Illustration

The Little, Brown Picture Book Event!

Filed under: Events,Illustration,Shanda's Journey | February 28, 2018

Before the details of this awesome trip to NYC slips my mind, I wanted to write about it here.

Every year, Little, Brown hosts a Picture Book Event where they invite media, book stores, and librarians, etc. to see original art from their upcoming Spring books. They also get to meet 2 author-illustrators tat are a part of that Spring list. Caldecott Medalist, Sophie Blackall, was the main attraction as she spoke about her beautiful upcoming book HELLO LIGHTHOUSE. And the other author-illustrator was ME! I spoke about myself as a new kid on the block and my debut book, DOLL-E 1.0. (My anxiety meds work well, because I wasn’t nervous!) Let’s just say, the attendees got to know the real Shanda – southern accent, tripping up on several words, a few tears and everything when I shared about my eye struggles. Why not? This is me :)

The space where the event was held was decorated with my characters and Sophie’s too! Each place setting had Doll-E and Lighthouse Valentines, sweet hearts candy, and a magnifying glass to find clues in the presentations. It was the cutest! And I finally got to meet the team I’ve been working remotely with in person: Andrea Spooner (my editor), Hallie Tibbetts (Andrea’s assistant), Jen Keenan (my art director), and Saho Fuji (art director) among others! I felt so welcomed and celebrated. It was a breakfast (and lunch) I’ll never forget, because I know this doesn’t happen to everybody, and it may never feel like this again … but that’s why this blog post is here … to document this wonderful moment in my journey!

Shanda “like panda” slide sketch in my presentation.

 

Me and Sophie

Office of fun!

Signed my very first book!

The COVER of Doll-E 1.0 is out! (and some SCARY failed attempts).

Ta-da!!! The final cover:

 

 

I’m really proud of this cover … my FIRST cover! We (me, Andrea Spooner, Jen Keenan, and Saho Fuji) experimented with several cover ideas before we came to this perfect conclusion! Since this was my first book, I was really intrigued by the process of working with a team that wanted the cover to look cool as much as I did. I am very lucky an honored to have worked with these women who knew much more than I did about great cover design.

Here’s a few of our ideas that didn’t pan out, looked too busy, or worse – looked a bit SCARY …

 

 

Doll-E 1.0 comes out May 1, 2018 and is available for preorder now!

I sincerely thank each of you who are cheering me on and reading this post! I hope you’ll join me in the countdown to book release day by signing up for my email newsletter (at the bottom of my website), so you’ll be sure to know where I’m doing story-times and book signings to celebrate next spring!

With love and excitement,

Shanda

P.S. What do you think of the cover? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Toughing It Out

Filed under: Illustration,Lessons of an Artist | August 28, 2015

"Let It Fly" sketch by Shanda McCloskey

I took a cycle class today. It was pretty tough. Going again and again is making me tougher.

This “book game” is a tough. silent. killer. I’ve heard next to nothing since I started submitting my book. I did get one “no,” but it was from a friend’s agent. I can’t help but wonder if it was as quick and gentle as it was as a curtesy to my friend more than anything. The fact is … it’s so quiet. So still. You don’t know how to adjust your technique. Is it the letter? the subject? the person? or has anyone even looked at it yet? Is it sitting in “the slush pile” getting moldy? Members in my critique group have been going through this for a while, but it’s real for me now. I wouldn’t even mind some rejections just to know someone looked at it.

This is a time to listen to my own heart I guess. I love the book I wrote. I believe it’s valuable and beautiful and funny. I believe a child and a parent would have a sweet experience reading it together at bedtime. I believe a room of preschoolers and kindergarteners would get a kick out of it at story time. I believe it would inspire a kid.

The book dummy I sent out is probably not perfect, but I think it has a fantastic chance to be a great book. I hope someone else will believe it too … in the traditional publishing world so my book could be in bookstores and libraries all over the place. I’m working and brainstorming on a new story now. It has a similar large theme of thinking bigger and believing. I need my own stories right now, because that’s what this time is requiring of me. To dream, do my best, be tough, and have some faith.

One day the silence will break. Probably :)

-Shanda

Springing Off From Here

Filed under: Illustration,Lessons of an Artist | March 26, 2015
"Charlotte" by Shanda McCloskey

This is Charlotte. A techie, gadget-loving girl.

