Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Listen to the Pros - Going Back to Art School

Last week was back-to-school week for me. I was a bit nervous, but am now feeling pretty darn fine about making the decision. I was able to sign up for Beginning Illustration at Montclair State University. My classmates are all undergraduates and, I think, all are art majors. Following our first critique yesterday, I am feeling okay. The first assignment was a self portrait that told something about the artist. There was an abundance of anxiety attached to that assignment. I've never been great at drawing faces and was very nervous about doing this, not having a clue what anyone else was capable of.

My portrait illustrates me peeking into a new world of art and illustration. It includes books, drawing pencils and my slightly-off balance jackalope. The exercise was very useful in starting to get a handle on value. It helped me remember that composition is very important, and that I didn't pay enough attention to it the first time around, when I was an undergrad art major.

I am incredibly impressed by the technical skills of several of my classmates. Many of them have a firm grip on design which I hope to emulate. I am learning about value: light and darkness. It is amazing to me how changes in value can change a picture.

The next assignment was to draw an egg, from two different view points and on two different surfaces: one light, one dark. It's very challenging.  I've learned it's a good idea to take photos and turn them into black and white. I never realized before how different color is from value. I am learning a lot. Our professor, Scott Gordley, is giving us interesting assignments and providing useful feedback that helps us all to improve our work.

The egg project is very challenging, because we are responsible for making an interesting composition, as well as creating a technically precise likeness. Looking at eggs with strong lighting is interesting, as you end up with part of the egg being almost black.

I am learning many new ways of changing value. Spots and dots, lines and cross-hatching, shading and contrast. Still work to do on both pictures, but feeling pretty good about them.

While I am excited about what I am learning in my Illustration class, I'm spending a lot of time on other projects as well. Lots of family history things going on. Hopefully in the next month or two I can make time to get back to the writing part of my children's book.

I need to find an agent. If you know someone who works in the arena of children's picture books, please send me names. I'd prefer someone in the New York area if possible. Message me on LinkedIn or email me at

Looking forward to touching base with you again soon, but need to get back to my homework.