Sunday, December 30, 2012

Careful What You Wish For...

I received PS CS6 from my DAD for Christmas. YAY ME!!!! (well)...actually, I kind of wanted to cry.  It is going to take me a while to get my head back on straight.  You see, I've been working with Photoshop Elements 8 on a Bamboo Fun tablet for the last two years.

It took me that long to learn it and accumulate a set of brushes I loved and knew how to work. My style was really coming along.

Today, I updated my tablet drivers & installed CS6...and tried and failed to load my brush set.  Oh, they load.  They just don't stay...and when I use them they react differently.  Way differently...

Now I am all confused...and trying to get my setups the way I like them and figuring out what does what, and really, REALLY wishing I had a manual.

So, here is a little guy I practiced on. Change is scary!

Friday, December 14, 2012

2013 Tomie dePaola Award Entry - Tom Sawyer

Trust me!  It was just like birth'n a baby.
Wish I had the energy to say more about it other than "IT's HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I have to admit I am beaming like a proud mama.  Just a bit.

I knew I couldn't fail myself again by not rising up to this year's challenge.  I've watched from the sidelines for the last two.  And, boy, did Tomie dePaola ever throw me for a loop.  We had three titles to choose from:  "The Yearling," "Little Women," and "Tom Sawyer."  AND it had to be completed in black & white.  (Have I told you that I stink at working with values?)

I picked the title I felt worked best with my personality and style - and wouldn't make me sob like a blubbering idiot when it came to selecting my passage.  So - TOM SAWYER it was.

I had my thirteen year old dog-ear passages she thought met my next set of criteria: movement & humor.

As is my way I THOUGHT about composition a lot once the passage was selected.  As I thought I worked on PiBoIdMo ideas during November, I had a crisis of style that month too. I wrote a mission statement and adamantly researched vintage/retro children's books to remind myself of what I loved most about illustrated picture books.  I started do draw without references other than my own mind's eye...and I stopped apologizing about how I drew or wondering 'is this right?'

I honed my paint palette to vintage Sears paint colors, I winnowed my Photoshop brushes to only the few I used constantly, I OWNED my angled shapes, I started to doubt myself less, I started to HAVE FUN!!!!!  I knew instantly when the composition didn't click and I began to make intuitive changes.  I also allowed imperfect bobbles slide...

I may not win, but feel like I've already WON the biggest award of all...breaking through what has been holding me back - myself.

There are lots fantastic entries this year.  Check them out at the Unofficial Gallery of the Tomie dePaola Award 2013

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Procrastination Never Pays...

HA!!! I am so stressed about getting my entry completed for the Tomie dePaola Illustration Contest that I find myself doing things like this as I work into the wee-wee hours of the morning (after my 9-5)...

and asking myself questions like: "Does midnight Pacific time on the 14th mean, like, one minute after 11:59 pm on the 13th?  Or, does it mean no later than 11:59 pm on the 14th?  Oh, wait.  Pacific time...*runs off to Google the time difference between EST and Pacific because she thinks it is 4 hours, but...* Ok, so does that mean no later than 4 AM on the 14th EST or ..."

You see??????  Stress ball.  At 1 AM this morning I discovered that the noses and hands of three individuals had all magically shifted, so the hunt was on through 100MB of layers to find where the errant appendages had been misplaced.

Here was my progress onWednesday night - last night I added a guy, two girls, one cat, a wig and half a man.  His other half is all I have left to go.  Oh, and somehow getting this beast condensed down to a 5MB file.

The final is supposed to be in black & white, but I struggle with values so it has been easier for me to paint in color and then convert.

Are ya wondering, yet, what passage I chose?
(I am so wishing I had started this months ago)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tom - Progress Report

The entry is DUE by midnight on the 14th.  Let's see....little less than 5 days and counting.  I've gotta get this finished in my after 9-5 spare time.  *pshaw*  Not a problem.  So here is a sneak peek at the rough composition (leaving out the important parts - don't want to give it all away) & how I am rendering the image in black and white.  (I am cheating. Painting in color and then converting the image to b&w).  Great thing about last minute work - you don't have the time to sweat (stress over) the details.

