Tropical Birds: A Coloring Book for Adults

A bit belatedly, I'm excited to announce the launch of my second coloring book, Tropical Birds.  If you've followed my work over the past two years, you'll know that I'm a bit bird-obsessed, so it's probably no surprise that I've indulged in more birdiness for this coloring book, right?  

For this coloring book, I started by researching tropical birds and ended up making a long list of possible candidates for my coloring book.  After settling on 50 as the number of illustrations for this book, I narrowed my list down to 50 birds and started with some rough sketches.  These coloring books are a passion project, something I like to work on in my down time.  To ensure I could break away from my studio while working on these coloring book pages, I decided to illustrate them on my iPad Pro.  Using the Graphic app--it's a bit pricey, but the best vector app I've found--I was able to create crisp vector line art that could easily be imported into Illustrator.

I absolutely loved the portability of my iPad Pro for this project.  The process was so enjoyable and relaxing; I'm already planning out my next coloring book!

After finishing the lineart on my iPad Pro, I imported everything to Illustrator for last minute tweaks and nudges, and then on to InDesign for the final layout of the book. 

For my coloring books, I'm self-publishing through CreateSpace.  And although I ran into significant snags in the process with Garden Tea Party, my first coloring book, the process with Tropical Birds was much smoother overall.  

You can buy Tropical Birds and Garden Tea Party on Amazon.  

If you're enjoying either of my coloring books, please take a moment to leave an review on Amazon.  And that goes not just for my books for but any books you might be reading or coloring. Reviews are a big help, especially to independent creators, in driving sales.  Every honest review is so appreciated.  

My next coloring book will focus on books/reading and I can't wait to get started on it.  I'll be posting a few snaps of the process over on Instagram if you'd like to follow along.

Happy coloring,

Steph

A Photoshop Live Drawing Video: Cardinal

Excuse me while I dust this space off, after nearly a year's absence!  It seems a bit unreal to have been absent from this space for so long, but it's lovely to be back and to be inspired to share again.  

I've used the past few months to continue to share my work on Instagram and other social media platforms, to focus on my freelance work, and to slowly decide what the heck I would blog about when I decided to start blogging again.  Actually, I started Periscoping a few months ago, sharing weekly videos of Photoshop tutorials or live drawing sessions, and it reignited a fire in me, a desire to share my knowledge and help other artists along on their journeys.  

So in bringing back the blog, I'm planning to share my process and knowledge with you, keep you updated on my work, and share my inspirations as well.  New posts will be added on a semi-irregular basis at first, as I work regular blogging back into my schedule and my mindset.  

Part of this reignited fire to share lead me to teaching online classes again.  It's been a few years since my last class, but I'm bringing my Photoshop illustration skills to you with a new series of classes over on Atly.

My first class in this series, Photoshop for Illustrators: The Basics just launched this past week, and am happy to say is already helping students to create beautiful digital illustrations.  This class is beginner level and covers setting up your Photoshop workspace, importing sketches, the basic Photoshop drawing/painting tools, modifying your completed work, and keeping your Photoshop work organized with layers and groups.  The class is a combination of written lessons paired with 18 videos(3.5 hours total) including two full Photoshop illustrations demos.  

This class is the culmination of countless of hours of work - writing and recording lessons, and finding that perfect balance of enough knowledge to create successful Photoshop illustrations without feeling a thousand percent overwhelmed.  It will be followed up later in the year with two more classes that I'm already planning and dreaming up.  

Before you run off to sign up for the class, here's quick drawing demo I did for my class intro video.  Only a tiny portion of this was used for the video, so I wanted to share the whole thing here:  

Happy drawing!

52 Birds: Cerulean Warbler

One of the other nerdy fun things about this illustration project is learning new birds from my region, some that are harder to spot, and generally more elusive than your common cardinal and robin.  Enter the cerulean warbler!

I didn't even know these little birderson existed until I sat down yesterday to flip through my bird reference book, in hope of inspiration.  Turns out they are quite small and spend most of their time high in the treetops, so they are quite tricky to spot.  I'm going to be on the lookout now, but in the meantime, I settled for drawing one:

As always, prints and stuff can be found in my shop.

Happy weekend!

52 Birds: Downy Woodpecker

Other than the drawing, of course, the research part of this project has been most exciting for me.  The history nerd in me relishes any excuse to pull out the reference books.  Every time I spot a new bird, I'm rushing off to my little stack of bird books to identify it.  

This week's bird, the downy woodpecker, is one that frequently visits our backyard feeders, but that I only identified when I started my 52 Birds project.  What a kick!

As always, prints and stuff can be found in my shop.

Happy Saturday!

