Pixels, Patience and Practice

If you’re going to get better at something, it helps if you actually like it.

Most people don’t want to spend the time or energy to get something “just right”.

But if it’s something I like — or need — that’s a different story. And yes, there is a definite difference between doing something if you like it vs. needing it. Which is basically where I’m at.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a children’s book for quite some time and since I’m off work for a bit, it makes sense to use my extra time productively.

The writing is fun for me – I enjoy making little story-poems, and I’m in the process of making one about Cooper. Our family adopted Cooper and his sister Chloe from the Thunder Bay Humane Society in 2017 and we love them dearly.

Every pet owner probably thinks their pet is the cutest, the funniest or the quirkiest – which is always true – and I think it’s safe to say that we all learned a lot more about our pets throughout the pandemic. We spent a lot more time with them and our relationships deepened. (our pets sure are special to us, aren’t they?)

Like any proud pet parent, I think Cooper would make a great character for my children’s book.

And like anyone who is new to something, I’m quickly discovering that developing this book involves more steps than I thought. I’m determined to figure it out, but it’s taking more time than I thought — especially the illustrations.

Ugh. I’m an artist, so this is extremely frustrating – and probably a good ego check.

Seriously – some of my attempts make me question my abilities as a creative person. Take a look at these sketches:

The first was made using Google Keep, and the second & third were made using Procreate. They’re very basic sketches to help me learn some basic steps but they’re nothing like what I’d like to see in my book.

My frustration was almost enough to make me give up, but I decided to vent to two former students whose skills with Procreate are crazy-good. They always had patience for working with digital art and even though they’re not my students any more, we keep in touch and I am so proud when I see them sharing their work.

They gave some awesome tips and lots of encouragement. (I loved this role-reversal)

So, like a kid wearing superhero underpants, I set out to do what I needed to do.

I found a tutorial on YouTube. Actually two – but this one helped me take my first steps. The best thing about learning from videos is having the ability to watch, re-watch, pause and work at your own pace:

You’d think creating a cartoonized image of your pet would be easy. Cartoons look simple, right?

I thought so too. But we’re wrong.

It takes some serious skill.

Freezing rain & snow outside = the perfect day to stay inside & avoid doing laundry.

Learning takes time. Our brains need time and repetition to absorb stuff. And practice.

It probably wouldn’t hurt if I had better equipment. I think I’ve accepted the fact that I need a stylus because using my finger to do all this kind-of sucks.

I also have a 4th generation iPad. It’s fine for a beginner like me, but holy smokes it’s an antique compared with what’s available now.

From what you see on this video (Procreate gives you the option of saving a video of your work), you’d think it didn’t take much time to create. But it did. It took hours.

I’m satisfied with my progress, but I’m hoping to get better.

My goal is to make images that are good enough for a kids book so maybe it’s ok that they’re not perfect. But still, I’d like people to enjoy looking at them and I’d really like to move beyond static pictures so I can show Cooper with some expressions.

If you have advice, please share. I’d appreciate it!

🙂

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2 Responses to Pixels, Patience and Practice

  1. dougpete says:

    You’d be talking to the wrong person, if you’re talking to me. I’m still trying to work with that image that you made available for us. I have nothing but faith that you’ll be able to pull this off.

    I’ve got a storyline for you, or maybe it’s just getting it off my chest.

    Your Cooper figures prominently, living as far north as you do. My Jaimie who we think is part Husky lives just about as far south as you can get. He’s never experienced a harsh winter. I’m smiling when I think of Jaimie visiting Cooper and getting a lesson about what life is like in a “real” winter!

    Anyway, I’m excited to see where your latest project takes you

    • colleenkr says:

      Oh wouldn’t that be cute? They could start by being pet-penpals. 🙂

      You’re still working with the image, which is awesome! You’re trying to finish it digitally, right? You know, you could always print it out, grab a set of crayons (mostly to enjoy the smell) and go for it, old-school…

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