Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Never throw anything away.

I am a “purger”. I like to toss things in the trash, recycle or donate to the local Goodwill. I don’t like clutter. If it hasn’t been used in a while I want to get rid of it. I do have one exception, well maybe two or three but for the purposes of this entry I will keep it to one exception. Sketchbooks. Oh sure I have lots of bad drawings and there may even be a sketchbook or two that I would like to toss because they contain some really embarrassing drawings. When I look back at some of the things I was drawing 10+ years ago I get shivers. Why do I still keep them?

In the last post I mentioned outlining two new stories and working on character studies. The new stories will be assembled as graphic novels. As I was organizing the stories I knew that there would be three main characters but my illustration styling wouldn’t necessarily fit this format. I needed to create a new styling that would better fit a graphic novel format. This was a little unsettling for me and I wasn’t sure where or how I should start. Feeling a little frustrated and brain locked I did what any other SoCal resident would do. I went surfing. Let me clarify that, I have a surf board and I can stand up on it and ride an occasional wave. It is more about being in the ocean for me which may or may not seem odd for a person born, raised and a 37 year resident of South Dakota. So there I was, sitting on my surfboard being less successful than usual when it hit me. I have the character designs already.

Two or three years back I had spent a few weeks sketching some little characters. The freebie art today is an early sketch of these characters. A quick look back through my sketch books and I found ‘em. There in the pages of the sketch book were the characters that I would use for these stories. But that’s not all. I found little sketches long forgotten, that had been taped to the pages. If I didn’t have my sketchbook I sketched on any medium available: newsprint , white craft paper (my guess is it was a table cloth). I found one so wrinkled it must have been in my pocket for few days before it was carefully taped to the page. Anyway, the point is I didn’t throw them out or leave them on the table to be thrown out with the napkins I squirreled them away in this sketchbook for future use. That’s why I keep my old sketch books! One day I may be able to use those other sketches I was talking about. Oooo, I just felt shudder.

BTW, these characters quickly morphed into my portly “beertenders” like the one on my banner.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


In the last week I have received two rejection letters. One letter was a form rejection and the other a personalized form rejection. The difference?

The form rejection is just as it sounds, “Dear Author, blah, blah, blah”. I know they are a necessity do to the sheer volume of submissions art directors, publishers and agents must look through on a daily basis. I am sure there are thousands of people who think they can write and illustrate children’s stories. Yep, I am one of ‘em. Also, I am assuming that in tough economic times there are even more submissions than usual. How hard can it be to write and draw pictures for a children’s story for some extra money. Yep, me again! But let me get back to rejection letters. What gets me about some of these letters is that they can be so vague that you are left with the question “Did anybody even look at this submission?” While this is frustrating it does at least put closure on a submission.

So as unpleasant as a rejection letter seems it better than “Responds only if interested.” A submission here buys you six to eight weeks submission limbo. Then in eight weeks I guess it is time for me to move on. Probably the biggest reason I don’t like these is because no one has responded because they are interested. I like a little more closure then that.

The personalized form rejection letter is nearly the same as a form rejection letter except someone has taken the time to put your name on the letter, “Dear Curtis, blah, blah, blah”. This is a big step in my opinion because it is just one more thing that an art director, publisher or agent had to did that day. I take the time to respond to those rejections by thanking the person for taking the time out of very busy day to review my work and respond to my submission. I also use this response as a mini-re-submission. I include one more piece of art with the letter that is of a different style. Has that ever enticed a second bite? I can go as far as saying that it hasn’t, yet. However, I’ve already been rejected so what does it hurt?

These rejections really haven’t slowed me down. The first one did only because it is the first rejection in about ten years but even then it was only for the afternoon. The second one came during a creative blitz (this week) while I was outlining two new stories and started the character sketches for those stories. So I really haven’t had time to dwell on the second rejection which is good. Like my Momma says “Always have the next thing going to keep you busy.” Or something like that. Maybe she will correct me if I mis-quoted. BTW it works!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Working like a Pro?

I am not sure if I am since I am not a professional illustrator, yet. Over the last 8 months I have been reading a lot of reference materials and blogs. I find the blogs particularly interesting. Generally, they get to the point with no nonsense tips without the fluff (stuff that I don’t want to read) found in many print resources.

