Posts Tagged ‘sketches’

Continuation of Character Studies & Technique Experiments

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | August 21, 2013



This is another view of Charlie from a story I’m working on. I started this sketch in pencil. Scanned it. Painted it digitally with some things I’ve learned (from Will Terry) in combination with my gut feelings on how to move the digital paint around. It’s pretty cool how un-digital it looks! I mean, I think so :) Stayed tuned for more studies of Charlie!


Getting To Know A New Friend…

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | April 17, 2013

Shanda McCloskey Illustration

I’m not sure if we could be great friends, but I want to get to know her better! She seems interesting, artsy, kind, considerate, and curious. I think she wonders about her future, her purpose, how to use her talents. We have so much in common!

Shanda McCloskey Illustration

Today, we met for coffee.
Tomorrow, who knows?!

Shanda McCloskey Illustration




Ruta Scared by Shanda McCloskey




Ruta Sweet by Shanda McCloskey

I like her.
I hope she likes me too.


Notes To Self from Springmingle 2013

Space Chicken Illustration by Shanda McCloskey

Time flies! It has almost been a month since Illustrator’s Day and Springmingle and I’m just now getting around to writing up this post. I took notes for myself and wanted to document the highlights… and the gist of the weekend.

First of all, it was extra fun because I attended with 4 other members of my super critique group! There was definitely something special about our being there together. As each one of us went into the hall for our formal critiques, the others waited in the lobby as if the one being critiqued was in surgery or something. We all came out with good feedback, yet much to work on. I had 2 critiques in a row, because I did a portfolio critique as well as my first manuscript critique! My manuscript was reviewed by Jill Corcoran, an agent with the Herman Agency. She is very straightforward, but kind. She saw a few of my illustrations too so she saw me as a whole package as someone trying to write and illustrate, and do you know what she told me…?

She said (twice by the way), “You have a future in this. Keep working at it.”

Holy cow! That was nice to hear :) It was like she said: You’re not crazy for spending countless hours following this dream. You are getting closer. She didn’t say those words, but I think that’s what she meant :) Of course that MADE my weekend! And yes, I cried when I got back to my critique group. That’s just who I am :)


It was also cool to spend some time with my illustrator buddies too! These girls (Shannon and Christina) are really down to earth and talented. We represent 3 states! We don’t see each other often, but it sure is nice to talk art when we do.

artists_group copy

These are just two of the many amazing illustrators I have come to be friends with. I could never list them all, but each one has taught me something different! Lori Nichols, for example, has given me incredible, forehead slapping Photoshop tips and an beautiful example of a mother-of-three living this dream! The openness and honesty of Kristen ApplebeePrescott HillAlison Hertz, and Elizabeth Dulemba‘s journeys are dear to my heart as well. Thanks for all you do and for sharing what you know with me.

Since I was one of the first 12 to sign up for Illustrator’s Day, I was able to participate in the assignment art directed by Mark Braught! Here are some sketches and the final, although I feel it got too busy. And I prefer the cropped vignette image at the top of this post best :)

Shanda McCloskey Sketches

Chicken Graffiti by Shanda McCloskey

The weekend started with Illustrator’s Day (just for artists) with the silly Chad Beckerman (Abrams Creative Director), the hilariously honest Will Terry (Professional Illustrator), and the genuine, Dianne Hess (Scholastic Press Executive Editor).

Chad said that postcards are a pretty good, efficient way to send art samples to him. He also has been finding illustrators on Instagram! His big message was to get away from the idea that your work is “precious.” Because that way of thinking stifles you from changing and exploring as deeply as we need to as illustrators. Stay loose, free, full of life! Not, museum precious.

Will hit us with tons of graphs and charts about the market, reality, and moving forward. His big message was to be an illustrator entrepreneur. Do all the things we need to do to get traditionally published, there’s nothing like it, but ALSO do your own thing. That may mean apps, quality self-publishing, editorial art, other art forms, etc. To make it as an illustrator for a career, we must DO BOTH (traditional and our own thing). That was nice to hear, because I would love to try a few apps with my husband :) What if I could bring in some income from an app… what if? My dad would love this guy! He’s always telling me… “why don’t you just make your own books?”

Will’s recipe to be successful on your own:

1. Perfect your craft. Know who you are. (Working on that.)
2. Build a microphone. Blog! (Doing that right now!)
3. Develop a good idea.
4. Make a product that is amazingly _________. If you have a computer, you have a factory.
5. Tell the world. Blog, submit to review sites, etc.
6. Never quit, commit for life.

Then Springmingle heated up…
Carmen Deedy started off the weekend with a speech that made the entire audience cry! Not just me- everybody! Her words made me realize that the reason I am so passionate to do this is because I am absolutely IN LOVE with the idea of being a part of the children’s book world. Having a hand in  kids reading and imagining stories (in my time, from my head) is pretty cool. I AM in love with that idea. It’s actually very romantic :)

Then Nikki Grimes told about enjoying the process. God loves puzzles and He gives you the different pieces you’re going need at the right time. Trust.Be patient.

