Sunday, January 31, 2010

SCBWI Conference, Part I - The "Portfolio" Strategy

Okay, so an illustrator going to an SCBWI conference obviously wants to bring some artwork to show. The thing is, I don't have a portfolio! It's not that I'm too lazy to put one together, but it's complicated because my work is stored in multitudes of sketchbooks, and due to my working style (and preference for conserving paper), there isn't one drawing to a page which I could simply rip out and slap in a portfolio. Often I'll have many drawings on one page, and this lends itself beautifully to being scanned, cropped, and showcased on... say... an online portfolio.

Plus, nowadays, with the prevalence of internet access, it doesn't seem resourceful to divide one's attention between an online portfolio and a physical portfolio -- especially when a physical portfolio can only be viewed by one person at a time, while the alternative is available for everybody, all the time.

Of course, online portfolios aren't perfect. Not everyone carries internet access around with them, nor would they be inclined to immediately check your site anyway. As I see it, the trick is grabbing someones attention, giving them a taste of your work, and leaving them something to remember you by. I decided to accomplish this with unique, hand-drawn business cards.

These are some of the cards I drew and photographed the night before the conference. On the back, it simply says: During the conference I displayed six of these cards at a time, along with a picture book I created (A Very Special Nut). These were displayed right next to the other illustrator's portfolios, and while it may be true that I did not showcase the breadth of work as some illustrators, I certainly succeeded in standing out, which in events like this, is clearly important. Overall I'm pleased with the manner in which I presented myself and would do it again.

It's funny, because it was after I began making these cards that I remembered a book I had read many months ago, called Ignore Everybody, by Hugh MacLeod.

If it can be said that someone invented original artwork on business cards, I guess Hugh would take the honor. That's what he does, it's his thing. So did I steal his idea? I dunno. Not consciously. Bit if you're tempted to call me a thief, I have a card for you too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dallion's Big Day!

The annual Austin SCBWI regional conference is only days away, and I'll be there.

For those unaware, that awkward acronym stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a powerful international organization capable of making Kings of mere men (or ruthlessly crushing them underfoot).


This is my first foray into the world of professional authors and artists, but fear not! Thanks to my cleverly concealed flask of scotch, this Saturday I'll be confidently stumbling my way through masses of publishers, agents, authors, and illustrators (and hopefully learning a few tricks along the way).

And what a group we got! Only a week ago the American Library Association announced its 2010 Awards (which includes the eminently prestigious Caldecott and Newberry Awards - these are the Oscars of Children's Literature, folks!), and turns out, resident Austinites won more than our fair share of honors, PLUS these people will be in attendance and speaking at the conference! Exciting stuff indeed. My former Children's Book Illustration teacher sums it up wonderfully on his blog.

Am I nervous about the conference? A little. But really there's nothing to lose. I suspect it may be high stakes for some authors and illustrators who will be bringing manuscripts and portfolios, looking for contracts. While I too will be bringing some of my work, I have nothing to show to publishers, nor am I looking for an agent at this time. Basically I'm not there to sell myself. I'm there to learn and meet some interesting people. I'm still a student!

And what a curriculum!

Finding Time, Revisited

The last post was an exercise in creative writing and ranting. The reality is: it's unfair to blame others, or even my job, for what I perceive as a lack of time to pursue art & writing.

Every artist who earns a living from their work understands it requires immense effort and dedication. It's one thing to have a job where you know what's expected of you and have a boss who makes sure you do it. Working for yourself is another thing entirely, and I'm slowly learning that if you don't have a very high level of self-discipline, your chance for success is nil.

Taking an objective (as possible) look at my current circumstance reveals how I respect the boss at my day job more than I respect my "inner boss". At my day job, I take care to arrive on time, dressed properly, ready to work. How often do I bring that kind of attitude to my personal work? Rarely. Too often, the activities of the day have drained my energy and I'm content to sit back and watch the Daily Show or mindlessly surf the internet.

For a while now I've begun to suspect that I need to dedicate a portion of my day to creative activities -- and not just any portion, but the beginning of the day, before other activities and inner guilt crush opportunity for creative discovery. This new year, 2010, will be the start of this change. A night-owl by nature, I've painfully begun to rearrange my sleeping schedule so that I may rise by dawn, take Brutus for a walk, pour a glass of orange juice, and begin work. So far this schedule has been met with jihadist-strength resistance and sordid success. Yet I believe with persistence this practice will prevail, and once it becomes routine, has the potential to absolutely transform my life.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Finding Time

Where did my time go? It must be around here somewhere... I swear I just had it!

Maybe it's on my desk.

Hmmm... wallet, dirty dishes, bills and overdue car registration. I start moving the clutter and unearth a sketchbook and some lonely pens. Sorry guys, I'll be back with you as soon as I find my time! The notebook which once housed my thoughts peeks out from under a pile of books I've been meaning to...

The phone rings.

I glance at the caller ID and see it's my mom. Sorry mom, I'm trying to find my time right now! The machine answers and I listen...