 

It’s Spring! (Here in GA anyway :) A time for the renewal of many things, including me. I feel energized and extra committed to my goals and dreams this year. My baby is 9 months old, and for now, things are good. I am getting more sleep at night, and I’m trying to take good care of myself. I have a wonderful mother and mother-in-law who help SO very much with my girls! I’m so grateful.

I’ve been working with the incredible, E.B. Lewis, through a Skype mentorship! It’s cool. He felt I could do better and more interesting artwork if I used real art materials rather than my self-taught, flat, lack-luster attempt at digital coloring.  (He wasn’t quite that mean about it, thank goodness). I felt the same way, deep down.

"Charlotte on Yellow" by Shanda McCloskey

So, the illustration you see at the very top of this post is my best attempt (so far) at applying watercolor and oil pastel to one of my characters. Seems simple enough, but I was at war with myself for a week just trying to get the paint to do what I wanted. I finally painted this, and I feel like it was successful … so I’ll try to spring off from here … no looking back.

-Shanda

What I’ve drawn lately…

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | November 11, 2014

The first pencil drawing of a character is by far, my favorite part of an illustration. It’s fast. Full of possibilities, energy and texture. It’s alive! I believe my work is best when I let the sketch do heavy lifting in an image.

Image from "Dollie 1.0," a picture book dummy by Shanda McCloskey.

Here (above) is my latest color piece where I tried to let the pencil do the most work. And although this image lacks action and sense of setting in my opinion, I still like it and think its one of my best pieces yet. This image will be a color sample in my latest picture book dummy about a gadget-loving girl and a doll. My goal is to get this newly updated dummy submitted to the 2 people who requested it earlier this year before this year ends! (I have a 5 month old baby girl, so I’m moving a little slower these days :)shanda_mccloskey2 The pig (above) and pig & boy sketches (very bottom) in this post are sketches I had sent to a small publisher earlier this month when they thought I might be a good match for a story they were publishing. Unfortunately, they weren’t convinced. I guess it just wasn’t in the stars. But it was exciting for a little while! Bummed, but not defeated.shanda_mccloskey3 shanda_mccloskey4 shanda_mccloskey5

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

 

Thanks for stopping by to see what I’ve been drawing!

-Shanda

HONK! It’s Finished!

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey | May 7, 2014
Open book backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Open book backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

I have been meaning to post this for a few weeks now. Things have been pretty crazy around here as we buckle down and get ready for baby girl #2 to arrive! She’s not due till July, but because we live in a pretty small house, we’ve had to really think and work out our space. My husband can’t work here at home anymore since we need his office for a baby room, and my office no longer exists either. I’m going to have to “think like a New Yorker” and separate a space in my living room or bedroom for a small studio area. Ben has rented an office elsewhere, but I’m going to need to be home most of the time caring for my small kiddos.

Anyway, I got off subject :) Here is the work I did for “Honk!”, a musical! You might remember my first post about this project here, when I completed the promo poster. This post is the rest of the work I did for the project.

Above, is a closeup of the open book backdrop that will stay on the stage the entire time. Then they had me add the bookshelf (below). Each book on this shelf is a Hans Christian Anderson story held together on the shelf by duckling book ends. The actors and actresses will enter and exit from behind the open book, and perform in front of this the entire performance as if the characters from the book have literally jumped off the page to tell the story. I’m not sure the example below is perfect to scale, but the stage will look something like this…

Honk backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Honk backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

To vary some of the scenes, they had me do these next three back drops…

Cat lair backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Cat lair backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

These images will be mounted onto 4 triangular columns that can separate and rotate to change to change scenes.

Farm and pond backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Farm and pond backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Marsh backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

Marsh backdrop by Shanda McCloskey

I learned a lot about scanning and printing resolution for a project of this size. The open book itself will be printed at 8×12 ft I think, and the the rest of these images at 8×8 ft.

I am so proud of this project, and I truly hope my work serves this production well! Can’t wait to see it all come to life :)

Honk the musical, background art by Shanda McCloskey

honk2

And here it is in action!

