Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jenn Bower: An Artist's Toolbox- "Authorstrator" Part III

If you have just arrived to this series of posts by Jenn Bower, I hope you'll go back and read Part I  in which Jenn shared how she came to be an "authorstrator," and Part II "Process Makes Perfect," when she discussed her creative process. 

CAROL Tell us a little about your digital tools. Why do you draw digitally? What makes your illustrations different than others who illustrate digitally?

JENN I draw analog (paper, pencil, and eraser) but I paint digitally with Photoshop and an inexpensive Wacom Bambo digital tablet. Here I am adding leaves to a branch:

There always seems to be a misnomer that digital painters don't really paint. People often think the computer does the painting. It is merely a different medium, like using a word processor vs. pencil and paper for writing. When someone says watercolor or colored pencil most of us have an immediate image of what using those tools looks like. In the video above, my hand still controls the brush selection, colors and brush strokes.

A number of years ago I was diagnosed with pretty debilitating anxiety. OCD is a wonderful by-product.  Until I purchased my computer and tablet most of my drawings only lived on as sketches.  I was paralyzed by the mess paints made; I couldn’t stand the clean-up involved and hated waiting for paint to dry.  In college I worked with inks, markers and colored pencils but that was no longer my stylistic vision.  My work is heavily influenced by the Mid Century Modernists – Mary Blair, Mel Crawford, the Provensens, JP Miller, Fiep Westendorp, Charlie Harper, and Aurelius Battaglia.  They were all about graphic shapes, movement and flat color.  They were the illustrators I loved as a child; thus they reminded me of childhood.

I set out learning how to create my style digitally.  Ironically, I use very little of the available tools in Photoshop.  I truly treat the software like a paper canvas.  You have the ability to create an infinite number of independent painting layers, like overlapping sheets of tracing paper, within the program.  I try to limit my layers to roughly three:  foreground, middle ground, background.  I don’t vector the image and I rarely use the outline masking tool because I want kids to see the brush strokes and wobbly lines that give the image character.  I call them happy mistakes.  The tablet has a stylus which functions like a paintbrush.  I invested in some fantastic brush sets created by Kyle Webster which look like natural watercolor, gouache, and dry brush media. I’ve limited my brush selection to about 15-20 tools which I use all the time.

CAROL It seems as if promotion is part of every author and illustrator's toolbox. How do you promote yourself? 

JENN Calmly and quietly?  I have a website with a blog which I try to update monthly.  I am pretty active on social media, namely Twitter.  It works great for the short spurts of time I have to invest in daily networking.  Many publishing houses, editors, art directors, other writers and illustrators have some sort of presence there and it is devoid of the tooth gnashing I experience on Facebook.  Facebook feels more intimate so people tend to be a little more misbehaved.  You can get a pretty good sense of personalities on social media.  

I know my agent, Danielle Smith, watches closely and has admittedly made decisions not to represent people based on their Twitter/Facebook presence.  Ultimately people want to work with someone they feel they know and like.  Social media allows those relationships to develop across continents; these are opportunities truly unique to this generation.  I am active in the SCBWI-Carolinas region which is fantastic for promotion, education, networking, and morale support.  Finally, I do try to send out a quarterly postcard to a select mailing list of about fifty editors and art directors. I am pretty specific about the list based on imprints I’ve researched where I feel my illustration style would fit. 
Click here for a blog on Jenn's postcard process. 

Next week, Jenn wraps up this series of posts by sharing how she found her agent and gives advice to writers, illustrators, and other "authorstrators".


Linda Phillips said...

I appreciate Jenn's willingness to share her struggles as well as triumphs and her special techniques. Well done, Carol and Jenn!

Rosi said...

This continues to fascinate. Thanks for this series.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda and Rosi. As writers can learn from our illustrator friends!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Love the demo. And I learned from this informative post!

Jenn, I am glad you found a medium that works for you. So crucial and obviously it's working! Also resonated with your comments regarding FB and Twitter although I am much more active on FB than on Twitter. But your point about intimacy and behavior on FB is well taken!

Kim Van Sickler said...

Brilliant that Jenn can paint without the messy clean-up. And also amazing that all that gorgeous art is created digitally.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kim and Joyce. It is cool to get an insider's view of this process!

Linda A. said...

I have enjoyed following Jenn's artistic journey. Thanks,ladies.

Kathleen said...

Carol thank you for sharing the "authorstrator" point of view. Jenn's drawings are so whimsical and they do remind me of the books I liked as a child as well! Thank you Jenn for sharing your process with us.

Carol Baldwin said...

Glad you have enjoyed the posts, Kathy. thanks for commenting!

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