Saturday, 7 December 2013

Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse 2013

Last week, together with my sister, I visited Children's Book Fair in Montreuil. In this post, I'm sharing some photos I took on the last day of our three-day trip. The first day we spent wandering around the book stands spread over two floors of the building. It was crowded and buzzing with kids, but the range of books was fabulous.

Next day, we finally discovered the ground floor with a stunning display of illustrated superheroes observing visitors from all corners of the hall. That day was also dedicated to meeting several French publishers and showing our portfolios on scheduled meetings. It was a great first time experience for both of us.

In the evening, we attended a private view of the exhibition with student books from the European competition "A Picture Book for Tomorrow". Our collaborative book "TWO" was among the 24 projects which were selected. Below is a photo of it. The top row displayed the three winning books.

 Some of my favourites from the Superheroes exhibition:

The stands were very bright and colourful with loads of beautiful books:

You can find more pictures of the exhibition and the fair on Margarita's blog. Thanks for reading!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Gesture Drawing

I'm enjoying my vacation and having a good rest after my graduation. Here are my current thoughts about the willingness to continue studying and learning new things. I feel that there's lots of things I can improve upon. I need to come back to observation from life and master gesture drawing.

I realized the value of gesture drawing only this year, after I read Walt Stanchfield's notes on it. Everything in life has gesture to it, even still objects. Gesture expresses movement and feeling and that's why it's so important in animation. Animators capture character and emotion so well. Anatomy can aid in understanding action but gesture helps tell a story. Here are my 10 favourite bits of advice from this great Disney animator:

Draw ideas, not things; action, not poses; gestures not anatomical structures.
We learn drawing by studying parts; we practice drawing by assembling those parts into a meaningful whole.”  
Drawing is really your reaction to life—to the bits of life you are sketching. It is not merely a collection of parts being put down on paper.     
What is a pose or gesture but an orderly arrangement of body parts to display a mood, demeanor, attitude, mannerism, expression, emotion—whatever. 
A sure way to keep from making static, lifeless drawings is to think of drawing “verbs” instead of “nouns.”    

Most important to the success of a drawing is that first impression. If it is perceived wrongly, the preliminary sketch will be off and all the work put in it from then on will be a waste. 
Using a touch of story in your drawings can quicken them into life—like zapping them with a magic wand.   
Everything on the drawing is there to help stress the story. Every line drawn should help direct the eye to the theme.  
What is going to make an artist out of you is a combination of a few basic facts about the body, a few basic principles of drawing and an extensive, obsessive desire and urge to express your feelings and impressions. ”
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.”   

I started practising quick sketching and created a Tumblr blog for that. Last month, I visited a couple of zoos and tried sketching live animals. You can see a few examples above. It was challenging but I can't wait for my next visit to a zoo. I'm also watching online live cameras, videos, documentaries, reading books on animal drawing and analyzing animals in motion. I'm trying to carry a sketchbook whenever I can and be ready to sketch.

Nature is so rich and surprising and there's so much to learn about it. It feels like the imaginary creatures you create can actually live somewhere and are yet to be discovered. There are so many amazing species people don't know about. We are so used to seeing the same animals in picture books and animation that we don't appreciate other types of animals, those that are unusual and mysterious both in their looks and behaviour. Such an inspiration for artists!

Here's a video of the world's smallest endangered deer species - Pudu. Please enjoy!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Final BA Project + Graduation

So I graduated from Vilnius Academy of Art! I'm enjoying my free time and reflecting upon these past four years. I'm glad I didn't go crazy because it was definitely not easy. The presentation of my picture book went quite smoothly. I got a positive feedback, which really boosted my confidence since I didn't know what to expect. I know it was hard for somebody who didn't follow my creative process to evaluate my project, but I'm glad it made an impression and evoked various emotions.

This project is published on Behance if you want to see the whole story. I'm sharing some photos in here as well. It was a challenge to work with such a big format as I cut and bound the book myself. I printed and cut out three characters to stick on a white wall behind my book. It was quite a contrast to my small original sketches, but it's interesting to see your characters grow big. I think the white space around them echoes my book, which was made larger with that purpose in mind.

Now I'm trying to make an English version of my book so more people can understand and appreciate the story. This will be a challenge because translation changes some compositions and the rhyme of the text. Anyways, it's worth giving it a try and improve on working with the text.

It's hard to believe my studies at the art academy are over. All in all, it was a useful experience. Quite a change after studying traditional painting for two years in the US! I'd like to share my art progress someday, but it'll take time to reflect upon these twenty or so years. The art academy offered different printmaking techniques, academic drawing and book art. I also began painting in ink, which I haven't tried before. I went to the UK and studied illustration as an Erasmus exchange student. I rediscovered my passion for children's books again since I was into novels and comics as a teen.

