The harvest is mostly the typical Thanksgiving spread. Pumpkins, apples, corn, mushrooms, grapes, a warm pie, leek soup, mashed potatoes, and the Utah favorite, Jello.
I imagine a young child asleep at the dinner table as curious critters gather around to see what is happening or perhaps join the feast.
Whether it is real or dreamed up by the sleeping boy, to me, it represents our connection with the natural world, with the places we live, the animals we share it with, and the foods we eat.
On this coloring page, there are no barriers between us and the natural world. I think that is a Thanksgiving image that is worth saving and remembering.
There are many different Thanksgiving narratives, personal and historical. Learning about them, even those very different from yours, adds nuance to the world.
There is a beautiful article in Time about alternate Thanksgiving narratives that I'd like to share with you. Follow the link here.
Sketch spots for every character in as many poses, actions, and circumstances as you can think up. Since sketching twelve or so spreads is an intimidating task, it helps to break them down into many smaller sketches.
Organize the spots across your dummy. You've already established the order and cadence of the story during the "text dummy" stage.
I usually have so many spots that I don't use them all, but they can be combined with other sketches or used in the background.
At this point, sketch around the spots, leaving some as-is, and decide which will be full-page illustrations or spreads.
3 Tips to Quickly Finish Your Picture Book Dummy
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My notes from the classes I took at SVS Learn state, "your style is the sum of your influences."
Just like Legion, the larger your pool of influences is, the greater your originality and variety. So I think it is helpful to recognize and identify them. Then build off them.
"What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original." -Austin Kleon (Writer and Artist)
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The original image uses an abstract watercolor painting for the background and translucent digital colors for the vampire.
The classic horror film, The Shining, makes for a unique children's coloring page. This scene is iconic and powerful. I love it.
Literary and film traditions, rather than generational beliefs, customs, or folklore, inform American Halloween aesthetics. As a result, Halloween in the United States is constantly evolving.
I chose to use Princess Langwidre for this illustration because the Wizard of OZ is the oldest and most recognized American Fairytale.
Omen Black cats are one of the only omens that affect me. I can't help but notice when a black cat crosses my path. However, I see it as a good omen because black cats are adorable.
The original background was painted by my 5-yr old. I applied digital linework and color over the top.
If you are interested in coloring these pages on your iPad or tablet, download the JPEG so you can import them into Procreate or other apps that do not recognize PDFs. You can color underneath the linework by setting the JPEG to a "multiply layer" and coloring on a new layer. If you are printing them out, you may get a higher quality print if you download the PDF.
I take this same approach when I am critiquing or studying some else's work. It is challenging to keep a critical eye when everything moves through you at once.
Here is an example of a Focused Draft list by Jack Gantos, from his book, Writing Radar:
We Are Water Protectors is a non-narrative story. A call-to-action to stop the Dakota Pipleline. But instead of calling the pipeline by its name, Carole calls back to Indigenous folklore and refers to the pipeline by a metaphor, the "black snake." The illustrations help make the connection.
Imagine if she had chosen a more literal direction. It would have significantly less impact on the reader. The cultural imagery is a window into the ways indigenous people develop a connection with nature through stories. Now, the audience can also interact with the story and develop a connection with the cause as well.
"Words are the model, words are the tools, words are the boards, words are the nails."
Consider every word choice carefully, with intention, keeping a goal in mind. What is the purpose of your story? What kind of structure is best suited for the purpose? And finally, what words will best support the purpose?
When you step outside your comfort zone, getting stuck is inevitable. In that situation, it can be challenging to see the forest through the trees, as they say, and you may need someone who is in a position to know where you are at from the 300-foot level and point you in the right direction.
This kind of mentorship, a one-on-one learning model, is probably ideal for every creative person, but it is also tough to find outside of grade school and university. However, that does not mean that you have no other options.
In Real Artists Don't Starve, Jeff Goins challenges common stereotypes. He argues,
"Isolated individuals are not creative. That is not how creativity works."
Creative genius happens in groups. So connect with your peers in a collaborative, non-exploitative way.
Here are a few ways you can collaborate with your peers:
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Not everyone agrees with this approach. In Writing Magic, Gail Carson Levine says that she doesn't have many story ideas. She preaches,
"You don't have to have lots of ideas to be a writer."
Ideas are not precious, so if you are not the kind of person to whom inspiration comes easily, there is no need to worry.
The craft is more important, so is consistency, dedication, and habit. With good craftsmanship, you can make any idea a masterpiece. With routine, you can complete your project and develop skills along the way.
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When I first developed the style I used for my coloring pages, I was in a funk. And so I wanted to return to childhood creativity. Return to freedom and exploration.
And I was going to do it by restricting myself in every way possible.
The only way I could find the freedom to explore was to remove my tendency to sketch, erase, and correct. As I grew and developed my art, the strategies I learned also caused me to agonize over perfection I could never reach. So I restricted myself to a pen, a single page, and no preparation, setup, or references of any kind.
I felt good about it, better than I'd felt in a long time about my art. So I decided to explore it again. The result was a series of coloring pages that sprawl out across the entire page.
I see fantasy maps as a potential influence. I have been obsessed with them since childhood. Next, I see Benjamin Chaud, although he did not directly influence these pieces and some old Russian artists from children's literature that I can no longer name.
Childhood is that state which ends the moment a puddle is first viewed as an obstacle instead of an opportunity." -Kathy Williams
The key to developing a style is to stop worrying about getting things perfect. I know that advice sounds a bit enigmatic, but in practice, it means that you have reached your destination already, and now you must use the tools you have at your disposal to create. What comes out is truly you, the sum of your experiences, practice, and taste.
I also stand by the concept that style is developed naturally without any effort at all. You create it over time in an effort to convey meaningful ideas as clearly as possible.
Good luck on your journey.
If you are interested in taking home a piece of this style for yourself, buy my unique printable coloring pages.
Picture books are a great place to learn because children can gather information about the tone from textual and visual clues. Here is how you can convey tone through illustration:
There is an opportunity to use illustrations to teach children tone and build their reading comprehension. In turn, these steps will help you develop your story in powerful ways.
Hi, my name is Cory Shaw. I am an author and illustrator of books and book covers for children.
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