52 Birds: Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Earlier this week, I saw a rose-breasted grosbeak on the bird feeder right outside our kitchen window, and proceeded to get silly excited about it.  My husband thought I'd lost my mind.  Since I've started this 52 Birds project, I've found that I've become a bit of a bird watcher.  My eyes are constantly peeled, I'm always on the lookout for new birds I may not have noticed.  And when I can't identify one, I rush home to check my bird guidebook.  

It's true, I'm a bit of a bird nerd now.  

Anyway, from what I've read, rose-breasted grosbeaks aren't overly common in this part of the state, and generally only show up when they are migrating.  Hence the excitement over seeing one just chilling on the bird feeder.  

Obviously, I had to draw him:

As always, prints can be found in my shop.  Throw pillows, mugs, and tote bags can be found over on Society6.

And of course, you're always welcome to jump in with your own weekly bird illustrations.  Be sure to post them on Instagram with the tag #52birds, so I can keep up with them!

52 Birds: Rufous Hummingbird

Up to my eyeballs in Surtex prep right now, I almost didn't manage to get in my 52 Birds illustration this week.  While I won't be at Surtex, my art will be, with my agents from Bright.  Exciting stuff!  I'm scrambling to illustrate a slew of new greeting cards before my agents pack up and head off to the big show.  

But I finally sat down for a few minutes today and drew up the last hummingbird in this little series, a rufous hummingbird.  

You can buy small prints of this illustration over in my shop and larger prints, canvas prints, tote bags, mugs, etc, over inmy Society6 shop.

52 Birds: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

It's Saturday, so it's 52 Birds day!  This week it's the ruby-throated hummingbird, which is the only hummingbird found in the eastern United States, according to my bird guide.  They are frequent visitors around here in the summer months.

You can buy small prints of this illustration over in my shop and larger prints, canvas prints, tote bags, mugs, etc, over in my Society6 shop.

52 Birds: Lucifer Hummingbird

This week's bird illustration ended up being a real struggle for me.  I almost ended up not even sharing it, but decided to stick with it since this is a weekly project.  And, happily, after a few adjustments, I'm actually quite happy with it.  Maybe there will be a mini series of hummingbirds for the next few weeks of 52 Birds, we shall see!

For this week, here's the lucifer hummingbird, which isn't all that common anywhere in the US.  It's seen rarely in southern parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and is most abundant in Mexico.


Fact:  I'm scared of frogs.  Also, lizards and snakes.  Or anything that makes sudden movements.  I'm a jumpy gal, that's for sure.  Strangely though, I've found lately that I really enjoy drawing frogs.  They are quite cute.  As long as they are on the page and not anywhere near me in real life.  Here's a recent addition to my illustration portfolio:


52 Birds: Goldfinch

I feel like I've been missing out, having never explored this color palette before.  Expect to see more of it, because I love it, especially right now as I'm hankering for spring.  Seeing the tiny shoots of day lilies, tulips, and mallow begin to pop up around the flower beds has me all excited for warmer weather and an enormous vegetable garden.  

Until then, I'll focus on capturing a bit of birdy sweetness.  This week, it's the American goldfinch, which is quite noticeable at the moment because they are getting their pretty bright yellow feathers back, after a winter of the muddier yellow color.

As always, 52 Birds prints are in my Etsy shop, and throw pillows, etc can be found in my Society 6 shop.

If you'd like to draw along with me on this weekly bird illustration project, just share your bird art on Instagram, tagged with #52birds.

52 Birds: American Robin

It's Saturday/Bird Day!  Sticking with the theme of drawing birds that hang out in my general vicinity, this week I illustrated an American Robin.  We tend to associate these birds with spring, but they generally stick around all year long.  

As always, 52 Birds prints are in my Etsy shop, and throw pillows, etc can be found in my Society 6 shop.

If you'd like to draw along with me on this weekly bird illustration project, just share your bird art on Instagram, tagged with #52birds.

52 Birds: Cardinal

Nine weeks into my 52 Birds project seems like a good time to finally illustrate our state bird, the cardinal.  These always remind me of my grandma who used to call the brightly plumaged male and his lady counterpart Mr. and Mrs. Red.  

As always, 52 Birds prints are in my Etsy shop, and throw pillows, etc can be found in my Society 6 shop.

If you'd like to draw along with me on this weekly bird illustration project, just share your bird art on Instagram, tagged with #52birds.

Working Hard & Thinking Big

 Although it's Friday, I don't have any new art to share with you today. Instead, I wanted to share some exciting news and also a bit of a story. First, the news: I'm now represented by The Bright Agency! I'm thrilled and flattered to be in the company of so many amazing illustrators.

And now, on to the story about how this all came about! I warn you, it's about to get wordy, but I think it's important to share some of the ups and downs of being an illustrator. It's not all just drawing pretty pictures.