The last year at the art academy was challenging and impressive. Two very different finished picture books in eight months! The first was created in collaboration with my sister and the last one is an authorial picture book. I'm so glad I challenged myself because now I'll have more confidence in being the writer and illustrator at the same time. This was my dream when I was about twelve. There's still a way to go for my books to get published...

I have to work on my storytelling techniques and storyboarding. I'll try to update my blog more often. By the end of summer, I want to be prepared for my postgraduate studies in children's book illustration. I'll be moving to the UK, Cambridge, where I took the children's book illustration summer course a year ago. I really enjoyed it and will make a post about it soon. Hopefully, these studies will be a huge step forward in my career as a picture book artist. I need to work harder!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Final BA Project week 17

It's already summer! Spring was so late and so quick. A few more days left to end my final project at the art academy. I'll take some photos of my graduation show on Tuesday. Before that, I need to make some conclusions about my creative process so I can talk about it during the presentation. Here's an overview of the story development during these four busy months.

Below you can see how my story begins. I'll show the rest of my finished spreads next week.

The author was creating an extraordinary story, but forgot something very important. The main character was missing! What?! How on earth would someone forget something so important? It seems that everything is possible in the creative process. The author started looking for the main character for his story. However, none of the creatures he met was suitable and even worse, they were haunting and annoying him. Did the author give up on his search? He definitely lost his patience at the end. Ironically, rejected characters became part of the author's story, which eventually turns out to be about himself. What a discovery!

But the journey doesn't end here since imagination plays a huge role in my book. The reader is welcome to interpret the story as he wants. There are a lot of questions and no obvious answers. The main character is mysterious. There's not a single word in the book describing him. The author describes the characters he meets but we can only guess what they are thinking as they don't speak. We don't know much about the author, but he's the one telling his story to the reader so we follow him along not knowing what to expect. That's exactly how I felt when I was creating this story.

The initial idea for this project was an action sequence with contrasting and interacting characters in a form of a concertina book. I was thinking in adjectives such as big/small, loud/silent, quick/slow. I also had an idea for a character alphabet, but soon abandoned it due to its restrictive educational purpose. I also didn't want to limit my audience to little kids. I aimed at creating unique characters and enjoying the creative process. I understood that it's better to leave more questions and space for imagination than give away all the answers. My thoughts struggled with my feelings, just like the author did with the random characters. I had to embrace uncertainty and use it to my advantage.

While the random spontaneous characters were easy to make, the character of the author was very hard to create. First of all he's invisible like most narrators are and we can only hear what he's saying. At the beginning, he had an arrogant attitude and was complaining directly to the characters how bad they are. I had an image of  a character from my previous book to visualize him. At one point, I even used him surrounded by all the characters in a huge final spread. This spread was eliminated when I decided I won't use the same characters twice in my book. It only had twelve spreads without the title page so each one had to be unique. I also didn't want my story to end with an obvious answer so this idea was rejected.

Hey, I wanted to be the main character!

 Doesn't look like you belong here...

The author's speech changed the most during all this time. Adjectives changed into verbs to describe specific action and relate to the author, for example, the creatures ate his thoughts, followed him, stared at him and surrounded him. I even rhymed some of them to emphasize repetition. I explained my progress with typography in the previous post. It was a really long and frustrating process, but in the end I realized that I needed something more playful and expressive and hand-writing was closer to drawing experience. 

The main theme of my book is the analysis of creative process, which is a collaboration between thoughts and feelings. It is such a unique experience. It is not something you can repeat again and again. Every time the creative journey is different and unpredictable. There is so much to it that it can't fit in a single book. The main character is found only in the reader's imagination. The book was supposed to challenge thinking, encourage reflection and inspire to experiment.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Final BA Project week 11-16

I'm back and my book is already sent for printing! What a long and unpredictable journey it was.

I was struggling at the end finding the right words to tell my story and expressing my own voice. I'm not a master at typography so this explains why I was so slow with this part of my book. Although I liked the contrast of digital text and traditionally painted illustrations, I felt like it was restricting my self-expression. So I took a water-brush and spent a whole week writing verbs in each spread to express specific action. I also used coloured ink so it turned out to be more playful.

Below is an example of my progression with typography on a single spread from my book. I kept changing sizes, typefaces, compositions and words until I found the right solution for it.

I only had a week to work on my handwritten words before sending my book to print. It was both stressful and enjoyable at the same time!


I felt so overwhelmed by the typography at one point, I didn't draw for quite a long time. Fortunately, I'm coming back to sketching again. Here are some random characters from my sketchbook. I used a couple of them in my picture book.



My final BA project is not over yet, so there will be more updates later on, including finished spreads from my book and some reflection on my story. Thanks for waiting!