I loved Dianne Hess’s genuine passion for books. And Katherine Jacobs’ sweet, yet stern way about her. She knows what she wants. Katherine was very easy to talk to as well. She read “My Friend Rabbit” to us…. beautiful!

Shanda McCloskey Explorer Illustration

Chad ended the weekend with a presentation on Finding Your Voice… which seems to be the same as finding your joy! Whatever is immediate, easy for you, and joyful is what you should be doing. For some reason, artists think that they should struggle with their work or it isn’t good, but that isn’t true! But we must expect failure some of the time. FIND JOY IN MAKING :)

So, that is what I’m off to do!


A Tree… Always reaching. Always changing colors!

Filed under: Illustration,On My Mind | November 16, 2012

Okay, so I’m trying to fit in an Illustration Friday sketch. The theme is tree. I know. It’s a stretch. But then again, not so much- I tried something new tonight. I’m reaching a little further into my artistic unknown. It might work out. It might not. Bare with me :)

I was admiring the work of LeUyen Pham tonight. I just checked out “Vamperina Ballerina” from the library. She’s amazing. I love how her characters have this retro-ness to them. Does anyone else see that? It’s marvelous. So I was inspired to play around with my own ballet character. She looks a little caricature-ish, but not as much as the first 10 I tried. I just need to work with her some more, but I wonder if this kind of stylistic character could ever be a part of my art? Maybe. I’m going to have to flow with the wind on this one, work with her some more and follow my branches, and see what the season has in store for me!

Happy Fall Y’all! (had to say it :)

A Peek at My Process: Little Red Riding Hoodie

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey | September 3, 2012

This past weekend I attended my first “Illustrator’s Day” with the Southern Breeze SCBWI illustrators! It was just as amazing, if not better, than the pricier conferences (which are geared mainly to writers) that I go to twice a year. And as you can imagine, this day was geared specifically to illustrators. It was also extremely affordable. Anyway, more about Illustrator’s Day in my next post :)

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first 12 folks to sign up for Illustrator’s Day which qualified me to participate in a month-long mentorship with the amazing illustrator, Michael Austin! (He has a new book coming out soon called “Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg”.)

Michael challenged us 12 with depicting suspicion in the context of one of these three classic stories: Rumpelstiltskin, Three Billy Goats Gruff, or Little Red Riding Hood. We discussed sketches over email and phone calls. Michael Austin truly has a teaching spirit! His emails were very detailed, and he really took his time with each of us. I learned a lot! He says there are three things in which he feels is most important in an illustration: action, emotion, and connectedness.

So here is a series of photos of my work progressing from sketches to a final painting…

These thumbnail sketches let me explore my options a bit. To see what floated my boat.


I took to this one right away. Something about that curtain was very suspicious to me- which was the goal!


I developed the sketch more so I could send it to Michael and he would have a clear idea of what I was going for. This sketch still has Red in her classic hooded garb.


I was growing tired of Red Riding Hood cloak imagery, so I tried a hoodie instead. Michael challenged me to enhance the action and emotion. So, I let her hand reach to touch the wolf’s feet and she looks more scared. The wolf’s feet are about to pounce too. I also added glasses to Red. Michael brought up the question: why can’t Red tell this isn’t her granny until it’s too late?


At this point I just jump in. For some reason, I have the urge to paint on wood lately, so I did :) This sketch really got me excited. In some ways I like Red’s face and expression in this sketch better than in the final piece, but sometimes you just have to move along. And since I’m not a digital painter, I can’t just go back. What’s done is done for the most part. The mouth, eyes, glasses, and gesture in general is strongest here, but I’m still happy with my finished piece.


I start adding paint. Unfortunately, things start looking a bit stiff here. And she starts to look older again after I had finally gotten her to look younger in the sketch above. The work sat like this for two days, and it itched at me bad- all I could think about was how I could “fix it”.


Finally I got some time to myself again to paint. I was happy when I got it to this point. I think she looks younger again. And I was loving the purple drape!


This is a big jump in the process, but when you get on a roll you just have to go with it. I’m especially proud of the way the background turned out. I tend to avoid backgrounds so this was a huge leap for me to do one effectively that didn’t compete with my foreground images. Tints and shades. Tints and shades.


On the last day, I pump up the contrast in several areas such as the hands, hair, and basket. I also completed the newspaper and made the wolf’s head’s shadow more transparent and a different shape.

So there you have it! I think it turned out pretty fun! This piece is a little more child accessible than some of my other work. I’m definitely evolving, growing, learning.  If you have a chance I’d love to hear what you think!


Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author