Tania McCartney started the 52-Week Illustration challenge this year to reconnect with art. She asked people to join her and close to a 1000 people have signed up to participate.
''Professional or no, there is something truly wonderful about creating works of art. They don't have to be complicated or even mind blowing. They just have to be yours. When it comes to art, there is no such thing as right or wrong. Free yourself and get creative ... ''(Taken from the 52 week challenge blog).
Tania created a separate March challenge where she asks Australian members to illustrate a snippet of text for her upcoming picture book. Together with her publisher she hopes to find a new or existing talent to illustrate her new book. The challenge is ongoing till the end of March!
Here is the choice of text written by Tania McCartney:
Sometimes––a lot of sometimes––I want to smile. It could be … a spinning round-and-round smile.
Sometimes––just sometimes––I want to cry. It might be … an ice cream plopping-down cry.
I hope you were able to figure out which image went with the right bit of text.
There is amazing talent at the 52 week challenge and whether I have a chance or not to get noticed by her Publisher during the challenge doesn't really matter as it has been enjoyable just to create, learn and be part of such a supportive community.
Creating the Image
I always love seeing the work process of artists and illustrators, so as part of the challenge I thought I'd document and share my work process for the 'spinning round-and-round smile' image.
I start with sketches, working out ideas, just playing, doodling and having fun.
Then I used a black Copic Sketch marker to go over my pencil marks, and used the levels settings in Photoshop to create a nice clean image. I don't worry about using the eraser. I like the pencil marks coming through.
I scan these images into Photoshop.
In Photoshop I created separate layers for each chicken and separate layers for the background.
The chickens each get a 'line' layer, a 'white' (underpaint) layer and a 'colour' layer. For this image they all shared a 'shadow layer' and a 'detail' layer.
I give each layer a name in order to keep track of them, if not, chaos erupts!
I use level and hue saturation in a non destructive way to tweak the image here and there.
Lastly I added a stroke layer to emphasize the movement that wasn't coming up as well in the scan using the pen tool and stroking these.
To create the background, I used the pen tool to create the shapes.
I had previously made several watercolour and texture grounds and scanned them in to be used as 'textures'.
I love this feature as it allows you to 'paint' with texture and you can adjust the brush settings as usual in Photoshop.
Here is a screenshot of the final image with the layers. I also used Kuler (A Photoshop extension) as you can see on the image. This is a cool way to put together your colour palette.
I hope you enjoyed that, let me know if you have any questions!
For more illustrations I made for the 52 Week Illustration challenge, check out my Illustration page.
Tania also has a blog specifically about the challenge and features her artwork, processes and favourite images of the week.
A box of Faber-Castell watercolour pencils combined with a Doodle Day challenge made for a fun December.
The Doodle Day challenge this month was to come up with anything that begins with the letters A to Z and is related to water, underwater, ocean, etc.
To this I added my own challenge – To use water colour pencils for each doodle, and become more comfortable with their use throughout the month.
I used better quality paper to what I usually would, Arches Hot Press Smooth 185gr and Aristico Cold Press 200gr. I tore them into rough squares and rectangles, with the idea that it would free me up, not taking the precious new paper too seriously.
Throughout the month I used other media in addition to the Faber-Castell water colour pencils, I really liked the use of India ink, using a nib for outlines or sketching. All doodles evolved from a rough sketch.
My selection of fish, animal, people etc. was very random and depended a lot on my mood, I wanted to try a range of different things and I quickly grew bored with fish. Other Doodlers had a completely different approach for example my friends Teresa Robeson focused on pencil drawn birds for a whole month and Sylvia Liu created a whole range of Pentel Brush markers and digital art Cephalopods. I am sure they will be blogging about this soon.
About a quarter of a way through I created a colour chart. The colours from the Faber-Castell pencils did not exactly match what I saw on the paper, and I wanted to see at a glance the dry colour direct from the pencil and the gradation of the wash as it was thinned with water.
Some of the pigments were more vivid or dissolved easier, I found the gold and copper don’t work very well at all, the silver was slightly better.
