Friday, October 13, 2017

A New Picture Book Project: Ruth Asawa

About celebrating the little things and the BIG things, like getting another book illustration job.

Ruth Awawa: A Sculpting Life cover sketch by Traci Van WagonerRuth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler and illustrated by me from Pelican Publishing

I realized that I haven't shared the good news that Pelican Publishing hired me to illustrate another book. Yay! In February of this year, Kevin, Pelican's Art Director, emailed me with a different type of manuscript about a real person with which he thought I could have some fun. I read the manuscript, a biography about an artist I'd never heard of before, Ruth Asawa a Japanese-American artist. With a little web research, I was hooked. Check out my pinterest board where I've collected a ton of images and research on Ruth and her work. It's stunning.

I emailed Kevin with my terms and schedule, and guess what? A few days later...

Yipee! celebratory art by Traci Van Wagoner I got the job - Yippee!

So, I did this quick celebratory illustration and sent it to Kevin.

Here's a run down of what I've been doing and the progression of this project.


The Contract fold from Pelican for the new picture book job, Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life for Traci Van WagonerI got contract and initial payment and the researching began, starting with Ruth -- amazing information and images. I also found David Zwirner gallery. I sent an email explaining the project and asking if they had any information they could provide, and/or sculptures to see in person.

Prep for text dummy for Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler to be illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

I completed a text dummy and dove into more research.

Sketching begins on Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler being illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
Sketches began where I explored and learned more about Ruth and got to know her and her work. And then I needed more in depth research.

Color Final for Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler, illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
I painted the first color sample in which I established the painting style and basic color palette.

They loved it.

Final sketches in progress for Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler, illustrated by Traci Van WagonerIt was time to finish off the sketches. Oh yeah, and more research for the nitty-gritty details of all the scenes.

As I was finishing off the sketches, I heard from Jonathan Laib, the curator at David Zwirner. Earlier this year the gallery became the executors of the Ruth Asawa estate. They were preparing for an opening featuring Ruth's work, and he graciously offered to show me some of the smaller sculptures before the show. Laura, his assistant, called a couple days later and invited me to the gallery for a private showing of a few of the smaller sculptures. It was amazing! (Thank you, Laura and Jonathan!)
Photo taken by Kurt Keller of Traci Van Wagoner at David Zwirner Gallery with Ruth Asawa sculpturePhoto taken by Kurt Keller of Traci Van Wagoner and Jack McDowall at David Zwirner Gallery with Ruth Asawa sculpturePhoto taken by Kurt Keller at David Zwirner Gallery of Ruth Asawa sculpturePhoto taken by Kurt Keller at David Zwirner Gallery of Ruth Asawa sculpturePhoto taken by Kurt Keller at David Zwirner Gallery of Ruth Asawa sculpture

(photos by Kurt Keller, Ruth Asawa sculptures at David Zwirner with Traci Van Wagoner and Jack McDowall)

I was totally mesmerized when I saw these in person. The photos don't do the sculpture justice. There is a magical quality when you see them in person with the looped wire interacting with itself and the air.

“My curiosity was aroused by the idea of giving structural form to the images in my drawings. These forms come from observing plants, the spiral shell of a snail, seeing light through insect wings, watching spiders repair their webs in the early morning, and seeing the sun through the droplets of water suspended from the tips of pine needles while watering my garden." ~ Ruth Asawa

With a renewed energy after seeing some of these amazing intricate sculptures in person, I finished and sent the final sketches.

While waiting for approval, I was thrilled to be able to go to the gallery opening at David Zwirner where I had the opportunity to see a couple rooms filled with Ruth Asawa sculptures,* and I was able meet Jonathan. He is open to the idea of having a book opening there next fall when the book comes out. Stay tuned for updates on that.

The sketches were very well received with only a few minor revisions needed, and I got wonderful and encouraging comments from the author. I love it when what I'm doing and trying is well received and understood.
"Thank you for choosing Traci Van Wagoner to illustrate Ruth Asawa’s story. Her story sketches cover my dining room table like a gift, complimenting my words with her illustrations. Traci’s research flows throughout her illustrations. Her creativity and designs fit Ruth’s story well.