Any hoo...that is where I am at with this thing.

PS - I think onion head man is my favorite character to date.  Although, Gibson girl is close behind.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Slow And Steady Wins The...


Hold Everything!  Who said this was a race?  *zeesh*  Art, like life, is a journey.  And I am frigging going to learn how to enjoy it!!!  If people don't like my path, my choices, the way I draw my lines, than tough 

I am going to do art MY WAY!!!!!
(here are some sketches I've been working on for the Tomi dePaola SCBWI contest *due in 11 days :)*)

I am drawing daily, slowly and steadily, because that is just how I do things.  I am a processor...and a very messy sketcher.
I am going to finish my Christmas card this year.
I am going to complete (2) very special commissions for a friend who has been waiting patiently, since August, for me to get my head out of my rump.
I am going to enter in the 4th Annual Regional SCBWI-Carolinas Art Contest *due Feb. 28*
In 2013 I am going to complete a weekly 'Mug Shot' portrait.
I am going to take one of the 32 PiBoIdMo ideas I generated in November and turn it into a picture book dummy!!!
*I officially get to post this 'Winning' image by Ward Jenkins*

Yep! I am a winner simply by participating and completing a goal.
And, by the list of things, it looks like I have many more winning moments in store.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#SkADaMo - Day 27

Hard to believe there are only 3 days left in November.  Even harder to believe - I have 28 PiBoIdMo picture book ideas jotted down in my handy-dandy notebook.  Some are even viable and exciting.

The big surprise in this monthly exercise has been SkADaMo. I didn't DO a sketch a day.  I was traumatized, paralyzed, caught up in the nonsense going on in my head.  Thinking TOO MUCH sucks the life out of a drawing. Don't you agree?

Amazingly, the PiBoIdMo guest bloggers inspired me tremendously, especially the following:
Kelly Light - day 9
Melissa Sweet - day 27
Ward Jenkins - day 26
James Burks - day 5
Robert Weinstock - day 2

Their stories about the guts and glory of this industry reminded of a quote I heard recently,"Sometimes you just need to do the work in order to find the results."  The amazing people who inspired me, above, were willing to: do the work, let go of perfectionism, have fun, own their unique voice, observe, not make excuses, and NOT LET GO OF THE DREAM!!!!!

I also need to thank the other amazing PiBoIdMo & SkADaMo participants.  Some of you even reached out when I went MIA for several days and that meant the world to me.  What a rich and amazing community we are.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

#SkADaMo - Day 25

I think this might end up being my Christmas card. Turned out a bit different than what I had in my head. That's okay. Maybe my heart felt something else needed to be said. Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#SkADaMo - Day 12

Good, bad, or ugly the sketches are going up.  I committed to the daily doodle, so *dagnabit* I am gonna do it.  I haven't posted many of the others because the self-deprecating-defeatist in me has said, 'they ain't good enough'. That kind of defeats the purpose of this month long exercise, though, doesn't it?

So here is little Johnny.

Friday, November 9, 2012

#PiBoIdMo & #SkADaMo Week 1 - Mad Woman On A Mission

Ask my family. I go through change kicking and screaming. Change is good. I get that.  If you aren't changing, you aren't growing.  If you aren't growing, well, then you are dying on the vine.  I get it, I get it, I get it...but I still hate going through the process.

This year's SCBWI-Carolinas conference left me clinging to the tee-tiniest little tendril on that vine.  I'd felt like I'd grown so much!  I thought I had my big girl panties on when I sat down for my portfolio review with that AD from that publishing house.  Little did I know I was gonna need a diaper by the time she was through with my work.  I wanted to go crawl in a hole.

