Saturday, August 11, 2018

Ireland 2018, Days 3, 4 & 5

Hi all -

Day 3 of our Ireland was our Wild Wicklow tour.  Because we were spending a majority of time in Dublin, I wanted to make sure there was at least one day where we got to see some countryside, so I booked a one-day bus tour into beautiful County Wicklow.

I won't go into the nitty gritty of it all, except to say that we drove through and stopped at some beautiful places.  To me, this is what Ireland is all about. 

The boy looks out at the Irish Sea in Dun Laoghaire

The tour guide called this, "The bridge from the movie, P. S. I Love You."  I hadn't seen the movie when we went to the bridge.  I have now seen the movie.  The bridge was barely featured and the movie was trite.  Beautiful bridge.  Bad movie.  Unless you liked it, then, I'm happy you liked it.

County Wicklow
Snapped a sheep from the bus
Hanging out on a rock.

"Kevin's Kitchen" in Glendalough.

The following day was a bank holiday.  What's a bank holiday? you ask.  Well, it's basically a day off for Ireland.  I did not know about this and so it wasn't our best day as far as doing things we planned.  Many attractions were closed.  It was kind of a bummer.  But we did get to go on the GPO (General Post Office) tour.  The GPO was the rebel headquarters during the 1916 Easter Rising.  My husband loves history so he knew all about it and really wanted to go.  I'm not a huge war history buff, but I did find a nice exhibit that focused more in individuals and what their experience is like. 

My goal for this day was to have a great meal.  And I did.  We went to a place called The Boxty House. 

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Boxty Dumplings from Boxty House, Dublin

About three days before we were to leave for Ireland, we had a surprise visit from some friends who were passing through town.  They told us about a Netflix show called Somebody Feed Phil, and they said there was one where he goes to Dublin.  So I watched that episode and he went to The Boxty House.  Boxty, which is a traditional Irish potato pancake, sounded good to me.  And they had a lot of gluten free options, and that's good for they Boy.  And it was delicious!

The boy and I had Sweet Potato, Kale, and Boxty Dumplings, while the husband had Vegetarian Chili over Boxty.  Both meals were delicious.  If you're in Dublin, I highly recommend The Boxty House in the Temple Bar Area.

Day 5 was our travel day back to West Hartford.  We were all very ready to return home.  We're not super travelers.  We love to go visit places, but after 4 days we're ready for home.  We miss our routines and our cat.  (We did not miss the massive heat and humidity.  In fact, we were thrilled to have missed a 95 degree day.  Gross!)  But the before we left, we visited a nice little place across from our hotel called Restaurant 104, and got a traditional Irish Breakfast.  There was even black pudding (which the waiter described to me as "all the parts of the pig."  Great.)  But I tried it.  I thought it was OK.  The boy liked it.

The dark, round discs are Black Pudding.
And then we flew home.  And let me leave you with this, Aer Lingus is a very nice airline with an excellent selection of inflight entertainment.  I binge watched 80% of Fargo, Season 3.  It was great.

And now we're home, tra la la, and settling back into our routine.
The cat was very happy to see us.

Thanks so much for tuning in!
Julie


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Ireland 2018, Day 2

Our second day in Dublin was met with nice sun and people (us) who had slept well.  Ahhhh, sleep.
The men went down to the restaurant to have a good, hearty Irish breakfast, while I enjoyed a little time to myself in the hotel room and munched on a banana and granola bar.  I had to do Type-A things like pack my bag for the day and make sure we had our tickets and things like that, so it was good for me to have a little quiet for my organizational process.

Image result for Book of Kells
Image grabbed from Wikipedia
Then we caught the bus and journeyed into Dublin bright and early for a 9am viewing of the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  (Guidebook tip: Buy tickets ahead of time online and aim for an early slot or a late slot.  Don't go in the middle of the day unless you enjoy crowds and body odor.)  I aimed for early.  They have a very nice gallery/museum part that tells all about the Book of Kells, who made it, it's history, how they made it, and detailed descriptions of the art.   Then we went into the main gallery to view the book.  Actually, it's books.  Plural.  Trinity has four.  So they open them all up to a certain page and that's the page you see.

