Thursday, October 25, 2012

Arabian Nights

I recently completed a new portfolio piece, based on The Arabian Nights. This was part of an exercise for my watercolor class. I painted the scene three times, making tweaks and adjustments along the way. It wasn't easy, but I am so happy with the results!

My first version used a limited palatte, and while I liked it, I wanted it to have more movement and darker values. I also wanted the bird and the tree to stand out a bit more. 

I tweaked colors and composition, but the result wasn't working. The foreground stands out more, but the colors look off and the window scene still feels too distant.

Finally I changed the perspective a bit, and shifted things around. I had fun with the sweeping water, too. And I arrived at the final piece! 

I never put much stock in re-doing things before. But being forced through this exercise really opened my eyes to the value of making subtle tweaks and approaching the same scene from new angles.  I think it was a valuable lesson!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Painting the Costumed Model

I've been away from blog-town for way too long! That's not for a lack of artwork, however... I'm currently enrolled in four art classes, so I'm doing TONS of painting, and I'm excited to share with you.

"Painting the Costumed Model" is first on my list to share. Models dress in comfortable or interesting clothes and sit in a single pose for three hours.  This gives artists so much time to refine drawings and paintings! I know it isn't easy to sit stone-still for three hours... I'm so grateful to these amazing models for their perseverance.

I'm sharing 8 paintings, beginning with my first week in the class and ending with the most recent. In a few weeks, I'm planning to post a tutorial on how I complete these paintings step-by-step, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dr. Sketchy's Figure Drawing Show

Every month, our local art cafe hosts Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. The atmosphere is fast-paced, with music, improv acting, cute costumes and amazing models. Not your typical figure drawing session! 

You can check out the Dr. Sketchy's website to see if there are any events like this in your area: And if you live in the Monterey area, check out The Alternative Cafe

Right now, the cafe is featuring Dr Sketchy's artwork. I have four pieces up in the show - my first public art show! So exciting. Here are the pieces I have up, and a picture of the show.



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Painting Flowers in Monterey

Flowers bloom in Monterey year-round, but in spring and summer, they're at their finest.  Lately, I've had wildflower fever. I can't get enough of drawing and painting flowers...

Here are some of the drawings and paintings I've done in gardens and parks of Monterey County. If you have done any wildflower (or other kinds of flower) paintings, please share a link!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Illustration Friday - Hurry!

Four puppies in a hurry!

A Friendly Goose

I took a walk to the pond today, and spotted a goose who was covertly watching me from behind the grass...

He thought I'd give him food, so he waddled his way over. He let me draw him for a long time in hopes he would get some morsel of bread!  I didn't have anything for him, but it was fun to watch him try and coerce me into feeding him.

I got to capture him doing so many silly-looking things . What a cutie!  We had fun together, but eventually he got bored of me and left.  So long, friendly goose!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Illustration Friday - Faded

I painted this today, trying to express the emotion I feel around the word "faded." Sometimes I feel like I'm fading, but there is always a light to reach for, and when I find it, the feeling is hard to describe.  Easier to paint :)

This was also inspired by the beautiful photography of Elena Kalis.  Check out her website.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Painting Course, Meeting with Creative Director, and Studies

So much has happened since my last visit to blog town. I want to post more often, but first I have to get over my aversion towards the computer (just left a job where I stared at a screen 24/7 and now I'm back-lashing). Here's a little summary of what's going on in my world of art...  

I attended a week-long painting course at Esalen, where I learned to keep painting in spite of the nagging critic in my head. Here are a few of the intuitive paintings created in this class. The idea was to just paint whatever came to mind without any real planning or purpose. We simply enjoyed the process and learned not to hold back. What a great class. Thanks, Stewart Cubley and team!

After the class, I tried to illustrate a story of my own making, but I got frustrated with both the story and the art. I really needed some coaching.