How could this be?  Didn't I just win Third Place in this year's regional art contest?  Wasn't I proud of the work in my portfolio?  Weren't friends going ooooo-ahhhh when I posted pieces on Facebook and my blog?

Then came the agent rejections: "Although I like your children's faces I feel like the true Jennifer Bower style is still emerging.  Work on being more consistent with your characters."

And another: "Your work is nice but you appear to have several different random and haphazard styles going on. I don't really get a sense of who YOU ARE as an illustrator....................................."

So what does all of this have to do with the month of November and PiBoIdMo and SkADaMo. Writing and Illustrating are more than just about writing and drawing - but about problem solving.  This first week of participating in both challenges made me realize - I am my own problem.  As I drew daily from the PB ideas I'd written down I saw for the first time what others, in the industry, were seeing.  A SCHIZOPHRENIC STYLE!!!!!!

I had 7 days of sketches that all looked like they had been done by a different hand.  How does that happen???  I'd worked for HOURS on that horse, only minutes on the zebra, the magical golf playing princess looked like my alter-ego took over that day, and the pink firetruck at the county fair looked like I had regressed back to age 3.

I realized something...

In my race to finish - to get to that prized goal of 'full-time freelance illustrator' status I had not taken the proper time to really know me & exercise my own style of illustrating, in private, before plastering it out for all the world to see.  I've been like a middle schooler in PE trying out for every sport with a ball...only I was trying on every style of illustrating that I loved and admired in others.

So in my PiBoIdMo notebook along my scribbles and doodles I found myself writing notes. They look something like this:
1. Loves nostalgia.
2. Loves rural life.
3. Has always felt like she was born decades too soon.
4. Could live in cowboy boots if you let her.
5. Has loved more pets than people.
6. Loves watching people.
7. Has a potty mouth and a wicked sense of humor.
8. Is a very linear processor and thinker.
9. Loves asymmetrical order.
10. Is easily overwhelmed by too many choices in the deodorant aisle.
11. I am a minimalist by nature and hate knick knacks.
12. I am an introvert with a huge case of social anxiety.
13. I get too caught up in the abnormal need for affirmation from my peers...and influence by too many voices other than my own.
14. Loves old b/w movies.
15. Loves anything from the 1930-50s.

In a few simple bullet points I saw the makings of a mission statement.  By writing out the mission statement I suddenly realized I had a FORMULA to follow based on my 'passions' and my 'strengths.'  I knew with clarity how I wanted my lines to look.

AND THEN I GOT EXCITED!!!!!! And then I drew THIS...

That's 'Red', the Irish Setter my Dad had as a kid. *pets*  He has been talking to my 13 year old a lot about growing up in the 1950s. *nostalgia* I love the simplicity in this small composition at the bottom of my Moleskin notebook. *minimalism* I love the stylized geometry of shapes. *linear/asymmetrical* - [do ya'll see where I am going here?]

From my list I am able to clearly see the direction I want my work to head and begin to build the resources I need to help me succeed.  Here are some of this things I am doing (or have done):
1. Pick a singular color palette and stick to it.  I've chosen 'Atomic Age' colors based on my passion for Mid Century Modern illustration, Vintage Golden Books and the colors I tend to pick anyway. I just narrowed down the palette.
2. Deleted the last three years worth of blog posts. WHY? Remember, I don't like clutter. I need a clean slate. I need to move forward. Those posts of trial and error were like dust bunnies lurking in the corner. They embarrassed me in some weird way.  I felt the need to clean house and say, 'See. I am no longer neurotic."
3. I wrote a NEW 'About Me' statement based on my mission statements & I changed my name.  Jenn Bower.  Succinct and to the point.  Easy to remember. Easy to find.  Affirmative. Next year my website name will follow.
4. I am taking my time with my sketches because that is how I roll.  I am a processor and sloppy copies just don't work as well for me.  They make me feel too out of control.
5. I deleted out a lot of my online accounts.  What the hell is an introvert with social anxiety and an incessant need for affirmation doing with all of those online accounts anyway????  Not enough drawing, for sure.
6. I wiped out my portfolio of everything that I had even a 1% doubt about.  They are not time wasted but tenure earned in the process of creating my style.  I've learned a lot of what I am NOT ABOUT through their trial and error.

and finally,

7. I am not giving up.

*I promise that this is my last long-winded post, ever*

Monday, November 5, 2012

IF - Shy

Macchiato Maurice © Jenn Bower. All Rights Reserved.