Then we went upstairs to the Long Room - which is amazing!  It looks like a set from a Harry Potter movie.  Or rather, it looks like the inspiration for one.  It's so cool!

The Long Room at Trinity College

Then we did some touristy things.  We walked down Grafton Street to St. Stephen's Green.  We saw the Molly Malone statue.  Then we were going to be adventurous and take the trolley/tram to the West side of town to visit the Guinness Brewery, but the tram was down for service that day.  Bummer.  So we took the bus.  We were getting pretty good at navigating the bus system.

Molly Malone Statue.
I am sorry to say that I really disliked the Guinness Brewery tour.  The husband and I had been there years before and had found it charming and fun, but I guess they redesigned.  It was now more like a Science Museum meets a night club.  It was very dark, loud, and crowded.  Even the room that displayed the art was dark.

Look at this.  This is totally fun retro Guinness art.  This should be shown in an atmosphere that is light and fun.  Not dark and moody.  Come on!

Image result for guinness brewery art
pulled from the internet
The pinnacle of the Guinness tour is that people can go to the top floor of the brewery and get a 360 degree view of Dublin - which sounds great!  But when you get up there, it's wall-to-wall tourists.  It's hard to get anywhere.  Honestly, the whole thing was kinda my nightmare.  If someone is super into brewing their own beer, then okay, maybe they would enjoy it.  But for me, it was the lowest part of the trip.  Bleh!

I did get a picture of this horse though.  It was outside the brewery.  That was the best part of that little adventure.

Horse outside the Guinness Brewery.
That evening we saw a show.  (On our previous trip, the husband and I saw one of the best plays ever called Stones in his Pocket.)  We were really hoping to have another amazing theater experience.  The play I wanted to see was sold out, so we ended up going with something called Copper Face Jacks.  It was a very local piece - lots of in jokes.  I'm sure I missed a ton of references.  But the idea was simple enough - a Dublin city dude who has issues with country folk, falls in love with a young woman who recently moved here from County Kerry.  It was very campy.  The singing was great.  The set was very low-rent community theater.  But it was fun and the boy liked it a lot.

Image result for Copper Face Jacks show
Image pulled from evoke.ie
On Day 3 we headed out to the countryside.  Come back for more!

Thanks!
Julie



Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ireland 2018, Day 1

Last year, the Hartford Airport got an Aer Lingus direct flight from Hartford to Dublin!  Yippee!  That means ... Ireland Vacation!

Ireland
We actually just got back and it was really lovely.  It's an overnight-ish flight to Dublin.  What really happens is that you lose 5 hours of nighttime.  So you leave at 6pm and you arrive around 5am the next day.  I was hoping our room would be available and the hotel would let us check in early, but as it turned out, it was booked.  We tried to crash in the back lobby of the hotel, but apparently they were not down with people sleeping on their sofas.  They were very polite when they told us to come back later.  So we went into the city, running on fumes.  (In the future, I will book a room for that night.  It will be worth the extra money to be able to crash.)

Dublin, River Liffey

Dublin was misty and cold.  (Which was nice.  It's been very hot and humid this summer in Hartford.)  We walked a good part of the way, maybe a mile or two.  It's so fun for me to see the different types of houses and signs, and flowers.  There are so many flowers in flower boxes and front gardens and street flower pots.  I suppose it's an easy enough thing to do when Mother Nature waters the plants nearly every day, but they were still very bountiful and vibrant.


Eventually we got tired and rode one of the double decker buses into the city.  There, we found a lovely little hotel to have a good breakfast in and sit down.

After breakfast, they city started to wake up.  The mist cleared.  We went to a few bookstores.  The boy was so tired.  I really felt for the kid.  We found one bookstore, The Winding Stairs, with a big wing chair and let him crash while we browsed the books.


After that we tried the hotel again.  We had to wait an hour, but then they got us in the room and we all crashed for a nice, long nap.  Except that there was a dog barking.  If you know my husband, you know that he is not fond of dogs.*  But he has a reason.  There has always been a dog that lives nearby that wakes us up.  In our first apartment, it lived one floor below.  In our current house, there are two next door.  A barking dog when he's trying to sleep is his kryptonite.  So it was a little funny that a dog in back of the hotel was really going at it.  But we closed the window and turned on a fan and that seemed to do the trick.

(*I don't want to upset dog people.  He likes dogs.  He doesn't like yappy dogs that wake him up.  That said, we have a cat.)

After we were refreshed, we headed back into Dublin, into the Temple Bar area.  What a fun vibe!  The street was alive with people mulling about, slipping in and out of pubs, looking at sidewalk stalls.  We browsed all the menus until we found one lovely place called The Larder.

Fun with Dublin street art.

Crab and Crayfish Salad at The Larder.  SO GOOD!

I'm not usually a big foodie - but this place had a crab and crayfish salad that was one of the best things that I have ever tasted.  Sooooo good.  The boy got his steak - so he was happy too.

After dinner we strolled up and down the River Liffey and crossed the Ha'Penny Bridge.  Then we went back to the hotel to settle in for the night.

Dublin and the River Liffey

More in the next post.  (I promise it won't be a month coming.)




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Graphic Novel Composition

One of the ways that working on a graphic novel is different than a picture book, is that there is a ton more composition work in making a graphic novel.  While illustrating a picture book, I might only have to do one illustration for a two-page spread.  Which means, there is only one rectangle I have to worry about.  Ah, the luxury!

from Monkey Ono by J. C. Phillipps,  Viking 2011

Here I have one nice, big rectangle to work in all my visual information, as well as my text.  I have three characters balanced on page page, opposite the sketchbook with three key points in the plan. 

I can have a two-page spread in a graphic novel, but it's not the normal, so a scene needs to be pretty important to warrant that much space.  It needs to be a really big deal, like an intro into a new setting, or a big dramatic scene ... something major.  Something you want the reader to pause on, and take in.  Most of the story in a graphic novel takes place in smaller panels.

But all the same rules of composition to a graphic novel as they do to a picture book.  They just apply to each panel.  So, in the illustration from Monkey Ono above, I have to think about character placement, clarity, scale of characters, characters spacial relation to one another, and an overall aesthetic that is appealing to the eye.

I have to do the exact same thing for a panel in a graphic novel.

from Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker by J. C. Phillipps, Random House 2020

Here is a panel from Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker.  There is a decent amount of text here, so I chose to use a long panel.  I wanted to break the text up a bit, so I put Pacey in the middle of her text.  Since I have the space and we are in a new world, I added the background.  Slasher, who is about hip tall, stands a little ways away.

That's the composition of this single panel.  That's not too hard.

But now I need to do that to every panel on the page, as well as the page as a single unit.  And by that I mean, I have to apply the rules of composition to each and every panel, but the final page has to be balanced as a single composition as well.

from Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker by J. C. Phillipps, Random House 2020

Then - because in a graphic novel you don't view one page at a time - I have to consider the double-page spread as a whole composition as well.

from Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker by J. C. Phillipps, Random House 2020

When composing the double-page spread, I am usually looking where to end the scene, or if I should use the page turn as a way to build drama.  (In this case I ended the joke at the bottom of the second page.)  I also try not to have the same panel composition two pages in a row.  This spread is pretty evenly balanced in that both pages have 3 rows,  but then I altered the panel structure.  On the first page on the first page, I went 2 panels, 1 panel, and then 2 panels.  And on page 2 I did the opposite:  1 panel, 2 panels, and 1 panel.

