• Lyra Aquacolor

    Last Friday, I devoted my whole work day to playing with a new media.  I got this set of Lyra Aquacolor crayons at a yard sale last summer.  I know I paid less than what she wanted for them because at the time I didn't know what I would use them for. 

    For over a year though, I've been trying to come up with a different style for my children's book The Monster Under My Bed.  Steve Light posted a 10 minute poster of a Rhino that he did and I asked what medium he used.  I don't have the marking instruments that he used, but I do have these, so I gave them a try.

    The result was really encouraging.  Not quite ready to play without some sort of order, I combined colors by laying down a solid color and then went back over and drew a flower on top of it.  I used every combination except the two colors you see still in their seats in the above picture.

    This is what I got:

    I cut up 2.5 x 2.5 inch squares of watercolor paper and did a bigger swatch of all the ones I liked.  And narrowed them down further. 

    Then I tried out a couple of compositions of my monster with the color compositions and got these:

    They aren't done yet, well because Friday ended. My next ideas are to combine acrylic with these watercolor crayons to make a distinction between the make believe parts of the story and the real parts of the story.

    Let me know which color combination is your favorite. Or feel free to suggest other combinations for me to try tomorrow as I get back to playing with this.


  • Celebrate!

    I finished it.  20 images that reflect my current illustration style. When I planned out this challenge, I added Celebrate to my to-do list. Celebrate is next on my list!

    I've been thinking about what I could do to celebrate.  I'd love to do an art exhibit. But since I can't have a group of people over to eat chocolate dipped strawberries and eclairs and ohh and ahh over my art, I've decided to hold a virtual art exhibit.  Yesterday I printed off all of the images that I want to include in my art exhibit and I'm mounting them on foam board.  I'm going to hang them on the walls of my house and do a video for you to see them all.  Because it is an art exhibit, you will be able to buy them, so if there is an image you especially like, let me know and I can reserve that for you.  

    I scanned most of the images in at 600 dpi so I could blow them up to highlight the texture of the pencil.  The smallest side of all the images at 10 in.  With their foam core mats, they are over 12 inches on the smallest side. Each image is printed on 32 lb Hammermill Color Paper for a sharp image and brilliant color and each is hand mounted onto sturdy foam board. You will get the current version of this artwork as of today March 26, 2020.  I'll mark it as an Artist Proof and sign and date it. 

    Because I scan in the pencil and then do a computer wash, the original artwork is black and white.  Unfortunately, I don't have the originals available for sale yet.  But it is something I am planning on offering.

    Just like the coronavirus, my timetable for this is fluid.  So stay tuned for updates for my virtual art exhibit.

    Want to be the first to know when the Virtual Art Exhibit will be? Sign up for my email list.

    Sign up today and I'll send you a free pdf from my Penelope Inktober 2019.



  • Coronavirus and my art update

    Today is Thursday March 19, 2020

    My family is on Day 4 of Distance Learning because of the coronoavirus (COVID-19).  Last Thursday, my brother and sister-in-law and myself went panic shopping to stock up for the looming threat of no school.  As I said goodbye to my early morning teenage religion class students that morning, I felt I should tell them to take their stuff home with them.  I didn't.  This morning we finished day 4 of remote religion class (aka seminary). And this afternoon I picked up everyone's journals and paper scriptures and delivered them to their homes. Church and all church gatherings have been cancelled but we still do seminary remotely.

    If my kids were younger, I think having everyone home would be stressful. Fortunately, the school district is directing their lessons remotely and my kids are responding.   It isn't as fun for them however.  My socially impaired son said he would rather go to school. (I think he wasn't thinking about the bullies in his French class when he said it though. And I "forgot" to remind him.)

    I would have thought that I would get less artwork done.  But it seems to be the opposite.  I've worked longer hours.  Or worked until I started making bad art.

    In May 2019, I attended NESCBWI conference and met a friend who loved my artwork.  She looked at my portfolio and said, "It's great, you just need more pieces."

    So one of my goals this year is to create more portfolio pieces.  It has been a great challenge with a deadline.  The May NESCBWI conference is just around the corner and I want to take a completed no-weak-pieces portfolio with me to display.  It has pushed me and I am almost done. I have two pieces left to fix and I'll have a solid 20 pieces in the same style.

    Last night, however, as I was trying to sleep after updating myself over the latest from the Coronavirus, I found the email that cancelled the conference because of the Coronavirus. I will still get my dummy book critique and an agent or editor to critique my portfolio--or they are planning on arranging that virtually. 

