A New Space

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“Build it and they will come.”  It’s a famous line from the movie, “Field of Dreams”.

In my case, it’s a new area in my home where I can devote myself to writing my stories.  Until now, I have found myself scattered around in different places, trying to find the best atmosphere for my work.  My art studio, coffee shops, our little travel trailer, the library… but nothing seemed quite right.  I would find myself getting distracted.

One day I picked up a magazine called, Where Woman Create.  An artist told about her studio set ups, all THREE of them.  One studio is in her house, another is out in her backyard and a third is in her basement where she builds her frames for her paintings.  My mind went to a room in my house I affectionately call the YaYa room.  The closet is full of toys for our grandkids.  The sofa bed is ready for when they spend the night. BUT, mostly, the grandkids grab a toy and head for the family room. Basically, it is an unused space until now.

I went to Habitat for Humanity and purchased a door.  I set it on top of a file cabinet and another small table and painted it black. “Voila!”  a desk!  Oh… I did have to paint the walls too.  They were green, now gray!  I love the peaceful tone.  My sister gave me some lamps a couple of years ago.  I replaced the shades with these white ones.  The whole setting is magical.

I worked all day on a new story.  What fun!  A new place and a new grace.  Keep on creating!

Leslie Ann Clark

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Organizing An Artist

Organizing an artist is not always easy.  I KNOW, I AM ONE!  HA!

A few weeks ago I was challenged to look at all my characters and take inventory.  It was the best thing I have done in a long time. I think I came up with about 19 different cartoon character lines. I am not kidding when I say my studio is full of life and noise!

This is my attempt at organizing. I am better to keep it all in front of me. Putting art in file folders and then in a filing cabinet assures me that my ideas will fade away.  Instead I gathered all the ideas for each line and clipped them together.  You can see in the picture above.

Now I can work on one line at a time. I can also look and see what needs to be done to make each line complete.

Each day is a work in progress, but at least I can see what the next step is without looking in a folder in my computer.

Here is a funny quote I found.

  • “Organized people are just too lazy to look for things.”

 

Ideas!

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Life for the artist is a continual collection of ideas.  Those ideas generate new work. It’s a fun process.

Ideas come from so many sources.  Books, movies, fabrics, nature, magazines, paintings, dreams and more. Sometimes they simply drop out of the sky into my thoughts.  I love good ideas.  They are scrumptious morsels to feast on.  I have some waiting for me now.

 

 

The Art Licensing Show Ribbon Cutting!

ribboncut Oh What fun!!!  The Art Licensing Show website is up and running today!!   You may ask, what is it?  Here is the explanation by founder Cherish Flieder.

ArtLicensingShow.com is a permission based, virtual portal where artwork can be reviewed privately by Art Directors who are looking to commercially license artwork. Authorized Art Directors may request to see art from a wide assortment of participating Artists and Licensors and highlight favorite art pieces, all with a single login.

It is an online directory where art licensing companies and professionals in supporting roles can be be listed and found with a simple search by name, keywords, subject and genre.

Lastly, it’s a a social gathering where industry professionals can network and connect with one another in groups, site updates, and via direct messaging to advance their goals.

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All of us on the site have been working hard to get our art up and loaded.  Today is our big day!

Am I finished?  Is an artist ever really finished?  There are always more things to do!  More drawing, more coloring,

more ideas, more more more!

Living in my Illustrations

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Being an illustrator is great fun.  Why?  Because you can use your imagination to go places you’ve never been and do things you’ve never done. For instance, I have always wanted a log cabin up in the mountains.  As a teen, I used to imagine having a studio up a flight of wooden steps to a big room. It would have rafter ceilings and a window seat for me to look out of.  It would be warm and cozy and I could sit and do my art all day long near a roaring fire in the wood stove.

When I began thinking of places for my character Burl the bear to live in, I made it just like “I” wanted it!  Warm and inviting!  When you walk through the doorway of my story, you will find a home that lives in my imagination. It will be a place that I love and I will revisit it many times as the story progresses. I must be passionate about what I draw or it becomes listless and boring. This process is what makes a story believable.