Maurice was never SHY about ordering his Venti Macchiato, until he discovered it wasn't really pronounced (Mack-Chi-Ah-To).  Now he knew why the Barista never marked his caffe with a milky heart but, rather, a tiny little fig leaf.

(From my new Mug Shots - People of the Coffee Shops series. I hope you will follow along weekly.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stinky Cheese Souffle - Sketch

I don't know.  A smart talking, stinky cheese souffle made sense to me at the time.  Or, maybe it was an attempt at muzzling my kid who always complains about my cooking?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Zombie Mom - sketch

A quick doodle while waiting for my daughter's basketball practice to end.
She looks like this when she wakes up; I swear!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sketchbook Dump 10-11-12

 The biggest a-has from this year's SCBWI-Carolinas Conference, for me, were:
1.  Sketch more!!!!!!! Do it daily.
2.  Sketch what you love, the way you love to sketch it.
3.  Make the characters your own (translation: see the hippo, elephant, kid, your way & commit them to paper)
4.  Be willing to make mistakes.  That is how you grow as an artist.
5.  Know your characters FIRST, then create the image.
6.  Don't worry about where any of this just never know where the sketching process will take you.

All of this was such a liberating breakthrough for me.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hippo. Birdy.
(and, you guessed it) Two Ewes. (coming soon)
Just because.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Cover Story - "Conversations With S. Teri O'Type"

This week Conversations With S. Teri O'Type, by Christopher Allen, goes live on I am so thrilled to be the illustrator chosen for the cover.

Admittedly, I did have an 'in.'  Christopher has watched me show my butt and bare my soul on the inter-webs, since 2007, when we met in an online critic group.  His words captivated!  They made me feel - something, often times keenly.  My poetry touched on the inane, but he saw through to the fragile vulnerability, and somehow we forged a bond. So when I launched into illustration, Christopher was there as my biggest fan.  He believes in me the way I believe in him.

His writing is flecked with pure pulses of candor, humor, self-deprecation, and a nutshell, he writes what many of us are thinking, when it comes to one another and to ourselves - we are invited in, like a fly on the wall, to the neuroses that flaw us all and motivate us toward the most satirical living.

I wish this book Good Luck and God Speed!  I know the author is so deserving of the greatest success!!!  Christopher Allen is the great modern voice of our generation and I am honored to have my work hug his words into perpetuity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

IF: Tall

“If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” ~ T.S. Eliot

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Working...working...working on style and technique as I prep for the SCBWI-Carolinas Regional Conference in September.

I am just LOVING what I am doing and hoping it shows!  What are you working on?  Feel free to share with me your link.  I try to keep up, but an woefully behind.

Monday, July 2, 2012

IF: Refresh

“Rest when you're weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.” Ralph Marston

(used with object)

1. to provide new vigor and energy by rest, food, etc. (often used reflexively).
2. to stimulate (the memory).
3. to make fresh again; reinvigorate or cheer (a person, the mind, spirits, etc.).
4. to freshen in appearance, color, etc., as by a restorative.
I miss my dog; and my grandmother who handmade her own braided rugs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Love & Loss

Roady Rufus Rafiki Bower - 8/28/2004 - 05/22/2012

I cannot find the words to describe the depths of love & devotion I had for this wonderful dog.  I am heart broken.  Thank you, my friend, for the last 7 years and most especially 9 months of your life.

"One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved." No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail." ~ The Last Will & Testament of Silverdene Emblem O'Neill