    I'm not really upset.  True, the deadline to submit stuff for the editors, art directors, and agents is past, so if do some really great artwork before May 2, they probably won't see it, but the deadline has pushed me.

    Creating the solid portfolio took more time than I thought it would. And I've learned more about my process than I thought I needed to.  And I has been and will be great for my growth.

    I've got a solid portfolio. I'm revealing all my new portfolio pieces on Instagram this month. Next month, I'll put the best of the best of those on my website. I now know I can do a solid portfolio, because I just did it.

    What's next after I fix the last couple of portfolio images?

    I am thinking of stretching myself into another artistic direction.  Multi-media and collage are calling my name.  Probably because my newest dummy book feels like I should do it in collage.  Maybe even shoot for a completely different style for a new portfolio for May 2021.

    I also want to publish Paige and Webb.  There is a storyline and a full dummy book ready for me to complete it.  And I'm thinking I might just self publish it with a Kickstarter. So, I'll need to turn all those dummy book pages into finished artwork.  And possibly shorten it as well.

    I've simplified my work task plan. 

    Monday thru Wednesday I work on creating art to sell. Thursday is marketing day. And Friday is play with Media Day or go see artwork, or do a face book live video of me trying a new painting technique, or go on an art field trip...like to see Mayflower II at Mystic Seaport--I should find out if they are open during the coronavirus before the Mayflower sails to Plymouth in May.

    It is kind of like a reward at the end of the week.  Do something fun day.  And I hope that like Google my art business will see more creativity because of it.

    So that's where I am on Day 4 of the Coronavirus containment experiment. I hope and pray that you and yours are safe and healthy.  Virtual Hugs.

    Pamela Hanks  

  • The Monster Under My Bed

    When I was a performing storyteller, we often talked about needing to "kill your baby". It means that those beautiful words that you love because you birthed them, sometimes need to be cut from a story or a scene needs to be thrown out even if you have worked on it for a long time. Usually, it is because that scene or those sentences don't support the most important thing in your story.  Or they don't communicate effectively the essesence of your story.

    This week I'm getting ready to go to a couple of conferences where I have paid extra for access to editors and art directors.

    At one of the conferences, I'm submitting The Monster Under My Bed as a dummy book for feedback.

    A dummy book is a mock up of what your finished picture book will look like, except you don't finish all of the artwork in the book.  Instead you sketch out your composition ideas, add your text and complete 3 interior pages in the style of art you envision for the book. Then you either put it into a digital pdf to send to editors, or in my case, print off the booklet and take it to the conference for feedback. 

    I got some unexpected feedback on this book last year at the Whispering Pines Writing Retreat. Which means I needed to change some things.

    Wednesday I changed the perspective of who told the story and the hero of the story.  My ten year old, who has heard me tell this story her whole life, looked at it when she got home from school and started to cry.

    "It isn't the same. I like the original story best," she said.

    "I know honey, but the editors were confused with the characters in the story and I think this new version might be a better fit to get it published," I replied.

    With a sob in her voice, she said, "Mom, could you just make me a copy of the book with the original story. Just for me?"

    She has just as hard of a time killing the baby as I do. And yes, I will make 2 versions.  One for her and one to be published. 

  • My Great Portfolio Reveal 2020

    I have been watching a lot of the BBC Great Shows..

    The Great British Baking Show, which makes me hungry and encouraged my adult daughter to come home and bake hip widening treats for days at Christmas.

    The Great Pottery Throw Down: which has encouraged, no, convinced my husband and 10 yo daughter that we need to add a wheel and a kiln to our basement workshop. No complaints here.

    The Great British Sewing Bee: which has inspired me to dust off my sewing skills and sew a made to fit dress for my 10 yo for her fourth grade dance. 

    I am also in the midst of creating new material for my portfolio to take with me to the Editor/Agent Day in March and to the NESCBWI conference in May.  All of the deadlines to receive feedback for these opportunities are in March.  So I thought, let's make an event of it.

    If I'm really honest, I'm also wanting to increase my followers on Instagram.  All three of these inspirations, deadlines, and goals led me to create My Great Portfolio Reveal 2020: an Instagram only event.

    Each day I release a new image from my current portfolio on Instagram.

    My portfolio includes a few tried and true images that I am keeping in my portfolio because I love them and so do others (frog pirate.jpg).