My experience tells me that children notice the tiniest of details.  I did a school visit after Peepsqueak was published by Harper Collins Publisher.  I read the book to the children and then we talked.  Through out the story there was another story going on in the book. It was a little tiny mouse who appeared on many of the pages.  The children did not miss it. They even commented on the mouse as I read to them.  I let them in on a little secret.  I named the mouse Elliot.  When I told them his name they all squealed with delight and pointed to the cutest little boy in their classroom who was named Elliot!   He was beaming.  Suddenly he became part of the story. He was so happy!

These are the things that make a story magical in the eyes of children and adults alike.  Its also why I continue creating images.  I love seeing characters develop.   I love finding their voices. .. what they are like… what they like to do.  It does not stop when I leave the studio.  I think about them all the time, until I finally know how they would react in any given situation. That way they become very believable creations and loved by all.

Stay posted,  Burl and Briley are growing on my heart daily.  I can hardly wait to illustrate the books that are in my mind!

BLOOM

 

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Artists live a life of wonder. At times, it’s wondering what to do next. I will not lie, I have been wondering this for the last few months. I am looking for the sweet spot! It’s my favorite place to be in Art. It’s the place where you are working and you don’t want to stop. I think it’s a divine place where God kisses your life with ideas that flow out in a steady stream.

A lot of things can bar you from this place. Looking in the wrong direction, self doubt, self pity, self self self. Ha! Get the point? You have to get rid of the”self” part. If the sweet spot is divine, then you have to seek out the divine.

A few nights ago I had a dream. My dad was in the dream. Someone had driven him to my house. He slowly came up the steps to my house and said to me, ” Bloom“. In a small whisper he said, “bloom where you are planted”.
Then he was gone.
I woke up knowing the “divine” had spoken to me.
No grinding out ideas, just let the divine IN me out… to make the art I was born to make.

A flower does not worry about the bloom. All the coding for that bloom is IN the seed. It simply drinks up moisture from above and the roots go down and the bloom comes.

So… BLOOM today! You were meant to be like none other.

To Be Or Not To Be!

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That is the question! The answer is in you. Will you be who you yearn to be in this life? Will you accomplish your dreams? Much of it is up to you.
My neighbor is an example. I met her three years ago. I was so excited to have an artist move in next door! She is a potter and when I visited her she would show me what she was making. She had some really fun pieces.
Last December she agreed to be in a garden show. She was one of two artists that would show their work in a specific garden. She knew she needed to fill the yard so she began in earnest to produce pieces with a garden theme. All winter long the kiln was firing wonderful creations! Colorful pots, bird houses and bird baths began oozing out of her garage. Her work began taking on a personality and a style like no other artist. I saw her grow in her skills.
Last Wednesday was set-up day. We placed her art all over the yard. By the time we finished, the yard look like it was out of a fairy tale! I could see that her pieces told a story. There was color everywhere! We were so excited!
We returned on Saturday for the sale. No sooner did we sit down at our table when the crowd of visitors began forming a line to buy my friends pottery. The line did not stop until the day ended. It was wonderful!!! All of her hard work paid off.
So what is my point? Find what you love and DO it! Find a way! Keep moving in the direction. To be or NOT to be? It’s up to you!

Pottery by Juanita Estepa

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The Master List!

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Hooray for The Master List! There is nothing like getting all your thoughts on paper…. and yes, I said paper!  Sitting right in front of me where I can doodle on it, cross it off, highlight it etc. I have tried the electronic list making but nothing quite satisfies this artist.

All my ideas are added to my The Master List.  For a creative person, this list is quite freeing!  I can stop trying to shuffle all of this around in my head.  Yes, these items and more have been yelling at me from my head!  ha!  Everything was fighting for recognition… saying things like,  “Me first!”,  “NO! Me first!”

Now I can decide who is first!  Does this sound a little scary to you?  Leslie is hearing things?  I assure you, this is the world of many of us who are visual thinkers!  The world speaks to us! Being the cartoonist that I am, I can actually imagine people as cartoons.  Many of my Facebook friends can attest to that fact.  It’s quite fun!

Okay,  Now to the next step.  Working at crossing off all these things on the list!  I will keep you posted.

So what do you have on your list?

One Step at a Time!

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Have you ever started a new chapter in your life?  Have you ever dared to do something you never did before?  Did you feel launched into it and found yourself in free fall? You are not alone. It happens all the time! Anyone who wants to do something worthwhile in life has to take risks and sometimes those risks lead to even more risks!

When my art career began, I was imagining all the possibilities. I dreamed of success. I created many fun little cartoons and talked about what I wanted to do with them.  Then one day, I ran into a friend who was DOING what I wanted to do.  She shook me!  She said, “Les, you have to go to the N.Y. Stationary Show and you have to go NOW!

I had heard of this show. I had many of my friends online talking about going.  This was back in the late 90’s.  There was something in her voice.  It was more like a command from heaven than a gentle nudging from a friend.  I made up my mind to go!

This was huge for me.  I had only been on an airplane once for a 45 minute flight. I practically sat on the lap of the man sitting next to me… asking him what this bump was and what THAT  bump was!    I decided I better pray about this trip.  I told the Lord that if HE wanted me to do this then he would have to make the way for me.   A few days later someone had put an envelope in my mailbox. It was  $300.00.  Enough for my flight!  It was not long until I was flying across America to New York City.  I met up with my girlfriend and stayed with her uncle and aunt. We took buses, rode trains and cabs.  Once at the show we had to pedal our portfolios. I am NOT a sales person. … but there I was asking people where their art director was and if I might have a minute with them.  Over and over.  Hmmm…. it became a little easier each time.

One last company sat down with me.  They looked through my whole portfolio and asked if I had anything more?  I pulled out one last picture of a little baby.  That was it!  That was the one the art director liked.  She asked me if I had any more and I told her I would email them to her when I got home. You better believe I was sketching babies on the airplane!

This was one of my first “be brave” moments. Over and over the good Lord has taken my by the hand and shown me what to do next.  Some would say, “you are weak if you need help for everything.”  But I say,  I am smart for asking.

I have a few more adventures I am yearning for.  There will come that day, when the dreaming is over, and the bags all packed and ready to GO!

What are you waiting for?  Be Brave!!!!!

Peepsqueak in Winter

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Come February, without fail, I  begin to feel the effects of Spring Fever. My tulips are peeking out, our trees are budding, and my heart begins pining away for warm weather.  THEN it SNOWS 8 inches! haha!

There is no complaining on my part.  Colorado needs the moisture!  Like Peepsqueak, (above) I put on my coat and scarf and set off in our winter wonderland.  Spring will arrive as it alway does, but there are sidewalks to shovel and a wood stove to load and lots of indoor activities to keep me busy until snow gives way to rain and flowers.

New York Fun – Surtex 2012

After months of prep work, Surtex 2012 is history.  It was a great time of meetings, and visiting with other artists.  It almost feels like a dream now that it is over.  I am filled with ideas and hope for the future!

Here is a picture of Margaret Anastas, my editor at Harper Collins, me, and Annie Stone, Margaret’s assistant.  It was so fun sitting at Harper C. and visiting with everyone who worked so hard on Peepsqueak and his promotion.  I do love my HC family.  They had a nice breakfast for me and we all met in the Harper Collins library. I wish I had a picture of Jeanne Hogle.  She was my graphic designer.  She escaped the room before I could snap her picture.

After our meeting, I packed up 30 books and headed to the Javitz Center in a doozy of a rainstorm!  I LOVED that cab driver for picking me up!!

Messing around with my friends Jane Shasky and Megan Halsey during my Peepsqueak book signing at Surtex. Everyone was in such a good mood!

Here is my teeny tiny room at the Best Western.  I was surprised at how small it was, but in the end, it was cozy and I was so glad I stayed there. It was a good retreat after a busy day.

Can’t forget my sweet agent Alicia Dauber. She had everything running smoothly!

Outside my window all the horse drawn carriages were lining up.  New York is so full of LIFE!

As amazing as the big city is, it is always nice to come HOME!   I had to get my zinnias planted!!  Now it is back to work for the next show!

Page by Page

Peepsqueak Rock On!

Progress on book 2

Peepsqueak’s second book is well on the way to meeting the deadline of November 15th. My next step in the process is the fun part!  Adding COLOR!

What you are looking at in the picture (above) are all my pages laid out. There are scans, sketches, finished ink drawings and notes from the editor for each page. Here is an example of an unfinished page. I started coloring the deer and the fox!  Stay posted!  I will show you the finished page later!

Which Came First? The Chicken or the Egg?

