Books #21: Society!

 A rough watercolor from the brainstorming stage I did back in...September?

A rough watercolor from the brainstorming stage I did back in...September?

I joined The Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators (an organization that is by and of authors and illustrators of childrens' books). Why would I do such a thing? Because I am all-in on this like I've never been on anything in my life aside from my wife and kids. Although I don't think I'll have a chance to make it to a conference this year (and don't really have any interest in going to one in Los Angeles anyway), I've already learned a ton just by reading through the forums, and the members of the group who I've communicated with so far have been extremely kind and helpful. Thank you, internet, for still doing some good things for the world that have nothing to do with advertising or making people afraid of things that are not real.

I've been a member of AWP before, but it was always paid for by the university where I was enrolled, and the moment that I was asked to pay for my own membership, I immediately knew I would not. The only reason I attended AWP conferences was to spend time with friends. I sat in two or three panels in all my years of attendance, and I walked out on two of those. I don't mean to say that AWP is not for anyone, but I am saying it is not for me, and I am also saying that if you feel that way, then you are not alone.

SCBWI, however, is for me. I joined because I wanted to, and I am looking forward to learning as much as I can from people who are working at the same things that I am. Two books go out this week, and that means I am on to the next one. Pinky Panda Bear is going to check out the solar system in a rocket that runs on peanut oil. 

A Year of Kids' Books #20 Jack and Jill Page 2

 Jack and Jill jump from the stream.

Jack and Jill jump from the stream.

The second page of Jack and Jill is well underway. This remix is taking a little longer than the previous one, but as I have said before, the most important thing I want to get across to anyone who encounters this blog or my twitch channel or youtube channel is that life will constantly ask you to adapt to your surroundings, and it is your job to adapt. The day you stop adapting is the day you stop living. 

 

I don't mean to imply anything bad happened; I just mean that I have many different responsibilities, and in order to meet those, I have to prioritize the work that I do. And that's what everyone has to do in order to live well. 

Fortunately I didn't set a goal of doing one of these a week; I try not to set myself up for failure when I can, and a goal like that would've been tough to achieve considering all the other projects I'm working on while also trying to be a decent husband and father.

On the first of next month, Igor the Elephant is a Big Old Grump and The Snail Who Ate Too Many Mints will be sent off to publishers, and I will begin work on the next Pinky Panda Bear book. After that, it'll be time for the next book. Each Wednesday from 5::30 till 6:30 a.m. it'll be Nursery Rhyme Remix time. 

I'll post the voice-over versions on Youtube once I finish learning how to use Davinci Resolve so that I don't have to keep using the same cheeseball effects from iMovie. Unless someone wants to buy me Final Cut Pro X. I won't complain :) Of course I would rather someone get me a Wacom Cintiq pro 24 inch. Just tossing it out there. I'd be grateful. Might even make you a custom book.

Happy Wednesday. Keep on Making.

Nursery Rhyme Remix Episode 2 Jack and Jill Have Gills!

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I powered through the first draft of rough images for this week's Nursery Rhyme Remix. Here is the link to the twitch stream. At some point, I'll drop these onto youtube in a sped-up and narrated format that explains what I did in a more succinct way. For now you can watch me work my way through the entire agonizing process from beginning to end and unedited. You're welcome.

A Year of Childrens' books #19 "Dummies"

 Snailarina is surprised at sunset.

Snailarina is surprised at sunset.

I am nearing the half-way point for this year's major project (aside from being a good dad and husband: my 'main' project from now till I reach my expiration date), and I just discovered that in the world of children's book writing and illustration you don't submit the fully illustrated book for consideration. A "dummy" is the text with sketches....

I'm used to having to complete an entire book before submitting it, and that made me assume that the same was true for this type of writing. It is not. 

I don't regret having learned this information after doing the first book already because I learned a lot doing it that way. I'm glad I know it now though, because I can focus more on getting the whole idea down in the sketch phase before sending the books out in the future. I blame it on working so hard for so long on so many projects that I did not get compensated for with anything other than CV lines that I am now able to use for nothing more than kindling. But kindling is important. Winters are cold around here.

The roughs for The Snail Who Ate Too Many Mints are nearly complete. I'll give it a couple more passes, and see if I can remove or add any additional images to the book, and then I'll get on with the next in the series of Pinky Panda Books. 

And for tomorrow, the second Nursery Rhyme Remix stream will begin at 5:30 a.m. 

 

Jack and Jill was requested by my mom, and that's what I'll be tackling. I've already rewritten it. So let the sketching begin. Come by and say hi if you're an insomniac or if you wake early.

Happy Tuesday.

Humpty Dumpty Remix Complete.