    I have several images from my Penelope Inktober 2019 story that I've done up in my current pencil and computer wash style. 

    And then there is the new stuff.  Some of the new stuff isn't done yet. I'm diligently shading and painting even as I am posting.   Today as soon as I'm done with this post, I am going to finish up my dragon piece.

    My portfolio plan had 21 images in it.  I've already pulled one image out, because it is my weakest piece. But I still have 20 images. And if you follow me on Instagram, you'll get to see them all first.  I hope I see you there. @pamela.hanks

    #mygreatportfolioreveal2020 #pamelahanks #pencildrawing #2020portfolio #penelope #dragon #shepherd 

  • Breathing Life into my Characters

    Last week I mentioned that I was having problems with my characters looking like flat cardboard cut outs.  

    This week I took one of the potential portfolio pieces and spent the day playing with my character. I looked up reference of shepherds and I looked for pictures of boys moving. I knew I wanted to do a series of portfolio pieces that had the little shepherd playing games in the hills, playing leap frog among his sheep, walking toward a distant tree, and playing an instrument sitting under the tree while his flock drank water.

    So I drew

    And drew

    And drew

    By the end of the day, I had lots of drawings. (if you want to see all of them, click here)

    And I had 4 new comp value sketches and I feel like the shepherd looks more unique and a lot more lively.

    Tug of war

    Leap Frog

    To the Tree

    Mid Day Concert

    If you want to be among the first ones to see these completed, follow me on Instagram. (@pamela.hanks) I'm going to do a portfolio reveal of all the work I have been completing starting the first Tuesday in March.  One image a day.   

    #Marchmadness #Portfolioreveal #pamelahanks #breathinglifeintocharacters #cutesheep #shepherd sketches

  • Portfolio Building: Cutting out my weakest pieces

    Years ago, I read an article by someone like me: an artist working in the field of Children's Art.  She  passed on a piece of wisdom in the form of a story.

    She said an Art Director explained to her how their publishing house evalated artists.  They chose 2 pieces from the artists portfolio to evaluate: their strongest artwork and their weakest artwork. 

    The artist immediately went through her own portfolio and curated out all of her weakest art.

    Everytime I curate my portfolio now, I put on my Art Director's Hat and edit the pieces in my portfolio with two criteria: Good Art and Story.

    Is it good art?  I evaluate the art.  Are there drawing flaws?  Do I have any tangents?  Are there strong silhouettes? Is the perspective off? Are the values correct?  Can I take a photo of it, turn it into a black and white image and still see the correct values? Can I fix it easily, or do I need to start again? I get rid of the stuff I know won't work, fix what I can and  seek out my weakest pieces and take them out. 

    My second criteria is story. Does it tell a story?  I am in the business of telling stories to children through art.  Each portfolio piece needs to tell a story. I may have done a great piece of art, but if there is no story, I don't include it in my portfolio. Vast landscapes with no characters, a single cow in the middle of a field, and a still life of a figurine or a toy are great pieces to include in an academic portfolio to get into a BFA program, but not to land a job illustrating for the children's market.  So I take them out.

    This curating helped me just a few weeks ago as I looked over the artwork hanging on my wall ready for me to color.  One piece in particular really stuck out as being bad.  I had spent the most time on that piece, but it was still bad and no amount of color would change how bad it was.

    I started looking at all the other pieces and realized that the characters in many of them were not fully developed.  They looked like cardboard cut outs.  There was no personality.  I had been in such a big hurry to produce artwork for my portfolio, I forgot to develop the characters. They are still on my wall, waiting for me to figure out who they are so I can breath life into their drawings.

    I'd love to know what you think. Look at my portfolio (www.pamelahanks.com) with your art directors hat on.  Which piece would you pick out as my strongest piece and which is my weakest? 

  • It's Alive!: Adding Life to my Characters

    Feb 6, 2020

    At the end of the week last week, I had 8 pieces of artwork all shaded with pencil just waiting for me to add color to them.  Over the weekend, I realized that even if I went ahead and colored all of them, there were a couple that I knew were not my best work. 

    One of them I had already invested a considerable amount of time into drawing, redrawing, cropping, redrawing, and redrawing, cropping again and redrawing.  Thinking I finally had it right, I went onto shading.  But I really don't like the piece. It feels like I was just trying to get something done and it was the best idea I had at the time.  Which is the truth.