The P E N C I L !

Many have asked me what my process is for creating my characters.  Here is the low down with my “Peepsqueak” chick.

1. First I sketch him with a simple pencil. 2. Once Peepsqueak is sketched, I lay a piece of tracing paper over the sketch and draw him with an ink line. (I use a #3 Micron pen) This inked-in image is then scanned. 

3. There are always specks and lines in the scan that I might not like. At this point I open this inked-in image in Photoshop and clean it up. You can see in the image below how I cleaned up Peepsqueak.  4. The next step is to bring the cleaned up jpg into Illustrator. I open the image in Illustrator. I select it and then go under Object in the menu, select Live Trace, then Make and Expand.  After that process I save Peepsqueak as a pdf. Look how nice and clean and smooth the line is now!!

The last step is to color him in Photoshop!  Voila!!!

So, as you can clearly see,  the Pencil came first!!  Do you think God sketched us all out on paper before he made us?  Ha!  fun thought!

Ready to Go!


Pencil in hand, papers scattered across my old green kitchen table.  Poised and ready, I begin work on another book.  Perhaps I should say two books!  I have two in the wings.  The second Peepsqueak book and Shivery Timbers!  I can already hear the farm animals in the barn and the crazy Snofolk tumbling down the hills.  Blue Skye Studio, you ROCK!!

Rocky Mountain High

I simply love Colorado, with its mountains and the W I D E open spaces. There is something about the vast blue sky that gives me a boost. I find that the breaks I take in my day are just as important as working hard in the studio. When I return to my studio I see things differently. My mind has rested and my body is more relaxed.  Yep, I am HIGH on life!!  Even my little cartoons are glad I left and have come back with a good attitude and the ideas begin to flow!

Bunny Bunny, Whose Got The Bunny?

A new bunny is visiting the studio.  Check out Cherry. She is trying out for a part in the Peepsqueak book.  Her personality is different from the other two bunnies that tried out.  I am hopeful she will be well received from the editing team.  The first bunny was a little whacked out.  The second bunny was nice, but this one has connected with me.  An artist can create characters all day long, but some are closer to the heart than others. They may remind us of people we know, or people we wish we knew!! At least that is how it is in my studio.

Enter Mr. Frog

Oh bright and sunny day!  A new character emerges out of the pond.  Mr. Frog in all his glory!  Soon a host of other frogs appear and the day is filled with croaking and catching flies.

Life in Blue Sky Studio is never boring.  It is a place where shadows disappear and light rushes in!  I love being an artist.    I am driven by a desire to create and make people happy with my art. If I have done that for one person in one day then I can go to bed smiling! Ribbit!!

Crazy Busy With My Cartoon Family

It has been busy busy busy in the studio!   The place is jammed packed with characters waiting to be famous.

Newton has had his day in the sun with a new Baby Journal out in January. 

“Yes You Can Man” wants a bit of the action for himself. He has been waiting in the wings with his REALLY BIG ideas!

Peep Squeak?.…  he is always “On the Move!.  There will be Peepsqueak fabric out in February and a Peepsqueak‘s children’s book in the works for 2012..

Lae Dee Bugg is hoping for a July release at Christian Art Gifts for the TWEEN market.

Bitty Bot?…  she and her bot friends really wants to be on fabric. They are waiting to hear back from a recent submission.

Hen Rietta fabric is in revision mode. Hen Riettas friend, Grace is serving us up some hot cocoa. She is standing near ……. Shivery the snowman!  Brrrrr!!! He has high hopes for a children’s book someday.

There is no forgetting Bea Bunny.  She is always trying to get in the picture. She will debut in the Peepsqueak book.

This is life in my studio.  Never a dull moment!

Oh NO! did you hear that?  It’s Zippy! That little hedge hog came in late and missed the photo shoot.  I will not hear the end of that!

“Zippy!  Next time try to be on time.  Remember, you snooze  you lose!”

There are also bears, clowns, birds and more. It is never boring in the studio!

Distracted!

I was going to finish cleaning my kitchen floor… but then I thought, why not add a blog update?  ha!

Today I went for a walk.  There is nothing like walking in leaves!  I love fall mornings.

As usual, even on my walks I am working.  All I could see were color palettes! I picked up leaf after leaf to add to my fall collection.