In looking at the format of the book, Traci incorporated many different structures on the pages from double spreads to vertical and horizontal styles, and to lovely looping with illustrations within the curls. The size variations of framed illustrations add subtle dimensions, showing the reader the diversity and range of Ruth’s art too…always trying something different, exploring, and experimenting. The double page spreads interspersed in the book are a treat for the reader. They focus on important pages. The four-section page with the train has a real sense of movement. I enjoy the subtle passage of time through the sun and moon." ~Joan Schoettler
Thanks Joan! You made my day!

And I got some wonderful kudos from Kevin: Traci Van Wagoner – That girl is the bomb!

I completed the revisions and sent that over. Pelican decided to send the sketches to Ruth's daughter to make sure we got everything right. She had a few changes and suggestions, but overall she loved what I'm doing. I have one spread to rework, and then I'm set for painting.

Now you are up to date. Be sure to check back for more updates as I move into the painting phase of this project.

*The Ruth Asawa show at David Zwirner runs from September 13 through October 21, 2017. If you're in New York, I would recommend checking it out.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Girl with Ruby Pink Walls

Character Art from Inktober Sketches

Going on an adventure, inktober 2017 character sketch by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
This girl spoke to me from my Inktober sketches and begged me to paint her. I combined the two sketches you see on the left to create the final character I painted. She wants to go on an adventure like the girl and dog in my Balloon Lift Off series, which you see posters of on her wall. Her ruby pink walls were inspired by last week's colour_collective prompt. I painted most of this on my iPad Pro with Procreate, and finished it in Photoshop since the iPad was required elsewhere.
The Girl with Ruby Pink Walls childre's book character art by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

I had originally titled this, Running Away, but I'm not so sure she's running away versus running TO an adventure.

What do you think?

Her pen and ink counterpart in my Inktober series is on an adventure now. I'll be sharing my first week's drawings soon of Around the World in 31 days with Georgia and her Dragon, Swift, so be sure to check back.

Thanks ever so much for stopping by!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Pirate Island Concept Art

Setting inspiration paint play for one of my picture book projects

I didn't get a chance to post over the weekend since Inktober started and that sort of took over everything. I'll share more on that later. I also discovered the Bullet Journal system and had a ton of fun setting that up. It may be exactly what I need to get organized and settled and get stuff done instead of hummingbird fluttering from project to project and idea to idea, around and around.

Anyway, back to the topic of this post, Pirate Island. I had fun working out this setting for a picture book of mine. It involves a dragon and has a pirate flair. The kick-in-the-seat-of-the-pants I needed to get this image and concept out of my head and onto paper (so to speak) was, surprise-surprise, #colour_collective with the color prompt, Old Lace (the top part of the sky.)

Now that I have an image of the world my MC lives in, I can sketch out the scenes of her and her brother and a dragon interacting in the world easier. I'm excited to finally get the dummy book done for this one. I'm quite in love with the final story and this setting.

Picture book writers, do you find it helpful to have a setting image available while writing to ground your characters in their  world? This question goes for illustrators as well, actually. I previously have created character sketches (see below) before doing the dummy book, but not often the setting.

Pirate Island setting concept art for a picture book project by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner

Character exploration art for the picture book project

Gertrude character art for a picture book project by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
Bratford, the brother, character art for a picture book project by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner

Sunday, September 24, 2017

What are You Hiding? Middle Grade Illustration

I decided to try my hand again with another monochromatic drawing, in blue this week, following the #colour_collective color prompt, Pewter Blue. I had fun playing with Procreate 4 while creating this one. I'm trying to decide if I like the messy look and line work, but overall I'm happy with this as a middle grade illustration.

Can you see the dragon?
What are You Hiding? a monochromatic illustration in pewter blue by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

On another note, check out my guest post, Draw What You Know and Know More by Drawing, over at Dani Duck Artist Obscure as part of the Smart Dummies contest this month. Hopefully there's some helpful tips there about researching and drawing. There's also a prize available from Bryony Supper. Go check it out.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Silly Squirrel Chasing Dog

While transferring old files from disks to a new backup drive, I rediscovered several old dummy books and a variety of sketches for various projects. One project in particular I had a lot of fun going over again. I've had this picture book idea, My Dog is Crazy, bouncing around for many, many years and it has gone through various drafts, rewrites, dummy books, critiques, submissions and around and around and around. It's had some interest from editors, but not enough to make it past the final hurdles to get bought. So, it has sat in wait for a while. I just may try to tackle it again.

This illustration came from a sketch from an early dummy book which I still loved when I found it, so I painted it. Once again, #colour_collective provided the nudge I needed with the color Vert Pré.