    I had a light bulb moment, however, when I realized that the pieces I liked the most had characters that I had drawn over and over again. I knew the characters form and I also knew the characters back story. I decided that to avoid making artwork just to fill a spot in my portfolio, I need to invest in a character and then let him or her tell their story as a series of portfolio pieces.

    If you want to see the rest of the images, in this series, follow me on Instagram. I post most of my process and portfolio pieces there first.

    #dragonslayer #pamelahanks #pencildrawing #castle #hotairballoon #illustrationseries

  • Batching Portfolio Pieces

    One of my goals for 2020 is to have a complete portfolio of my shaded pencil style.  I have 6 pieces that I am proud of on my website today. I plan on increasing that to 20 solid pieces.  I've spent the last month batching out additional portfolio pieces. 

    Why batch?

    I've been thinking about how to increase my efficiency.  And as I've watched you tube videos of people who are selling product on Etsy, I've found that they don't just make one apron, or one book, but they line everything up and batch out a dozen at a time.

    I'm applying this concept to my illustration work.  I've found that working on 4 images allows me to take a break so I can come back with fresh eyes the next day and instead of only getting 1 image done a week, I can work on 4 0r more at the same time.


    First I spend a couple hours at the beginning of the week, doing thumb nails and looking for ideas.  At the end of the 2 hours, I take a look at the best of what I've got and develop them. I'm looking for 4 good ideas for each batch of images.

    4x5 Line Comp

    I scan in the thumbnails I plan on developing and crop. I'm looking to end up with an 8x10 picture, so I initially crop them with a 4x5 ratio and increase the image size in photoshop to 4"x5".  If the image needs a bit developing, I will draw on my cintiq and try to improve the drawing. I also check to see where the rule of thirds crosses the main element of my drawing as I play around with the crop of the image.

    If I can, I clean up the image in photoshop and print it off.  Sometimes, I'm ready to go into the value study and other times, I take what I've printed and go to my light table.  I can usually draw better with pencil on paper than with a stylus on a monitor.  

    4x5 Value Comp

    I could do this next step in photoshop, but I love my copic markers. 

    I usually start at the lightest value (N0), because like watercolor, you can always go darker, but you have to use white pencil to go lighter.  (Sometimes when I've made a mistake and I don't want to scrap the whole comp, I go back in with a white pencil to see if it would work to lighten up an area.  I kind of like the effect.)

    Doing a value comp helps me decide on a small scale what values I am going to use in the finished piece.  Because it is only a 4 x 5 inch value comp, if I find that the values aren't working, then I can easily print off another image and try again and I've lost less time than if I just went for the finished piece and fixed the values there.

    I have discovered that I need some distance between making decisions on how to improve my drawings in each step, so batching my drawings works well.  Once I get each image to the value study step I tape them on my wall and wait until the next day.

    Initial 8x10 Line Drawing

    The next morning, I take a look at the images and critique them.  I read once that you need to be your own best editor.  I can't really do that on the same day as I draw them, because I'm too close.  Waiting until the next day, really helps me gain distance.  Occasionally, I'll finish the value sketch and already see a problem, so I'll make a note about what I need to change in the margins of the image but I still wait until the next day to make changes.

    After I've critiqued my images, and I have a good 4x5 image, I scan it back into photoshop and increase the image size to 8x10 and I print it out once again.  I take all 4 images back to my light table and draw the initial 8x10 line drawing.  If I like it and I don't see any more things that I need to fix, I tape the initial 8x10 line drawing to my wall and wait until morning again.

    Refining the 8x10 Line Drawing

    I critique my 8x10 drawing in the morning and I often see things that are wrong or things I forgot to address.  I scan, correct, print, draw on the light table over and over again until I like the image and I am ready to work on the finish drawing.  Sometimes it is straight forward and sometimes I use 20 sheets of paper or more making changes to the same drawing because it isn't working for me.  I might even go back to the 4x5 image and redraw it on that scale to fix issues or to give myself a new perspective on the drawing. Or I might change drawing tools, and scan it back into Photoshop and use the stylus to draw something different.  When I can't seem to solve the drawing problem, changing it up a bit helps.

    Finishing the Pencil Drawing with Shading

    Often, when I'm ready to shade the image on Bristol paper, I don't even stop, I just get the bristol paper and tape the image onto the back of it and use my light table to start on the finished shading. Sometimes  I'm not even aware that I've stopped drawing and started finishing until I'm done.  

    I use the 4x5 value comp heavily as I shade.  It  helps to remind me where I already decided to place the shadows and the highlights.  It is a great map.

    Adding Color

    When the pieces have been shaded, I scan them into Photoshop and color them.  I like to use a separate multiply layer to color on top of my drawings because it allows the lines and shading I've done to come through.  I can also change the color of my lines and shading in photoshop to allow for other possibilities.

    Where I am at:

    As of this morning, I have 8 pieces completed through the shading step.  I have one more piece that I should be able to complete by the end of today, and one I am struggling with. I've taken this latter image to finish and then realized it had some major drawing flaws and took it back to the drawing board (no pun intended) and worked on it some more.  It's still on my wall, waiting for my brain to solve the design problems it has so I can take it to finish.  

    I haven't colored any of these new images yet, but I figure I can batch the coloring of them all together.

    I wanted to know how long it took me to complete an image.  As I am tracking my working hours between billable and non billable, I write down what I worked on.  After my first week, I decided that I need to get faster in my process.  And since a lot of the time was spent on drawing and redrawing, I have no doubt that the more I do, the faster I will get at this process and the more I will like the end result.  I haven't tracked this week's stats, but I think I am faster this week over the last two weeks.  

    Talk to you next week.

  • Billable Hours

    January 23, 2020

    Sometime in October 2019 I had a light bulb moment. I needed to spend a minimum of 4 hours a day doing artwork. I still have kids at home and although they are all in school during the day, I found myself finding excuses and other 'work' related tasks to do that were not artwork.  

    Since then, I found myself being more productive.  Yet, if I was going to contribute to the household expenses, I needed to sell as well.  I found I was working on artwork, but not selling it.  Part of that is because I am not investing time into selling and promoting what I am making.  Truth is, I'm not even sure anyone will be reading this post.  But since it is part of my new plan, here I am.

    As the end of the year drew near, and I was  struggling with what were my priorities for 2020, I developed a plan for how I was going to allocate my precious 4 hours a day so I can produce, donate, market, and learn new things.  It all revolves around the idea of Billable Hours.

    Lawyers think in terms of Billable hours.  Can I charge this to a client?  Yes? Then it is Billable, and they can bill someone for their time. The more billable hours they put in, the more they get paid.

    So, I've divided my tasks into Billable hours and Non-Billable hours. 

    Billable hours include me doing anyting that I can sell.  Artwork: From thumbnails, to value comps, to full size line drawings, to finished pencil pieces, to painting compositions in Photoshop I consider Billable Hours.

    My Non-Billable hours include mailing postcards, collecting addresses to send postcards to, setting up mailchimp, gathering together my Inktober drawings into a pdf to send to my mailchimp email list, time I spend on doing artwork for charity, learning new art mediums, researching a market or learning more about business, or learning how to be a better writer, planning social media campaigns, and yes, writing a blog. Anything that I can't sell but is necessary to grow my business.

    I could spend most of my day on the Non-Billable hours stuff, but if I don't have any artwork to sell, it won't really do me any good.  I can spend all of my day on the Billable hours, but if I don't make the connections with people, I won't see a penny for my efforts.  

    It's a balancing act. 

    As the start of week 1 of 2020 rolled around, I set a goal to spend 60% of my time doing Billable hours.  And I was very successful.  At the end of week 1, I had spent 21.1 hours working.  15.2 of those hours were billable hours! (72%)  

    Encouraged, I refined my plan. 60% Billable Hours and then the Non-Billable hours, I would spend 10% on Marketing, 10% on donation items, 20% on learning new things.

    That second week turned out pretty good too.  

    Total hours: 30.8

    Billable: 22.3 (72%)

    Marketing: 0

    Donation: 3 (9.7%)

    Learning: 2.5 (8.1%)

    I had an additional 3 hours where I had to go buy new art supplies.  So I need to figure out how to do that outside of work hours or make a plan for shopping too.

    Since my most important goal is to spend at least 60% of my time doing billable hours, I feel elated over the 72%, but it did come at a cost. I didn't market myself last week, aside from a few instagram posts.  

    Week 3: this week I missed a whole day to President's Day (the kids were home and we had friends over) and a couple hours on another day due to shear laziness, I've only worked a total of 9.4 hours this week out of the 14 hours I had planned on working this week.

    But, I will get at least 1 hour of that time done for marketing, because I am writing this blog.  See you next week.