Lesson #9: If You Don’t Feel Like Going To the Conference, Go Anyway. (Good Stuff From Spring Mingle 2014)

Looming by Shanda McCloskey

Looming by Shanda McCloskey, final from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press

So there I was on the Thursday before the looming conference that started on Friday… I’m super-tired, super-pregnant, out-of-breath, feeling huge, and not myself. Everything was set and paid for. My critique group had a hotel room to share for a fun filled weekend. But I almost backed out of going for being tired and overwhelmed. I had some freelance work going on, and honestly I was a little “conferenced out” as well since I had just attended the NYC SCBWI National conference just a month ago. I was also a participant in the illustrator mentorship with Loraine Joyner of Peachtree Press. I was not thrilled with my finished piece (above), so my motivation for going and showing it off was very low. But for some reason, my gut told me to push through and go. I had done so much preparation to go, so I just had to. My friends were counting on me to be there. (Critique groups are good for accountability too :)

Characters by Shanda McCloskey, from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press.

Characters by Shanda McCloskey, from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press.

I’m so thankful I went. This was my best and favorite conference yet! Great learning along with some exciting happenings gave me some serious fuel to get me through my next several months of hard life… (third trimester, birth, having a newborn again, and putting my life and body back together again.) I left this conference feeling like God was letting me know I’m on the right track, and to keep trusting Him on the good days and the tough days.

 

Kim, Colleen, Shanda, and Christi representing Trail Mix, the greatest critique group north of the ATL!

Kim, Colleen, Shanda, and Christi representing Trail Mix, the greatest critique group north of the ATL!

I sure did have some extra good days at this conference though, because I got my very first AND second requests for my manuscript and book dummy! (Which means somebody asked me to send them my work so they could look at it more closely and possibly consider representing it or publishing it.)  Two requests! It was a pretty surreal experience, and it felt so good. Only my critique group (and my husband and mom) knows how much I’ve labored over my story. It has gone through many stages, and finally me and my critique group felt it was ready for the next step… to show it to some professionals for feedback. I was pleasantly surprised with the reactions and feedback, so we’ll see where it goes from here. Even if nothing comes of these requests, it’s really nice to hear a little “you’re not crazy and you may have something here” validation.

Here’s a quick line up of the amazing people/staff who came from all over to share their knowledge with us:

photo 2

Cheryl from Just Us Books – She reminded us of the importance of making authentic characters of all races. There are so many white kid books. Kids of other colors deserve to “see” themselves in stories too.

Ruth Sanderson – an incredible illustrator who let us see intimately into her life and journey as an artist.

photo 3

Lucy Ruth Cummins – art director, designer extraordinaire for Simon & Shuster. Lucy Ruth was hilarious, cool, knowledgable, a good teacher, and emotional about how much she loves books and her job of creating books. She’s one of those people I’ll never be as cool as, let’s face it. And if she ever wanted to work with me as an illustrator, I’d feel pretty awesome :)

photo 1

Cheryl Klein – executive editor with Arthur Levine Books which is an imprint of Scholastic. Cheryl was full of knowledge! There was so much information, I had to let it sink in to fully realize just how much I learned! She’s a great teacher, and you can tell she’s a seasoned professional (although she’s young) and  knows what she’s talking about.

Ammi-Joan Paquette – is an author and an agent. She shared with us a peek into her daily life and how many “hats” she has to wear from a mom, wife, author, to business agent. It was nice to hear how she manages it all. I ALWAYS need to hear motivational talks on things like this, because it is my biggest struggle. I want to be a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter (who helps with her business), AND a wildly successful author/illustrator! How to fit it all in is different for everybody.

So, there it is! A few weeks later, but a conference definitely worth blogging about!

 

Lesson #8: Real Paint Soothes the Soul

Filed under: Illustration,On My Mind,Sketchbook | March 6, 2014

color_image by Shanda McCloskey

 

Something has been missing for me lately. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I think it might be real paint. Not that I was ever a master painter, but it bothers me that I’ve gotten so far from painting since I’ve tried working digitally. I’m feeling like I should bring some paint back into my work somehow, at least in the backgrounds.  The Ladybug Girl series is a beautiful example of watercolor backgrounds with flatter characters on top. So is Winnie the Pooh, and some Calvin and Hobbs. I’m not sure to what extent I can do this, but I’m willing to start experimenting. I’d like illustrating to feel good. Lately it has been a real struggle in my heart. Most of what I create, I hate. Is that normal? I hear it’s normal to make more mistakes that triumphs, but it’s getting ridiculous!