Samantha Rose Edwards tried to hold Marvel, really she did, but Marvel is crazy. Zip-zooming, splish-splashing, squirrel-chasing crazy! 
Crazy squirrel chasing dog a fun children's book illustration by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Monday, September 11, 2017

Getting Illustrator Recognition

About standing up for ourselves as artists

Every so often I do a google search for various things: my name, my design company name, and my book titles. Yesterday I did a search for the book I illustrated for Pelican Publishing, The Mermaid's Gift by Claudia Cangilla McAdam. I came across something interesting and wanted to let you know how it played out. I found a fun website selling my book. There's a wonderful review of the book and a nice ending note about how beautiful the illustrations are. But... my name was nowhere to be found.

This is a problem I've noticed around the web on various sites and social media. Often times illustrators don't get the credit they deserve whether its for illustrated books, posters, packaging etc. Being an introvert, it's not easy for me to speak up. So, part of my campaign to make sure illustrators are getting recognition is:

Be Bold and Brave

Fear Less illustration by Traci Van Wagoner
©Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

So, I contacted the website and politely pointed out the problem and informed them that illustrators, especially for picture books, need to get credit as well. Guess what? They responded. They added my name! Yay! The last paragraph of a beautiful description and review now reads:

This gorgeous picture book beautifully illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner is an inspiring  gift for all ages!

Italian Children's Market
I'm sending a shout out to Isabella Centofanti at Italian Children's Market for not only carrying my book, but also doing the right thing.
Thank you!

Always keep in mind, it can't hurt to ask.

Have you noticed an overall lack of illustrators getting credit? Any other illustrators out there notice this problem? Have you done anything to help get illustrator credit? Artists unite.

The Mermaid's Gift writtey by Claudia Cangilla McAdams and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
The Mermaid's Gift, Pelican Publishing, 2015

 "The Mermaid's Gift stands out among the many versions of this tale for its showing (not preaching) of the very qualities we hope to instill in our children: love, courage, faith, and perseverance."
Italian Children's Market

More posts about The Mermaid's Gift.
See sketches, process and more.

Click "Books" to find additional links for purchasing the book

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Balloon Lift Off 7: Castle in the Clouds

Up, up, up into the wild blue yonder to the castle in the clouds. The red balloons keep flying. Hold on little girl, hold on! Keep up, puppy, the best you can.

I hope my painting and this adventure will uplift your spirits in troubling times. Keep on dreaming.
Another Red Balloon adventure by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Balloon Lift Off: 6 Balloon Crossing

In case you've been missing the balloon adventures, here's another one for fun, Balloon Crossing. The color inspiration was Buttercup. I keep debating about how much noodling to do on these. I like the loose and energetic feel, but I also like to noodle things -- sometimes too much. That's one of the reasons I'm really loving painting on the iPad. I create most of these paintings with my finger first, and then I bring in the Apple Pencil when I want more detail. My art has loosened up a lot and I think feels more fresh.

Where do you think the balloons will take the girl and her dog next?

Balloon LIft Off 6: Balloon Crossing by Traci Van Wagoner an illustrated adventure
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Shocking Pink Fairy Tale Queen

I don't usually paint with such a shocking color, such as pink and stinky, but #colour_collective inspired yet another break from my color palette with Shocking Pink, although I do love to use purple and that worked well with the pink.

This color really took me back to my early days of toy design in toy school at FIT with all the girly toys and, of course, Barbie. I spent a lot of time combing the isles of toy stores back then, and it never failed, you turn a corner and -- BAM!-- an entire row of nothing but shocking pink plastic girly toys everywhere and most of it perfumed. Thus, pink and stinky.

These characters came from sketches for one of my picture book projects. I think I like them, so you'll most likely see more of them in some form or another. Shocking pink may not be the right colors for them for the story, but it was fun here.

Since I've been spending a lot of time exploring color this year with these weekly challenges, I might as well ask, what's your favorite color? Or colour?
children's fantasy art of a Queen and King with their pets by Traci Van Wagoner
© 2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Illustration Friday: Shoes

I painted these shoes for Illustration Friday's prompt, which is "Shoes", in honor of my favorite pair of shoes and, well, they're orange and sunny and fun, so there's that too. Oh, and a dog, because you know dogs are awesome!

What are your favorite pair of shoes? And/or are you a cat lover or a dog lover?

An illustration of orange shoes and a dog with a cityscape behind painted by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved