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!


  1. Wow! Sounds like it was a great class. I am getting tips just from reading your post. I too have no passion for doing story books. I'd rather stick to my stressful job. I am amazed at your diverse spontaneous painting styles. I especially like the second image where the woman looks so demure but she is carrying a bowl of skulls!!!!! WHOAAAA!!! I hope you find a happy medium and paint your heart away. Love the hands illustrations. I spend so much time on them and still can't get them perfect many times. Good luck, Sarah. Have fun!

    1. Thank you so much, Ces! My sister told me that one of her art teachers had the class draw 50 pairs of hands and 50 pairs of feet as a final excersize, and that worked for her. Discipline, discipline :)