Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Picture Book Experiment Post 7--Progress Report

There isn't a picture for today's post, just a quick progress report before I get back to working on the text of the picture book.  I've got a rough draft of the layout put together in an MS Word template with a good idea of what the pictures will show, though I don't like a couple of them and want to replace them.  Anyway, I know what the general shape of the plot is and some of the pictures are finished, but the text is mostly still in my head at this point. Several of the pictures need to be edited, and a couple of them have not been taken yet because I'm still hunting for the right props (I should probably write a post about props, but I think I'll wait until I've found the ones I'm looking for so I can show a picture of them).  So, there's still a lot of work to be done, but I have a plan and am working on it. Keep an eye out for further news!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Picture Book Experiment Post 6--Neon the Baby Toy

All right, I admit that I was a bit strapped for something to blog about this weekend--so I went through the pictures on my cell phone and pulled out a few of Neon being played with by the baby. These were taken the day after I made her, while we were on vacation. The baby was somewhere around three and a half months old....  It's really funny how much he likes her (I think it's the bright colors).  Anyway, whenever he sees Neon he tries really hard to get hold of her, but he's usually not too interested in Jewel (not as bright).  These photos prove that the pipe cleaner mermaid was originally intended to be a toy--the picture book idea came a little later, once I'd also made the fairy and was amused by the contrast between the two.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Picture Book Experiment Post 5--Water and Photo Retakes

I did say that I was adding water to some of these pictures, didn't I?  Anyway, here's an example of a picture I had to retake.  The first one looked fine until I actually added the water, at which point I discovered that there was no good place to put the waterline.  There was also an annoying leaf right under the mermaid's hand that I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed earlier. So, I retook it a few inches away with a tree root to serve as the boundary between land and water. It looks a bit bleak without the grass, though....  At the moment I'm wondering if I should retake the retake. 

Adding the water is a fairly straightforward process, though it can get a little fiddly if there are a lot of places where there's something sticking out of it. Some sort of layer-capable photo editing software is essential. I'm using Photoshop 7, which is pretty obsolete but is the best I've got. Did I mention that I have no budget for this project? There's something to be said for old tools that you know how to use, though. And the result is never going to look strictly realistic anyway, not with the people made out of pipe cleaners, so I'm not too focused on using all the fancy buttons in the graphics program.  Photoshop 7 is probably capable of more realism than I'm asking it for at the moment.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Topeka's Community Novel Project

Well, there's no picture for this post, but here's a link: http://tscpl.org/community-novel/

The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library's web site just posted the last chapter of this year's community novel!  I don't live in Topeka, but I did help my mom as her coauthor on Chapter 14--I happened to be visiting her the week it was her turn to write, and her previous coauthor (my grandma) was in a different state. It sounded fun, so I jumped at the chance to participate.

Our chapter is far enough into the story that it probably wouldn't make sense to read it by itself, but the rest of the novel is also fun.  My best personal contribution is probably Tyler's hat....

It's been tough getting any time to work on anything this week; the baby's been particular fussy. As my grandpa always says, "We're off like a herd of turtles!" But everyone knows that the turtle always wins.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Picture Book Experiment Post 4--Photo Editing: Backgrounds

Here's an example of what I mean by editing backgrounds.... That isn't all that I've done to this particular shot, but it's a good topic to focus on for the moment. Neon and Jewel are fantasy characters, and it looks a bit odd to see them just hanging out in a hedge in front of a normal building. Here's the original, unedited version of this picture:

See what I mean?  Even my particularly potent "suspension of disbelief" won't let me pretend this is a natural habitat for a mermaid and a fairy.  (Well, a more domestic sort of fairy, maybe, but I'm aiming for something a bit wilder than that.)  I don't want thoughts of "What building is that?" to intrude on my story-telling. And that means that I need to edit it out and replace it with something more natural. (I also need to blend the two photos together as well as I can, which I admit still needs work in this particular instance.) The photo I used for this picture's background was pulled from publicphoto.org--I have essentially no budget for this project, so it's great to have free stock photos, and there are some nice ones in that collection.  I'll probably try a few more different backgrounds before I settle on one for this picture, but the example will give you the general idea.  I'm still looking for something more... woodsy.

Edit:  Here we go, it's woodsy now.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Picture Book Experiment Post 3--Impossible Friends Working Title

I've got a working title now, and at least a draft of a front cover--I would appreciate any feedback on either.  Would you pick this up and look at it if you saw it in a store?  It's going to be available online, but of course it should be as close as I can get it to the quality of a book in a store.  I'm still working hard on the pictures and starting on the text--it's the reverse of what I would have expected, but it seems to be working for me to illustrate first and write afterward. Obviously I started with an idea of what the story was about, but the details are coming into focus as I take the characters out into the world and photograph them.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Picture Book Experiment Post 2--Taking Photos

I went out to get a few more photos of Neon and Jewel today--this is the first time I was actually caught in the act, by a neighbor walking her dog. She said they were cute and chatted for a couple of minutes before the dog pulled her away. I must admit that I felt slightly awkward as a grown woman walking around outside and photographing what is pretty much a couple of dolls, but hey, at least I do have an explanation for it (I have been known to do stuff like that without an explanation, not too many years ago). I'm having a bit of trouble getting the photos I want when the lighting is just right--taking photos requires having my husband home to watch the baby, since I'm not quite talented or experienced enough to hold a camera steady with a squirming baby in the other arm. (And that leaves out the need for both hands to pose the characters in the first place.) That means that several of the photos from today were unfortunately retakes of pictures that I'd already examined on the computer and decided didn't quite work. This particular photo is one that is kind of cute but I'm fairly sure I won't use in the book.  Neon and Jewel do other things besides sitting around in hedges, I promise, and eventually I'll post something to prove it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Picture Book Experiment Post 1--Meet Jewel and Neon

I am planning to create a picture book. By "create" I mean that I am going to write, illustrate,  design, format, and publish it myself.  I'm not going to get into a treatise on the relative merits of self-publishing, but that method does seem to fit this particular project--it's a rather experimental sort of picture book. Anyway, this blog seems like the perfect place to document the process, so I'll finally have a good reason to provide at least semi-regular updates. For the first post on the subject, I would like to present (drumroll, please--oh, wait, I posted the picture above the text, didn't I?) Jewel the fairy and Neon the mermaid, the main characters in my picture book-in-progress. They are made out of pipe cleaners. I know that's a rather unorthodox art style to use for illustrations, but, hey, it's what I'm good at and I have an idea. They're also pose-able, which streamlines the process quite a bit. It does, however, require a certain amount of photo-manipulation any time I need to portray the mermaid as actually in the water.  Fair trade, if you ask me. Stay tuned for updates on Jewel and Neon, self-publishing, and adventures in Microsoft Word.