I understand why someone would quit now. It’s a roller-coaster ride for your mind, heart, eyes, and brain for what seems like it should be so simple. Ha! Not simple for me!

I couldn’t sleep last night so I put some watercolor down on paper, scanned it, and put it behind a character I drew. Something about it is sort of nice. Next I’d like to try a real scene with characters interacting and details of the setting. Hopefully, I’m on the right track.

Headed to NYC today!

Right now, I am sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting on my flight to New York City to attend my first SCBWI national conference.  I have my love, Ben, beside me, which is nice. He works in New York often, so it was awesome that we could travel together!

ny14scbwi

I have always dreamed of attending the NYC SCBWI conference, although now that I’m headed there today, things aren’t exactly as I imagined them being. Not a bad thing, just different, because (if you didn’t know already) I am 5 months pregnant with another precious girl! And I feel really great these days, so I knew I had to seize this opportunity before I have a newborn in my life again :)  I also got to experience a full body pat down for the first time at the airport! I didn’t want to walk through the x-ray scanner being pregnant and all. The lady really explored my maternity pants. I guess you could really hide some stuff in all that extra stretchy fabric!

February has been a busy, packed month preparing for this adventure. My to-do list looked almost impossible for the month of February (March will be the same way), but I did everything! It’s amazing what a little planning can do. Here’s a little bit of what I was working on for this trip:

 

Illustrating a mandatory assignment for the illustrator’s intensive…

Research:

snowwhite_research

Thumbnails:
snow_thumbnails
Character sketches:
snowwhite_sketch
Layout Sketches:
snowsketch
snow_sketch2
Value Study:
value
Color:Snow White by Shanda McCloskey

Preparing my portfolio for the Portfolio Showcase… (I am really looking forward to seeing other’s portfolios and how they crafted and organized them.)

portfolio

It also helped that my 3-year-old started a little preschool program this month. So, for 2 mornings each week I had work time to myself, and it was really fun to see HJ discover school, have a Valentine party, overcome some shyness and anxiety, learn about frogs, learn to write her name, choose a packed lunch or what the other kids were having, and be picked for a table cleaning job. This was all stuff she told me about when I pick her up after lunch.  I also can’t forget about the help and support I have from my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law when it comes to HJ. She is one loved little girl, and I know she’ll be happy and safe all weekend (having 3 different slumber parties with them) while I’m gone.

supermanI miss her though! 5 days is the longest I have ever been apart from her. I know she’ll be just fine, but it feels really strange still. We found PINKY, the owl, in our bed this morning :)  So, I brought her with me!

pinky
Okay, here we go!

Honk! I Got A Gig!

Filed under: Illustration,Sketchbook | February 12, 2014

"Honk!" poster by Shanda McCloskey
Every now and then, an artist will get an opportunity that they just can’t pass up. That’s what happened when my friend, Anna in Brooklyn, emailed me about this job/project about a month ago. She is directing “Honk!”, a musical based on The Ugly Duckling story, and she needed a promo illustration, and 4 background illustrations (that felt like a vintage children’s story book) within 2 months. I didn’t really have time for it, but I felt in my heart it was worth squeezing into my schedule somehow. At this point, I’ve only completed 1 of 5 illustrations, but it’s a great start I think. The poster above is the completed promo piece.

thumbnail
Honk Sketch by Shanda McCloskey

I colored this sketch digitally with my Wacom tablet. A weakness I believe I have is color. So, I found a vintage book cover online (which happens to be an Ugly Ducking book) and selected its colors in Photoshop and used them to follow a color scheme on my own piece. I learned so much by doing that. Colors can be VERY deceiving. You may think you are seeing blue, but that’s only because of the colors around it. If you select it, it may actually be green or something.

photo

This was also a nice challenge for me as I need more illustrations with backgrounds in my portfolio. Backgrounds don’t come all that natural to me. I’m more of a character person, and find that I avoid backgrounds… too much. I’m definitely still a work-in-progress as an illustrator, but I’m very happy with the way this turned out.

Stay tuned for the other illustrations in this project. I hope I like them as much as this one :)

 

 

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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author