It's a lot to consider (and in my first run of composing, the drawings are very loose and I erase a lot. 
I'll talk about that more in the next post.)

This is a super light overview of composing a graphic novel.  Proper composition is a skill to be learned.  For a more in depth look at the whole process, I highly recommend Scott McCloud's Making Comics.  It's a wonderful resource.

Thank you for stopping in!
Have a great week!

Friday, June 15, 2018

My First Celebrate West Hartford

This past weekend was Celebrate West Hartford.  Celebrate is a super fun weekend fair in our town.  There are rides, games, food trucks, community booths, and lots of art.  It’s actually a very impressive art fair. People who know that I’m an artist will often ask, “Are you doing Celebrate?”  And I always say, “No.”

For one thing, I don’t have a tent.  It’s an outdoor fair and you need a tent.  (Tents ain’t cheap.) And the other reason is that I like to attend it as a patron.  I like to see the art. You can never attend an art show if you’re working one.

But this year one friend talked me into it.  “Do it. Do it. Do it.” I succumbed to peer pressure.  And another friend loaned me a tent. So fine. I signed up for Celebrate West Hartford.

Me in my Handmade by Julie Phillipps booth.    2018.
Then, when it was over, all my friends asked, “How did it go?!”
It went fine.

Pros:  
The weather was great.  Partly sunny and high 70’s - low 80’s.  It really couldn’t have been nicer.

Free tent.  Tents aren’t cheap and my friend even had art walls so I could hang stuff.  So my cost was a little lower.

Seeing friends.  It’s always nice when friendly faces stop in to support you and say hi.

Selling art.  I make a lot of stuff, so it’s always good to be able to unload some of it and make some money.

The black-and-white wall.  Lots of Steampunk Flying Machines.
Cons:
It’s long.  On Saturday I was there from 8am to 6:15pm.  And when I say “there” I mean in a 10X10’ white tent.  At a certain point, time began to lose all meaning.

Too much smiling.  It really is exhausting to have to be pleasant for that long.  Sometimes, I would duck behind my card rack just to frown for a minute.

Cost.  The pay-in for Celebrate is the highest I have ever had to pay.  That’s not to say it is too expensive or that they don’t use the money well to advertise.  I think they do. But it is a lot for an artist, and the most I’ve ever paid.

I missed the experience.  I really love going to art shows.  And I could tell they had a lot of great artists this year.  I would have preferred walking around with my husband and son, looking at the art, and having a great time.

So it was fine, I made money, and I’m glad I did it.  But next year I think I will attend as a patron.


One last thing, when you’re sitting in a 10X10 tent for hours on end, it’s fun to notice what people are attracted to what items.  It did not surprise me to see that a number of men liked the Steampunk Flying Machine series. But it was hilarious to see the people who were drawn to the cute stuffed animals.  I had a burly guy with tattoos and face piercings come over and pick up a stuffed llama. “Look at the llama!” he said to his girlfriend. That just makes me smile.

Thanks so much for stopping in.
HUGE THANKS to anyone who's reading this who came out to Celebrate West Hartford!
More on the graphic novel experience next time.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Putting Together A Graphic Novel Submission Package

Hi all!

Someone recently asked me what materials I needed to put together to show my graphic novel to editors, so I’m going to cover that in this post. I want to point out that I don’t think there is an exact way to do this.  Basically, you just want to convey your vision as completely as possible. For me, that included a completed manuscript and a 20-page finished-art dummy (in pdf form.)

MANUSCRIPT
Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker is a middle grade novel for grades 4 - 6.  The manuscript is about 22 pages long, and that turned out to be roughly a 120-page graphic novel.  It’s really important to know what age group your story is for. That will have a lot to do with how many panels you can put on a page and how much text.  (Not to mention the tone of the story and how your characters will speak and think. But that's writing. This is more about formatting.)

This is a page of my manuscript.  