I spent roughly half an hour on each doodle, this included looking at picture references, sketching, inking and colouring.
I was quite pleased with a few of them and not happy with some of them, but all gave me more ease with using the water colour pencils. And I fell in love with the Arches paper and will be experimenting with a heavier paper next.
I had shied away from watercolour for a long time, and hoped that using a watercolour pencil was a way of easing me back in. I found it versatile, fun and easy to use, and the colours were vibrant. It is a great medium and I am less scared of watercolour and even ordered myself some actual tubes of watercolour paints to combine with the pencils in the future.
I'd like to thank all my fellow doodlers who commented on my doodles, offered encouragement, shared a technique, exchanged thoughts on media, pencils, ink etc, the Doodle Day community is awesome.
A little more about Doodle Day, which was started and envisioned by the multi talented Alison Kipnis Hertz can be found at the end of the post.
Now without further ado, here is my Aquatic Alphabet.
Feel free to leave a comment letting me know which letter is your favourite.
A is for Anamone.
And I was immediately in love with the range of colours.
B is for Barracuda ... AND ...
I used a black marker pen for the outline.
B is for Bottlenose Dolphins.
C is for Chilli Fish.
With their fiery temper they breathe chilli flakes.
D is for Diving Mask.
E and F are for Ebb and Flood.
G is for Grouper (a Coral Grouper).
H is for Hulk.
I is for Isolated Danger Beacon.
I have a husband who volunteers with Marine Rescue, he came up with this interesting idea for my alphabet.
J is for Jellyfish.
K is for Kelp.
L is for fish Lips.
Being silly and having fun. Mwah!
M is for Mermaid.
AND a bit of cheat. I was running low on time, frantically trying to get organised for Christmas. This is a sketch and digital colour for a story I have been working on.
N is for New Zealand Seal.
O is for Octopus.
I started experimenting with a simpler, minimal style. I liked this and might keep playing with this some more in the future.
P is for Penguin.
I used India Ink and one watercolour pencil.
I also adjusted this image and used it as our Christmas card.
Q and R are for Queen of the Red Coral.
I used an ancient tube of watercolour to create the splash. It is not as easy to create a puddle with a watercolour pencil. I actually 'shot' the paint at the paper with a syringe.
S is for Seahorse.
Some more splatters with the syringe.
T is for Textile Cone.
Some experimentation with charcoal, but wasn't quite fond of what I did with it.
U is for Utatsusaurus.
The earliest-known form of an ichthyopterygian, which lived in the early Triassic period (c. 245-250 millions years ago) AKA Fish Lizard.
Here I experimented with Isopropryl Alcohol (disinfectant solution), dapping it on the wet paint with a cotton tip. However as the paint was very wet, it bled out beyond the ink marks. I cut out the shape and pasted it on crumpled black paper.
V is for Viking.
His motto: "Braiding not Raiding!"
W is for Whirlpool and Wheels.
X is for Xiphosura Mesolimulinae fossil (Lower Triassic to Cretaceous.)
Y is for Yacumama.
In the mythology of the indigenous people of South America, the yacu-mama is a sea monster, fifty paces long, believed to inhabit the mouth of the Amazon River and the nearby lagoons. According to the legend, the yacu-mama would suck up any living thing that passed within 100 paces of it (Wikipedia).
Z is for Zebra Shark pup.
This last one is mainly India ink watered down and a single watercolour pencil.
About Doodle Day:
This is a doodling challenge for artists, writers, teachers, parents, children of all ages, friends, and friends of friends. for those who stare at a blank page and have a panic attack or those who just want to try something new. A doodle can take 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes or even up to an hour but seriously, if you are spending an hour or more - it is not a doodle, it is a masterpiece and you are overthinking it or trying too hard. Put your pencil to the paper and see where your arm goes - this is a stress free doodle zone. (Taken from the Facebook group)
PiBoIdMo - Picture Book Idea Month
I was pretty new to everything to do with writing for children this time last year.
One of the first things I came across was Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo and I joined straight away. It was free, easy to use, inspiring and you could even win prizes just by commenting!
Joining PiBoIdMo was the inksplot that spread and filled my empty notebook.
I read all the posts, I noted down my ideas AND I met some awesome kidlit people and became part of an amazing online kidlit community. I read and absorbed and wrote down over 50 ideas! I created my own 'Ideas spreadsheet' and now whenever I am stuck for an idea I have my own growing database of inspiration.
About the blog hop.
Each children's writer who is tagged (and wants to participate) answers four questions about writing, spreads the word about the PiBoIdMo challenge and tags three other children's writers.
I was tagged by Teresa Robeson, who is one of the most versatile children's writers I know and I am honored to share a critique group with her. She writes for children as well as writing Science Fiction, she is an awesome science nerd, she home schools her children and tries to live of the land, if you want to find out more about this inspiring superwoman check out this blog.
1. What am I currently working on?
I work on several manuscripts at a time though they are all for children. Several PB (fiction and biography), 1 MG, PB dummy, short story – I swap and change as I am inspired or need a break from one or the other, and I power through on the one project when I have a (usually self imposed) deadline.
2. How does it differ from other works in the genre?
Some of my stories for children are a bit darker. Most stories differ from each other. I really enjoy writing, I have an idea and follow it, see where it takes me. I like writing for a variety of ages and forms, short story, PB, junior novel. They all have their own challenges. I am totally intimidated by writing poetry for children but would love to learn more about that down the track.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I can’t help it! Maybe to stay in touch with the child inside of me.
I used to love being read to as a child and then reading as I got older. Then later when I worked with children and had my own, reading stories to children was and is my favourite part of the day. To one day have children read or hear my stories, would complete a perfect circle for me.
4. What is the hardest part about writing?
Finding the time to sit down and write uninterrupted. Waking up really early before the kids get up. Typing with a toddler on my lap (or two). Second guessing every story. Playing by the rules. Understanding the industry. Getting a good handle on English grammar (English is not my first language). Striking a balance between writing and social media. Yep, that will do. I could add more ... but, I really love being a writer and illustrator and no matter how hard it feels at times, I will keep on going.
I tagged 4 people (told you I find it hard to play by the rules). Remember these names, they are going to be part of a new wave of children’s writers. I feel privileged to have met (online or in person) each of these inspiring women.
I met Caylie Jeffery during a Brisbane Write Link meeting. I look forward to one day swapping YA stories in one of our critique groups and I have fallen in love with her blog, (including the title) Distractions of a Busy Mother
Caylie started out life as a Nurse and Counsellor, but after a close call with London terrorists, she took a fresh view of the world and sailed around it for two years with her husband. She now lives in Brisbane with her family who keep her on her toes but give her lots to write about! Caylie's many adventures and experiences have made her into a strong, observant and interested woman and she uses Familial Essays on her Blog, Distractions of a Busy Mother, to connect with the greater community. Caylie also works as a freelance writer for a number of publications, and is an emerging author of YA literary fiction. When she's not writing, Caylie can be found in renovating clothes, painting pictures and caring for her family. She has a wonderful circle of extraordinary friends who encourage and support her relentlessly and a growing number of followers to whom she is eternally grateful to for their readership and insight.
I met Sam Sochacka at the Brisbane Write Links group as well. She wowed me with her knowledge when presenting several sessions on social media for authors. She also covered the StoryArt Festival Ipswich AND she writes picture books, what’s not to like!
Sam Sochacka grew up in a world full of adventure - from the books she read, to the farms she lived on, and the beaches where she spent countless days riding the waves and clambering over rocks and sand dunes. She loves cooking, photography and still plays 'I spy with my little eye' when she travels. Sam began working in the world of children's literature in 2011. She loves all that it entails including imaginary worlds, quirky characters, great books, promoting children's literature and reading, amazing people and working with/for children. Sam admits that she is to illustrating as a BBQ skewer is to a blow up castle at a school fete, so she is very much looking forward to collaborating with illustrators who are far more capable than she is.
I met Dani Duck at the 12x12 online community, and we are part of several online illustration groups, it is easy to fall in love with Dani's illustrations.
Dani is a writer/illustrator. She lives with her husband Peter and son David in the outer, outer reaches of the greater Vancouver area. She loves painting in watercolor with ink outlines. Most of her paintings are of anthropomorphic animals. She also loves painting whimsical and fantasy paintings. She recently started selling her artwork on Etsy.
Katrina Stewart is another amazing Brisbane children’s writer and busy mother, we also met up at a Write Links meeting and at the Story Arts Festival Ipswich.
Katrina Stewart is an aspiring children’s author. A former Development Editor at Oxford University Press, Melbourne, she has recently completed Dr Virginia Lowe’s Create a Kids’ Book e-course, receiving a letter of recommendation for her work. Growing up in a small rural town, she has first hand experience of the challenges and joys rural living holds and seeks to share these through her stories, while exploring themes of community, belonging and social awareness.
Here is my second prompt for Doodle Day July.
During Doodle Day May all the prompts were provided by the fabulous Alison K Hertz, host of the doodle challenges. This time around Alison asked for prompt contributions and today is the second of my two prompts.
Books, of course there had to be a prompt about books. My dream is to see my stories and/ or illustrations in a picture book. I am working on a picture book dummy at the moment so images of books float frequently through my fantasies.
So, go ahead and doodle a book, or a couple, or a library or even a mountain of books and beware the avalanche. Doodle a book with your name on the cover. Doodle ON a book or on a page. Don't forget bookcases and bookshelves. Get crafty and collage a doodle from some pages from a book (or better perhaps from a magazine).
Click here if you would like more information about the Doodle Challenges and the very supportive Doodle Facebook group.
Here are some pictures to inspire you:
Image by NeilsPhotography on Flickr
Here is my prompt for Doodle Day July.
Rock (& Roll with it)
During Doodle Day May all the prompts were provided by the fabulous Alison K Hertz, host of the doodle challenges. This time around Alison asked for prompt contributions and today is the first of my two prompts.
There are so many possibilities!
Draw a pile of rocks, a craggy cliff face, a smooth pebble or a rocky fantasy landscape. And why not do a doodle ON a rock or pebble. There are rocks that roll, rocks that crumble, rocks hiding precious gems or minerals, rocks in water, and rocks covered in moss and lichen. I am looking forward to everyone's doodles!
Click here if you would like more information about the Doodle Challenges and the very supportive Doodle Facebook group.
Here are some pictures to inspire you.
Beck Fyfe - Copyright Slimming World/ Paul Bueler
I was introduced to the world of superheroes at an early age by my favourite uncle Paul Moedt who was subscribed to various comics, including Spiderman, X-man and the Fantastic Four. I loved absorbing myself in these worlds of superheroes, my favourite superhero was Storm. She could fly, control the weather, AND she was a woman and I really loved that flowing black cape!
Many years later I found out that my uncle had done away with most of his comics. I was quietly devastated, and looking back I am sure he wishes he had held onto them as well because since then comics certainly have made a comeback.
Superheroes are BIG on the big screen, Spiderman, X-men, Fantastic Four, Thor, The Avengers, and more, but I have been quit disappointed by the portrayal of Storm, she always seems to fly in the background. I am sure she needs a whole movie to herself to do her justice.
How does this relate to writing? Read on!
At the start of the year I joined the Kidlit online community, it is full of wonderful, supportive, and inspiring people. And it wasn’t long before I discovered a real life Kidlit Superheroine, Becky Fyfe.
She writes, she draws, she runs several writing challenges, writes a couple of blogs, and is a mother to 7 children. Hello, superheroine!
I joined Becky’s Chapter Book Challenge this year. For a month I focused on writing my chapter book spurred on by Becky and her group of writing enthusiasts. Then I got involved with the Anthology of Fractured Fairytales, yep, another great idea instigated by Wonder Woman. The Anthology features contributions from Chapter Book Challenge participants and it is due to come out later this year, so keep your eye out for that one.
I was pretty impressed already, but then Becky came up with another awesome idea, the Creating a Female Superhero Challenge #CAFSC. This challenge will also culminate in an anthology and the proceeds will go to a charity for girls.
The Challenge runs the month of June. Write a short story 300 – 1000 words featuring your own female superhero. Who know it might even spark a bigger story. Find more details of the Female Superhero Challenge here.
I just had to ask Becky some questions on all things Superheroine related:
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Becky, lets get right into them.
So, Becky-Kidlit-Superheroine, what IS your alter ego’s name?
I hadn’t thought about it before, but when I asked my husband, he told me it has to be something along the lines of “Blaze” to go with my red hair, which made me grin. My 10 year old daughter focused more on my achievements though, so she said it has to be “Diet Woman.” (I used to be classified as morbidly obese but lost all of the excess weight, reached a healthy BMI and have maintained it for almost three years now.) I think I’ll have to come up with something on my own. ;)
And, I have to ask, who is your favourite superhero/ine and why?
I always liked Rogue, not the one in the X-Men movies but the one in the cartoons and comics. (The X-Men movies kind of ruined her for me.) In the comics and cartoons, she’s a feisty redhead with attitude, and although her powers are somewhat tragic (she can’t touch anyone without sapping their life force or superpowers), she doesn’t let it stop her from doing whatever good she can with them. She never needs rescuing from any of the males around her.
How did you come up with the idea for this challenge?
The idea for this challenge has been on my mind for a while. I’ve loved all of the new superhero movies, especially the latest Avengers movie, but I didn’t think the women in the movie were given enough screen time. Joss Whedon is wonderful at creating strong female characters, but the rest of the media just isn’t following suit as quickly as I would like. I was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but there hasn’t been any truly strong heroines to take her place since the series ended.
One thing that really brought the idea for the challenge into my mind as something I had to do was when I was looking online for some gifts for my children. I have sons and daughters, and they all love superheroes. While it was easy to find male superhero stuff for the boys, from Thor t-shirts to Spiderman underwear and Iron Man (shooting) toy gloves, I couldn’t seem to find any products featuring female superheroes for my daughters. There were some Wonder Woman t-shirts in adult sizes and that was it. (Although, admittedly, my seven year old daughter is quite happy to play with her toy Thor’s hammer. I just have to keep her from bashing her brothers’ heads in with the plastic toy.)
Overall, I basically just got tired of waiting on the media to create superheroines that I could relate to and decided that one way to solve the problem was to create my own. And I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
There seems to be quite an impressive list of superheroines why is it that superheroines are not as recognisable or feature as strongly in our culture as male superheroes? Is there a glass ceiling for female superheroes perhaps?
We are lucky, as women growing up in modern society that we have a lot of freedoms that women in the past didn’t. We can inherit. We can enjoy career success. We can vote. These are things we now take for granted, but women, at some point in our history, had to fight for these rights and others. I think women’s roles in society have been underestimated for a long time and that has been reflected in the movies and other popular media, but I believe that this is changing. It is a long process and one that we all need to be aware of. I think women are more vocal about their needs now and that is why we are now seeing a movement towards women wanting to see more strong female heroines in the movies and in the media as a whole. The Creating a Female Superhero Challenge is just my way of trying to contribute to the movement.
I think there may have been a glass ceiling for female superheroes in the media at one point, but that is changing now. As more women are asking for a change, little by little, the change is beginning to happen. Women are a powerful force when it comes to our buying power in this economy, so it won’t take long for writers and producers to take notice.
Any tips for creating a strong female superhero?
The main tip I can give is to think of what strength means to you and write it into your character. It will be different for everyone who is creating a character.