I met with Michael Farmer, who works as the Creative Director for National Geographic Learning. We were buddies while I worked there, and I was so grateful he took the time to meet with me. He has been an art director in the picture book industry for over 25 years, and his advice was golden. A few of the many things I learned from our hour-long conversation:
  • Michael looks for three things in an artist's work: First, The artist shows things the reader expects to see (they would be frustrated not seeing it, e.g. don't illustrate red riding hood without the hood). Second, the artist shows unexpected things to delight the reader. Third, the artist ignites the reader's imagination with the things they leave out.
  • There are so many excellent artists out there. Unless you have your own established connections, you really need an agent to get any attention.
  • If I don't feel passionate about writing picture book stories, I shouldn't do it. I don't have to write stories to be an illustrator. Putting tons of time into writing will only distract me from my goal. I need to look for existing short stories and picture books that inspire me and illustrate them.
In addition to these great points, he encouraged me to study the work of Caldecott winner Jerry Pinkney, study hands and feet, and make better use of depth and shadows. Here are a few studies I did recently.

So, my goal for the next few months will be studying and practicing and studying the basics.  I'm meeting up with him 6 months from now. At that time, he might possibly have a poem I could illustrate.  Now, is that good motivation to work hard, or what?? 
Hope you all have a wonderful day. Until next time!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Off to Esalen

I am going to Esalen for a week-long painting retreat hosted by Stewart Cubley. You can learn about his retreats here:

Can't wait to show you the paintings and share how the workshop went. Until then, adieu!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Best Scanner for Watercolors

The Journey 
I was beginning to think that other artists used some kind of wizardry to get good images of their watercolor paintings.

It took a lot of research to find out which (reasonably priced) scanner would be best for watercolor paintings. Generally, the Epson Perfection series received good reviews from artists, so with some trepidation, I ordered the Epson Perfection v600.

And now for a comparison test. I hope this is helpful to anyone out there suffering from bad scanner syndrome.

The Comparison

    Epson Perfection v600

  • Colors are very close to original; minor Photoshop adjustments can create a match
  • Flat scanning causes very little gutter shadow
  • Consistent scan quality makes it easy to stitch together large paintings

      HP Photosmart (and other various scanners I tested) 
  • Lighter colors are washed out so scans are basically unusable,  even with Photoshop adjustments
  • Grainy quality
  • Just plain aggravating

  • Image is slightly warped due to lens curvature; this causes the edges to look ‘bent’ so you have to crop out some of the picture.
  • Hard to get good lighting
  • Colors need a lot of adjustment to look like the original; however, they are better than the HP scanner.

If you're looking for a good scanner, I recommend the Epson Perfection. I'm so happy with it that I will probably be up till 2 am re-scanning all of my work.  Hooray...

Update - if you're wondering what to do after you've scanned in your artwork to make it look more like the original, I just finished a tutorial. Click here to check it out!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Illustration Friday - Heights

Benny reached new heights on his trampoline... 

Last thanksgiving I got the chance to jump on a huge trampoline in my friend's back yard. I felt like a kid again... (Thanks, Julie! :) )

Watercolor Schemes

I am addicted to the design seeds web site,!

For the past few days I've been choosing one color scheme from the website per day and trying to match the colors in watercolor.  I recommend this kind of practice for anyone looking to improve color skills. It's challenging and rewarding.

In the process, I'm finding that a fairly consistent style is starting to come through. Judging by what I've learned in the past few months, this style is more of a fast "mass market" style than a "trade" picture book style. I think it will be helpful to develop two separate styles for these two publication types. What do you think?

erm... keep in mind that these photos were taken with an iphone.  In a week, I'll have my new Epson Perfection v600 scanner for much better quality images!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I'm So Excited...

Due to lay-offs, my current office job will be ending in two weeks.

What does that mean?  I get to spend the summer working on my illustration portfolio!  I am really excited...

Last month, I went the the SCBWI South San Francisco conference at Asilomar and got a portfolio review from the famous Dan Yaccarino.  He encouraged me to write my own stories and build my portfolio based on my own imaginative ideas.  

All of this being said, I've been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of planning, even some writing, but not a lot of artwork.  I am processing so much advice that I've needed some time to digest.  Now I feel on the verge of a creative explosion. I have a list of ideas, and my mind is filling up with colors, characters and stories.  Now I'm looking at a gazillion hours of time to do nothing but art....

Watch out, world!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Illustration Friday - Suspense

What, I drew a picture for Illustration Friday this week? Yes, I did!