But reading between the lines is always where the true story lies. These blogs are all written by professionals. Some are written for professionals, some are written for amateur, wannabies like me. The important message here is “dress like the position you want to hold”. I want to be a professional illustrator.

So I work every day, sometimes in a very regimented “office hours” sort of way but also whenever the bug bites me. Having my office in the garage is convenient. If a flash of inspiration hits I can get a preliminary sketch or detailed notes written right away and ready for the next day.

Treating myself as a professional, I am protective of my “office hours”. I want to work during that time. I don’t want to do the dishes, the laundry or run errands. This is my time to “work”. Sure there are things that you can’t get around but that happened when I was teaching, also.

So I am trying to work like a pro. I guess once I get something published then I can compare my wannabe and professional working habits. I do think it will be nice to get paid for the work I am doing now. Although I know that will have its own professional challenges.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Who am I?

The synopsis: Born in rural South Dakota, attended kindergarten through the 12 grade in the same building and graduated with and elementary education degree from the University of South Dakota. I wrote my first children’s story and met my wife at USD.

I got married after graduation and a year later my wife and I both landed professional jobs. I started teaching kindergarten in Sioux City, IA and my wife accepted a job at USD. I taught kindergarten in Sioux City at the same school for 14 years. In that time I wrote several stories and started illustrating them (those first illustrations are embarrassing) and occasionally I would send them off to publishers. All of those ended up as rejections and looking at those illustrations it is not hard to see why.

Around 2005 I started a master’s degree full of art classes designed to help me achieve an art endorsement for my teaching license. I spent the next five or six years honing my art style and didn’t write any new stories until this year. I learned many new printmaking techniques and learned what it means to become an artist. I had all but forgotten about those stories and was focused on becoming an art teacher when my degree was complete.

Then my wife accepted a new position at a university in Southern California. So we packed up the car and moved to Cali, California that is. Move to Cali, when the world’s third largest economy is in the toilette and the state just pink slipped 25,000 teachers? Sure, why not? So I am making the most of unemployment or “funemployment” by changing careers. Both of my kids are in school now and so I can take them to school and come back home for six hours of “work”. I say “work” because I love to draw and create so it doesn’t feel a lot like working.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Purpose

My intent for this blog is to chronicle my adventures in seeking representation and/or publication for any of my illustrations or stories. Once that happens then I can promote any published materials here. I expect that there will be many more submission (mostly magazines for now) tales than promotion, at least in the beginning. I hope that my experiences will be of some help for anyone else who may decide to travel this path.

I have a tearsheet (yes that is a word) supplement that I include with every submission but I am also creating new illustrations specific for each submission. Every now and again I will have a few illustrations already completed but for the most part I am creating anywhere from five to ten new illustrations for any given magazine submission. This serves three purposes that I can think of offhand. First, it helps to tailor a submission and shows that I have taken the time to research the kind of illustrations used in any given magazine. Secondly, I am also building my library of images that I can use for other submissions or as elements in any story. Lastly, it ensures that I am drawing everyday and it is also improving my drawing skills.

I am using Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market as the reference book to begin my searches for possible clients. It is a good place to start and helps me narrow now my searches to two categories. The first category is e-mail and the second snail mail. I am focusing on the e-mail submission first. This category is broken down into two sub-categories: attachments or links. My first priority will be magazines that accept attachments. When those submissions are finished I will respond to magazines that only accept links using my Photobucket account. Once the e-mail friendly magazines are tapped then I will move to the snail mail submissions. I am hoping to do three or four magazine submissions each week.

In between all the magazine submission I will be submitting children’s stories I have written to agents and publishers. Right now I am waiting for a response from an agent. The story is titled LOST and is a story that I wrote while I was in college. I am hopeful for that this can find an agent or a publisher because the initial reaction from this potential agent was positive. I will update on this submission more when I know more.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Well, where do I start? Being a person who has never kept a journal or diary it seems odd writing to nobody. Well, at least for the time being. I do know that I will keep today’s entry short because I have to hit the drawing board so I can finish a few new drawings and mail off a submission.

I will try to upload a clip art item with each entry that will be free for private use but cannot be used for public or commercial use without permission. I only ask that if you use any of my images please help me promote this blog by linking to it on any of your preferred social networking site(s).

Have a great day.