"Hi honey, guess my busy boy is out enjoying the day. Gimme a call when you can, it's been... allllmost a month now..."

The guilt hits me. Not even Judas Iscariot would ignore a call from his mother! It's okay, it's okay though! I'll call her back as soon as I find my time! It's here somewhere!

Okay... who had it last? My girlfriend. I love being with her, but if she takes my time without asking one more god-damned...!

Okay... calm down.... deep breath...

I walk outside and into the backyard. The sun and trees help me think.

Maybe I left my time with a friend. Nah... not likely. I try to hang out with each of them once a week, but often fail miserably. And I don't even have that many! Maybe I need less friends. Less people to give my time. Less people to disappoint.

I sigh and look at the clouds.

Maybe I need to live in the forest. Far away from this society and it's endless mental trash. Far away from this culture and it's entertaining sedatives.

I could live alone surrounded by pines, just me and my little cabin. Then I could take my time and lock it in a little chest and hide it underneath the floorboards. I'd walk the mountain side during the day, and chop wood, and grow vegetables, and talk to my goats and to myself and then at night I would come inside and make a little meal and drink a little wine, and when the forest became dark and frightening, I would lock the doors and the shut the blinds and remove the floorboards and unlock the chest and then it would be just me with my time, all to myself, forever.

Wait, wait, I know! I left my time at work! It's okay though, I have to be there in 20 minutes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thanks to the Strangers

I recently purchased a book called "The Artist's Way" hoping it will help me in the never-ending battle against myself. I got the book used and later found an inscription inside the cover:

Sweet, right? But it makes me wonder who Steven and Kimberly are and how the book landed in a used bookstore. I haven't begun reading it yet, is it possible the book isn't very good and not worth keeping? Or perhaps this tome takes a more spiritual perspective than Steven felt comfortable with? The explanation could be as simple as a brake up, or as complex as an unexpected stint in the military following 9/11. There's no telling how this book came into my possession, but I wonder if Steven is still pursuing his art? Did he heed Kimberly's warning? If not, was her message meant for me?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Moleskin Doodle #2,384

Those from Austin will know what I'm talking about. Those from colder climes will simply smile at our sissy-ness.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stephen Huneck: A Dog's Life

Folk artist and children's book author, Stephen Huneck, recently passed away. A very talented woodworker, Stephen enjoyed using a woodblock printing technique to illustrate his books, which were always about his favorite subject: dogs! Just a little while ago, I wrote a mini-review of his book, Sally Goes to the Vet.

Here are a few prints of his which I found online:

Yes, Stephen Huneck REALLY loved dogs. Still don't believe me? What if I told you that he built a Dog Chapel? (See a picture of Stephen in his Dog Chapel and read more about his death here.) You can tell from his work that Stephen Huneck was a good and gentle man. Sadly, health issues, financial troubles, and depression caused him to take his life.

...and I was kinda hoping writing children's books would help make the demons go away...

At any rate, if you know any dog lovers out there, I encourage you to purchase a book or some artwork created by Stephen at Not only is his work excellent, but you'll feel good knowing that you're helping out Stephen's wife and family during this difficult time.

Edit 1/11/10: Here is a slideshow which highlights the outside of the dog chapel and some more interior views. Beautiful place. I love the sign outside:

All Creeds
All Breeds
No Dogmas

Friday, January 8, 2010

Holiday Wrap-Up

I'm finally back in Austin after a long and busy winter vacation & family visit. Allison joined me and together we made the 22 hour drive to and from Los Angeles. It was great seeing everyone and we had a really good time, but with all the rushing around from one activity to the next, and from one side of the family to the other, we didn't end up getting much actual R&R. I need a vacation from my vacation!

Some holiday highlights:

- Sweet gifts including: a GPS unit from my dad (saved us from getting lost innumerable times), an heirloom quilt and tapestry hand sewn by my grandma and given to me by my aunt (thank you!), and an extensive spoiling by my mom & stepdad which included new years eve at a resort in Palm Springs, snowboarding at Big Bear, and a trip to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned!

- After many unsuccessful attempts (due to it being sold out), we finally saw Avatar. The film had a lot of heart and a message which really resonated with me. Inspiring.

- Allison had never snowboarded before, and promptly smashed her tailbone real good during her first attempt on the bunny slope. I have never seen anyone injured so badly by going so slowly! ;) Thus ended her short winter sports career and began her new found hobby: getting drunk at the lodge!

- Me losing repeatedly at Bananagrams. Damn you Bananagrams!

- Seeing the Pacific Ocean.

- Trader Joe's!

- Back in Texas, At Allison's parent's house, my dog Brutus chased a deer until it jumped and got stuck between two trees. Later, when I discovered what had happened and found my dog nibbling on the dead animal, I had conflicted emotions ranging from anger to sadness to pride. Even Brutus seemed unsure if he had done good or bad. I quickly decided not so scold or punish him. It seems that to be mad at the predator/prey relationship is to be mad at life itself. This deer died and the vultures got a meal. So it goes.