I finished up the submission for the Humpty Dumpty Remix today and will post the final episode on youtube when I get a chance. The next remix will begin next Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. on the  BDJmakes Twitch Channel.

I will take suggestions for remixes in the event there is a nursery rhyme somebody wants to see, and you can request it here in the blog or any of the other places I’m on social media. 

For next week my Mom has requested Jack and Jill. So that’s next.

Happy Friday! 

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A Year of Kids’ Books #18 Nursery Rhyme Remixes

 Humpty Dumpty: Private Eye

Humpty Dumpty: Private Eye

In order to get the Youtube channel up and running in a manageable way, I've begun a series called: Nursery Rhyme Remixes.

I'll be rewriting nursery rhymes and illustrating them. Some of the work will be done live (perhaps from start to finish depending on how well things move along), and some of them will be completed and uploaded directly to the Youtube channel as time permits.

This week I am working on Humpty Dumpty. The roughs are already completed, and tomorrow morning on the Twitch stream, from 5:30 until 6:30 a.m., I'll be refining and painting away at it so that I can send the final version to Highlights magazine. Click the button below to find my Twitch Channel.


The Snail Who ate Too Many Mints is coming along well, but I am still very deep in the rough stage. The book will be about 32 pages, and that means it'll be about 32 illustrations, and that means I'll have about 32 paintings to do. Why did I decide to paint them instead of just doing it in a simple style like Sandra Boynton or Mo Willems? Because I am a fool, and I have never done things the easy way.

The video announcement for the youtube series is below.

This video is about the new BDJ Makes Project: Nursery Rhyme Remixes

A Year of Kids' Books #17: Full Steam Ahead!

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I could work on these concepts for eternity, but in order to move on to the next Pinky Panda Bear book, I need to finish this book that is being written by Pinky Panda's Dad. So here is the style (roughly) I'll be using for Snailiarty. It is likely that I won't be making him a steam snail (although it was fun adding the stove pipe to this image), I will keep the fuel gauge on his shell because it makes sense for the story. I don't know if I'll blend the colors as much in the final images. I liked seeing the brush strokes because of the texture it built up, but I'll address that when the time comes. 

So here we are: Snailiarty in all his snail-ness. He's got a lot of mints to eat, so I better start feeding him.

 

A Year of Kids' Books #16 Snailiarty Concepts

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Now that I have the first full-length Pinky Panda Bear book behind me, I am working on a book about Snailiarty. This is a shorter and simpler book about moderation. He likes mints. He eats too many mints in a short time. He learns a lesson.

I've had a lot of fun with the concept phase for this one because I can take a lot more chances digitally and not have to worry about running out of paper or paint. 

Here are some of the ideas that I've come up with.

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I'll get started on the roughs for the book tomorrow, and it'll be Snailiarty with the fuel gauge. I came up with the idea after my mom suggested maybe a compass on his shell. So it was her idea, sort of. I'm still not sure if I am in love with the line art style, but if I do it all and then realize I want to do it a different way, then it'll be easy enough. All it takes is time. Slow and steady. Snail on, folks  Snail on.

 

A Year of Kids’ Books # 15: Back at it Full-steam

I’ve got a better system for organization now (i.e., making sure I know exactly what I'm working on the next day before I go to bed each night), so I’m better prepared when I wake in the morning to attack the most important piece of my project. Who'd have thought it would take me until I was 37 to come up with that brilliant plan?

 Tee hee....

Tee hee....

This is a learning experience for me each day, and that is part of what makes me love it so much. I’ve done more than 20 watercolor illustrations for this book so far, and I assumed that 20 would be all I needed. For the first time in my life, I was wrong.

The idea with these book submissions is not to send books that I believe cannot be improved; I want to work with editors to make these books the best they can become so that they have the greatest chance of getting into the most readers' hands. 

I think it's important to finish this book so that I can get on to the next book in the Pinky Panda Bear series and learn from the mistakes I made on the first one so that I can write and illustrate each successive book better than the previous one. It will also allow me to come back and do this first one better if that is something that a press requires or if I look at it in the future and just can't stand  the way it turned out.

The early Berenstain Bears books have been a good model for me. There is a very clear progression in the comfort that they gained over the course of the series. Thank you, Stan and Jan Berenstain, for being fearless and continuing to improve your writing and illustrations and showing that trying to perfect the same thing for your entire life is one way to live, but that another way to live is to produce work that helps you to produce better work the next time (and that you don't need to be afraid to share your work with the world even if it is not as good as you'd imagined it would be). 

I recently discovered that after this most recent Apple Pages update that my ipad Pro (or anyone's iPad that has Pages) is now capable of doing everything I need to publish a book: from draft to publication (ebook and physical). I choose to do my illustrating in Clip Studio Paint (when not using physical media), but theoretically one could draw right into Pages. That’s good news for me because I am hoping to move more and more toward digital as time goes on. But for now, I am finishing this book the way I started it: watercolor and ink. And for whatever reason, I've become hooked on watercolors, so I'll be painting that way for as long as I can.

I'm working on my sample cover today, and as far as I can tell the book is done, done, done. I'm excited to share it with Shannon and Maddie, and excited to send it off to Immedium Press before I start my next project.  

Here is the Igor the Elephant illustration from yesterday. He's looking at the roof of his house that fell off his head when he yawned.

 

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Poor guy; Igor’s the Eeyore of elephants.  

A Comic for Granny Roles

My grandma passed away last month, and I'm lucky that I knew her. I met and spent some time with all four of my grandparents at different points in my childhood, and they all affected me in positive ways. 

(The comic strip is after this essay, so if you don't want to read, scroll on down).

Granny was a fan of words, and even though I spent less time with her than many of my cousins did, I still know all about her love of Webster (the dictionary), and I can recall plenty of laughter centered around the correct and incorrect use of words. Her love of the dictionary was something that I inherited. 

She also liked the comic strips that ran in the newspaper, and her and my grandpa said bye to me more than once by telling me that they'd see me "in the funny papers". That farewell inspired me to do this comic tribute to Granny to thank her for being such an amazing grandmother to me even though I didn't get to spend much time with her.

This comic is the story of a day one summer when I was something like seven or eight years old. My parents had sent us to West Virginia on a plane by ourselves (the flight attendants looked out for us...can you imagine doing this now?) Papa Junior (dad's dad) picked us up at the airport, at the gate where there was no security, and we stayed with our grandparents for a few days at a time at each of their houses. 

Granny and Papa had honeybees (and cows and sheep and chickens and maybe pigs) at this time, and I'd been warned not to get too close to the bees or I might get stung. So I stayed away from the bee hive. I'd never been stung by a bee, and I knew enough about pain to want to avoid it.

I ran outside and played the way kids play when they have nothing but open spaces and their imaginations. I climbed the fence, swung from tree branches, threw rocks, smashed dirt clods. I did whatever I could to pass the time. What I probably wanted to do was play Nintendo; luckily the adults in my life didn't let me do that all day every day. 

There was a lot of clover in Granny and Papa's yard, and that meant the honeybees were in the yard collecting pollen. I was oblivious to this because I didn't know how bees did what they do and because I was a daydreaming kid who ran around thinking about wars between dragons and trolls and knights and goblins.

I'm not sure what caused it to happen, but a bee must have thought I was an aggressor, and it zipped up and stung me on the upper lip. My actual memory of the aftermath is that I ran toward the house and wound up in Granny's arms. I don't remember Granny even asking me what happened. I just remember her being at the sliding door to meet me and placing an ice cube on my lip. It made the pain go away. Granny hugged me, and I felt safe even though my parents were thousands of miles away.

I have other memories about my time on the farm. Granny fried country ham and made biscuits and gravy. There were a lot of green beans and pickled beets and pickled eggs (and pickles). We baled hay, and it scratched my forearms and dust made my eyes red. We looked for deer at dusk, and there was a lot of laughter about silly things that I'll likely never remember. I had a serious fear when riding on the wagon behind the tractor that it would kick up a cow pie and spray manure all over me (this never happened, luckily).

I moved around more than a lot of kids (and way less than others.) Dad's job kept us away from our extended family most of the time. That's just how it goes for some people. But even though I didn't spend a lot of time with my grandparents, I know they love me. I knew it as a kid, and I know it now. I'm a lucky guy for more reasons than I can count. 

See you in the funny papers, Granny. Love you.

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A Year of Kids' Books #14: Back on Track

Finally I am back into the swing of things with this third book. We're already well into April, and that means I am behind schedule on this one, but now that I have all the illustration roughs worked out, I can focus on doing the watercolors and then snapping the pictures of the finished images and then send the book out to Immedium Press.

As soon as I finish this book and send it off, then I'll get into the next one. I've finished two more books (written the stories), and I have plenty of Pinky Panda Bear ideas, but an idea that goes unfinished isn't worth much and I have to remind myself of that once in a while so that I can focus. Finish what you've started or else you may drown in a sea of unfinished projects.

Here is a digital version of Dozer that I did this morning to get back in the swing of things. The image that will appear in the book will just be of Dozer pointing her thumb at herself. The tree and rock were just practice pieces I tossed in there while I fooled around with different brushes.

Happy Wednesday.

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