You might remember way back in 2012, I illustrated a book with Chronicle Books, the first one I'd ever illustrated. It was a huge deal for me and I thought it might be a big change in the direction of my career. It was so exciting, and working with Kristine at Chronicle was a magical experience, so magical that I signed on to do a second book soon after the first was finished. I was on a roll!

Except then I wasn't. I was still happily running my Etsy shop, but other than a handful of illustration and licensing jobs here and there, silence reigned. I was disappointed and down on myself, down on my art. And I lost interest in even trying to build an illustration career. It was a sad time for me, that lasted until the end of last year.

Even though I was down in the proverbial dumps, I kept drawing every day, kept plugging away at improving my skills, and revamping my style. The dream was still there, buried deep down, even though I was afraid to chase it again, or even acknowledge it.

In the meantime, I was still plugging away at my Etsy shop, less happily, having reached the point where I needed to scale back or expand and hire some help. Spending the majority of my day shipping orders and dealing with all the other aspects of running a shop was really running me down. Not having much time to draw, that's not a happy place for me.

After another exhausting holiday season, I knew it was time to scale back on the shop and jump back into focusing on my illustration career. What a terrifying thought it was, as big changes always are. My first big move was to discontinue boxed stationery sets in my shop. Getting rid of my most popular item was nerve wracking, but it felt right because boxed stationery sets were also the most time consuming items for me to make.

Taking that first step, making that first big change, made the rest feel more manageable. Now I needed a big change in mindset as well, to start thinking about making art for the illustration markets instead of just making art for my Etsy shop. I needed to find the balance between the two, and I needed to focus on getting my work in front of the right audiences again. No more shy illustrator, hiding in the corner, hoping someone would notice her.

The next big step for me was signing up for a Marketing Kick Starter session with Holli Conger. Holli is a children's illustration phenom. How she manages to create such a prolific amount of work, I'll never know. I suspect that she doesn't sleep, has some hidden superpower, or has somehow acquired a time turner a la Hermoine Granger. And on top of being a busy illustrator, she takes time to offer career consultations too.

A month of career consultation with her was money well spent for me. We worked on polishing some already known but long dormant social media skills, finding clients, designing promos, and improving my portfolio. Holli was an open book to me for the month of January. Even after out first week of consultation, I was refocused and ready to jump back into illustrating on a regular basis.

Working with Holli confirmed that for the work I wanted to do, I'd be best served to find an agent, especially for work in the educational market, which is largely dealt out to agented illustrators. In addition to working on a client list, I was also working on a list of prospective agencies. The Bright Agency was my top choice for a variety of reasons. Bright felt like a good place for my work to fit in while also standing out. I knew many Bright artists to be cheerful, friendly, and generally, quite busy with illustration work. And I knew that Bright agents were always working to promote their artists and help them build successful careers.

My portfolio didn't feel quite ready yet though; I wanted to finish a few more new pieces of art before I started approaching agencies. I'd already constructed the email I wanted to send to Bright when I was ready, at least I'd constructed it in my head, and I went so far as to make a few notes so I'd be ready when it came time to make contact. But I didn't want to pull the trigger just yet.

Imagine my endless and enthusiastic surprise when two days later I checked my inbox to find an email from The Bright Agency, offering me representation!

I won't lie, there was a bit of screaming, and a bit of jumping up and down, followed by some dancing, and rushing off in a daze to tell my husband what had just happened.

After chatting with a few other Bright artists, to find out about their experiences with the agency, I signed on, and am now feeling pretty at home among the other Brightlings.

This time last year, I was contemplating putting up my pencils for good, and heading back out to find a “real” job. What a difference some time and a large dose of hard work can make!

I think that so often with social media, it seems that everyone is just living a life filled with sunshine and daisies. We tend to share only the good stuff, and I'm not knocking it, but every now and then it's nice to know that others are struggling like you might be, which is why I wanted to share this story. I've struggled a lot over the last two or three years, quietly and in the background. I've cried, doubted myself, doubted my work, doubted my ability to achieve any sort of success as an illustration. I've been *this* close to quitting.

But I hung in there. I worked harder, honed my skills, revamped my approach, and already it's paying off in 2015. I'm creating, and I'm happy, and I'm looking forward to the new artistic adventures I'll be taking.

If you're struggling, don't give up just yet. Change your plans. Revise your focus. Rethink and reimagine your dreams. Work even harder. It will get better, or as I so succinctly lettered it early this year, it can't possible get any worse ;)  

So here's to an already awesome 2015!  It feels so good to have already marked "find a publishing agent" off my 2015 Goals list!  

 I'll have more art to share with you soon.  In the meantime, in the midst of all the changes, I've found time to add a few new bookplate sets and stationery sets to my Etsy shop, which you can find here.

Happy drawing,

Steph :)