Detective O'Leary sensed something suspicious...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Twitter, An Owl, a Pussycat, and a new illustration for "Fair, Brown and Trembling"

I am just getting started on Twitter (@sarahbodera).  What a great way to keep on top of what's happening.  Following mainly illustrators, writers, and publishing companies, I find myself treading in a sea: great website links, anecdotes, friendly greetings, announcements, award winners, congratulations... the list goes on. Lots of positive interaction, and a great way to connect. I'd love to add you all if I haven't already, just send me your username :)

I thought I'd share a few illustrations that I completed over the holidays. "The Owl and the Pussycat" illustration was done with Higgins Black Magic ink on paper. I used to use this ink all the time when I drew comics.  It is waterproof, rich and opaque - great for pure blacks.

And this is a second illustration for Fair, Brown and Trembling. I wanted to practice keeping a character intact through two different poses.  A better camera and some handy Photoshop skills brought up the brightness and color quality quite a bit.  I will need to re-photo the first illustration to make them match.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pia and the Dragon

Just finished this new painting yesterday. I spent a lot of prep time on this one, first working on the characters, then several reiterations of the composition, and finally a value study.  It was a lot of work, but I think it was worth it!

This is based on my own ideas and characters.

Lately, blog-watching has really expanded my artistic horizons. Justin Gerard's blog recently switched on a light-bulb in my head about composition.  I did not employ the triangle technique, but I did consider the sizing, spacing and flow more carefully than I have in the past.  I was also inspired to try a value study because of process photos that were on illustrophile (RIP... apparently the site is gone forever).  I used Copic markers on a late draft, working from light to dark.  Then I tacked it up on my wall while painting, and voilĂ ! It was an invaluable resource.

Here's my original sketch, so you can see how the composition changed.  I made really good use of my light box through this process... I love that thing!

This seems to be the process I am settling on:

1. Read or dream up a little story and choose a scene
2. Study (e.g., practice drawing dragons, sketch kids playing at the park)
3. Draw the first draft (using my eraser like mad)
4. Do thumbnails to help improve the composition
5. Draw a second draft (hello light board!)
6. Final, cleaned up draft on tracing paper
7. Value study
8. Color swatches on a piece of scratch watercolor paper
9. Paint!

I think I am going to do some lighter, faster illustrations after this to loosen up.  Illustration Friday, here I come...

And just for fun...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year, New Projects

Plans for 2012 are lining up nicely.  I worked on several new paintings over the holidays, which I will share soon (working on getting a new camera, oh boy!)

As of yesterday, I am participating in kidlitart's  Picture Book Dummy Challenge. I'll be creating my own little mock-picture-book, and it will be done by July. How fun!  I'll keep you posted on my progress.  I'm writing a poem for this project that should be lots of fun to illustrate.  It's still rough, but I thought I'd share a clip: 
When Lily falls asleep, her dreams are full of stars.
She walks on paths of stardust that glitter from afar,
wondering and wandering, as children often are.

Nearby she hears a tiny song, humming through the dark. 
There upon a silver tree, she finds three golden larks.
Three tiny larks with crystal tears, three little broken hearts.

"Oh Lily, dear," sang the first, "Our magic eggs are gone.
The second sang, "An owl came, and took them far from home."
"Come sit inside our wish-tree nest, and tell us where he's gone."

In other news, SCBWI recently announced Yvette Piette Herrera as the winner of the 2012 Tomie dePaola Illustration contest! Congratulations to her and the other people who placed! It was a lot of fun to particpate.  I look forward to trying again next year. 

And last but not least, I've been working on an illustration for a story idea of mine, called "Pia and the Dragon." I faced one main challenge: I've never successfully drawn a dragon before in my life. But after a long afternoon of practice, I think I got the hang of it.

Here's a very early version of Pia and her dragon-friend, based on a beautiful work by one of my art heroes, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

(Side note, I don't know how this short-winged, barrel-chested dragon would fly... magic?) I later developed Pia to have more spunk and a dare-devil attitude.  The dragon has also morphed into something more my style. I'll share the final composition as soon as I can get a decent photo.  I'm starting the painting tonight, and I'm so excited! Really, this is a lot of fun.

Happy 2012 to all!