For instance, in one story I wrote, my character chose to become a superhero because of a violent attack on her in her past. But then I thought about her some more and decided that I didn’t want to start the story with her being a victim, so I changed it to someone else in her life being attacked and her being frustrated about not being able to help. There is nothing inherently wrong with making her get her start from being a victim and evolving into something stronger, as other superheroes have started out that way, but, to me personally, I didn’t want her to be cast as a victim before gaining her powers.
What do you think are important features of a female superhero? Do you think there are certain characteristics or powers that are more specific to female superheroes, other than being female of course?
You know, I don’t really think there are any powers that would be specifically female or male. Although my husband tells me that I’m wrong. He says that women are better at multitasking! (In our house, that may be true, but I’m sure there are women out there who aren’t very good at multitasking just as there will be some men who are very good at it.) Some of the traits that I think are recognized as more female than male (such as multitasking) are really just a result of the culture we live in being more encouraging of one thing over another based on our genders.
Now, this question is purely self-interested: I know you are a very busy writer and mom. Have you got any tips on how you balance the two?
I am not very organized, so I don’t know if anyone would actually want some tips from me on this topic, but I can give one piece of advice. Forget having a clean and tidy house. My house is a complete and utter mess. I blame the clutter on not having time for housework between my writing and raising my kids, but I also really hate housework.
It’s really just a matter of prioritizing. Writing is an important aspect of my life, so I make time for it. I am not a morning person, so I am not one of those people who wakes up early in the morning to fit in writing time, but I do stay up late in order to write while it is quiet in my house. (This probably explains why I am tired so often.) When my kids are in school, I have more time to write. I spend a lot of time on the bus traveling to and from my children’s schools, so I bring a notebook with me and write while on the bus. On the weekends, if I am coming up to a deadline and desperately need some quiet time to write, I will let my husband know and he will take the kids out for a couple of hours at the park or to the movies to give me a bit of extra time to myself. I think too many people are afraid to ask for help or to ask for what they want.
Is there anything else you want add?
Many of the stories written for this challenge, with the permission of the authors, will be included in an anthology with the proceeds going to a charity that benefits girls.
I am hopeful that there will be a lot of entries into the challenge because I am really looking forward to reading about lots of powerful female superheroes.
Thanks so much for interviewing me and for helping spread the word about the Creating a Female Superhero Challenge.
Rebecca Fyfe is a mother of seven children, a writer and a blogger. She writes middle grade, YA, non-fiction and picture books and has several short fiction pieces published in anthologies and spent a year writing regular featured articles for a parenting magazine. She runs the Chapter Book Challenge (ChaBooCha), which runs every March. She has a BA in English Literature and an AA in Child Development. She has lost over 145 lbs. in a quest for healthy living and has been featured in magazines and on TV a few times because of it.
So who is your favourite Superheroine and what would be your Superheroine name?
Though I have always enjoyed writing in one form or another ever since I could write, I only started writing for children seriously last year.
Since then I have come across some wonderful online writing challenges. They range from generating ideas to writing picture book drafts. I have been able to be part of a creative community right from behind my lonely computer (if you don't count the rambunctious two running around) , and I have made great friends and discovered and learned so much more than I knew about the world of writing for children. A lot of these challenges also include great prizes for participants and have some lively Facebook groups.
Here are some of my favourite challenges. I will go into more detail about them in the future. Most of these challenges run every year, so don’t worry if you missed out this year.
Make sure you sign up for the first Week of Writing Non-Fiction Picture Books starting on the 1st of July. It promises to be a great week of writing with great prizes for participants.
Picture Book Idea Month. Come up with a picture book idea a day for the month of November.
Chapter Book Challenge
Write a whole Chapter Book in March, with the fabulous Rebecca Fyfe.
A whole year of writing picture books, a picture book a month with a most welcoming and amazing community of children’s writers.
National Picture Book Writing Week, takes place in May.
Doodle Day May
Pretty much what it says, a lot of stress free fun.
This is not officially for children’s writers, but I like illustrating as well. And you never know what story a doodle may start.
Please leave a comment and let me know if I have missed any.
Children's Writer and Illustrator