Out on the town

My husband and I drove over to Ann Arbor last night to hear a group called Opus21 perform at the Kerrytown Concert House. The group consists of a violinist, a saxophonist, a clarinetist, a bassist, a pianist and 3 percussionists (see their site for more info...www.opus21.org). It was an interesting group and an interesting concert. The concert house itself provides quite the intimate setting with chairs for only 80-100 people in an L shape room with the performers at the bend in the L. The musicians were amazingly talented; however, 5 out of the 10 pieces commissioned for the group and premiered last night were not so spectacular. They were quite modernistic and some even hard on the ears. The other 5 were quite enjoyable though. My husband and I were impressed with the talent of Judy Moonert, principle percussionist in the Kalamazoo Symphony orchestra, on the vibrophone...but funny enough, we also thought she'd be the perfect person for Mr. Rogers to visit on his show to talk about percussion. She just had the look. Here's a sketch I did of her with a Bic pen on the back of the program.

You never know when you'll need a character for a book. So look for the interesting people around you when you go out. I only wish I had more programs to sketch on because you should've seen some of the "high brow" attendees. Although, we did enjoy the post-concert cheese and veggie platters and mineral water along with the best of them.
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Do you have any animals?

One of the first things I learned when I went to take my portfolio around NYC was that I needed to have depictions of animals in my portfolio; Every art director said so. Reason being, when you use animals, you don't have to deal with the race issue...you don't offend any person by not representing them or by representing them in a "stereotypical" scenerio. Plus, kids love animals. Pigs are a favorite for some reason. Here's one of my pigs...and yes, I'm being stereotypical seeing as the pig is "pigging out." But I don't think I'll get any threats from the Pigs Union about it.

And here's a sketch I just did breaking stereotypes...have you ever heard of an elephant ballerina? (then of course the background characters are being the stereotypical teasing kids you encounter if you're doing something you don't seem fit for).

So, bottom line. Include some animals. (I think I need a few more...off to work)
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Sketching, Sketching

So, what does an illustrator do? The answer is sketch, sketch, sketch, sketch, sketch. I wish I had more time to do more of it. Whether you work on the computer or on paper or on canvas, the initial stages of an illustration start out with sketches. I usually start out with thumbnail sketches (tiny 2x3 inch drawings) to work out the composition. I ALWAYS do this for a book. But then my method sometimes varies from there in the larger sketch stage. Often, I like to sketch out different ideas for foreground and background and then merge the two in Photoshop. Here's an example of something I'm working on.

The boy and dogs were drawn separately from the background. That way, if I get a main focal point (the boy and the dogs here) the way I want them, I don't have to draw around them and worry about messing them up. I simply put a piece of paper over the main subject (thin enough to see through) and start drawing background ideas. Once I've got one I like, I scan both foreground and background into the computer and merge them. From there I can tweak sizes, proportions, perspectives...all sorts of things. After cleaning it up a bit, I print out the sketch on watercolor paper on my Epson 2200 and then paint. And if I mess up, I just print out a new one.
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Every illustrator has to advertise or promote their work in some way or they'll never get hired for a job. Some have an agent, some send out postcards, some mail out portfolios, and some advertise in sourcebooks like Picturebook. I do not have an agent. I try to go to New York and shop my portfolio around to the Children's Book Publishers about every other year. I also just recently purchased ad space in Picturebook 2006 sourcebook. But most often I send out postcards at least twice a year. I use Modern Postcard to print my cards, placing an image of mine on the front and my contact information and website address on the back. Here is the image I created and sent out on my Spring 2005 postcard.
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Changing Styles

After focusing on a style done with Acrylics and some drybrush technique, I decided to try something new. I sent out a Christmas mailer in December of 2001 of a little girl and received a great response from Michael Green, then a senior editor at Philomel Publishing in New York.

He asked for more in that style...so I did more. And that was the beginning of my line and watercolor style.
Check out my website to see my work...www.jujubeeillustrations.com
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My Published Books (so far)

My first book "What Could You See?" was published by and educational publisher soon after I graduated college. It was a low-paying job but gave me a taste of what it was like. It was a good place to get my feet wet. The second book "Hip, Hip Hooray for Annie McRae!" was my first retail market picture book. I had done a mass marketing campaign sending out a box full of Jujubee Candies and promotional pieces to art directors all over the publishing industry. It did its job and got my work noticed and I received a call for the book shortly thereafter. My third book "Herd of Cows, Flock of Sheep" was published by the same publisher 2 years later.

My fourth book, "Come and Play," was done for Mondo Publishing out of New York City. I got that job by the good old fashioned foot peddling of my portfolio in the city. I try and return to New York every other year to do the same thing.

But hey, that's not all. I have two more books coming out in 2005 for the retail market. One is a board book for toddlers called "The Opposites of my Jewish Year" and the other is a book and box package (complete with tutu and wand) called "The Fairy Princess." When they hit the shelves, I'll let you know.
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Trying this all out

This is a new post from Julie. We are trying blogger out to see if it is going to work. See my site at www.jujubeeillustrations.com.
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My photo
I'm a freelance illustrator working in the children's book industry. I love kids and raising my own 4 children. They are the inspiration and the passion behind all I do in art and in life. See my website at JulieOlsonbooks.com

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