Again, there are different ways to format a manuscript like this.  I like the TV script way of centering the characters name and putting their line of dialog beneath, but that would have taken up an extra line. So I went with the more economical way of putting the character’s name on the left, tabbing in, then adding the dialog. Art notes are indented about 3 inches in.

DUMMY BOOK
I wasn’t sure if I was expected to pencil in a whole dummy when I started.  I couldn’t really find any finite information on this. One site said I should have character sheets like this one:

Character Sheet from Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker by J. C. Phillipps

(My agent didn’t feel that was necessary for our submission, but I recommend taking the time to make these. It's good to know what your characters look like from different angles, and you should do at least one that has all the characters standing in a line-up so you can be consistent with size.)

Really, what I wanted to do, was show the way I break a story down into panels, how I use the page turns to build tension, and draw a few different locations so editors could see how I envision the art. Here’s a page.

Page from Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker by J. C. Phillipps

I opted to go with black-and-white.  Color printing for a 120-page book would be very expensive.  I figured if a publisher wants to buy it and make it color - great!  But I thought it would be best to show them a cost-friendly version first. (The more you can think about production and marketing, the better.)

Also, you have to pick a size.  I just went with my gut, knowing full well that the dimensions would probably be changed.  And they will be. But you have to start somewhere. I would recommend finding a graphic novel that is similar in age and subject matter to your project and looking to that as a format guide.  

So that’s what I put together.  Then I sent it to my agent and he sent it out to publishers. (Also, if you have an agent, they can help a lot in this process. It's their jobs to know what editors want to see. So always check with your agent.) 

Thanks so much for stopping in!
I’ve taken a week off from Pacey to get ready for a big art show in town, Celebrate West Hartford.  I’m sure I’ll have some pictures to share next week. (I fear Saturday will be rainy and gross.  Arg.)

Have a great week!


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Writing A Graphic Novel: Crafting the Tone.



Hi All!

I've been spending the last month sketching out pencils for my first graphic novel, Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker (Random House, Spring 2020.) But before I got to this point, I had to write the darn thing.

This is a project I have been working on for a long time.  For years, it was a side project while I focused on picture books.  But when things started to dry up in the picture book department (meaning, no one was buying what I was making) I started thinking more about the graphic novel and a genre jump.

My earliest draft of the story is in June 2011.  The basic plot remains the same; Pacey is babysitting her little sister, Mina.  They have some conflict, as sisters tend to do.  Mina flies off on a real-life unicorn and Pacey - and the stuffed unicorn Slasher, who is actually alive -  go to the magical land of the unicorns to get her back. 

Over the drafts there was a lot of difference as to who the unicorns were, what they wanted Mina (and other children for) and a lot of secondary characters changed along the way.

Early character sketches for Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker

Here's a sketch of the characters from an early version of the story. The unicorn queen was cut and replaced with a similar character.  Dave got cut completely.  R.I.P. Dave. 

I spent a lot of time crafting of the tone of the relationship between Pacey and Mina.  In general, I think the older sibling is usually annoyed by the younger sibling, especially is they are the same gender.  So Pacey is pretty annoyed by Mina most of the time.  But, Pacey was coming off as unlikable.  That's not so great in a lead character.  So I had to increase the annoying qualities of Mina, and calm Pacey down so she was really trying to get along.  That made Pacey a nicer, more likable sister.  But there still needed to be some conflict, and Pacey is not a perfect person.  She likes to be in charge.  So instead of using the time with Mina to play with her - like Mina wants - Pacey uses the opportunity to play more of a care-giver/mother role, and that drives Mina crazy.  Mina wants to be like Pacey, she wants to be equals.  When Pacey treats her more like a baby, Mina freaks out and leaves on the unicorn.  (You may be asking, Is there a unicorn readily available, like a taxi?  No.  It makes sense in the book, tho.)

Once I got the sister relationship down, things went smoother in the character development part. 

Then I had to nail down the tone for the plot.

Why would unicorns take children?  Well, I knew I wanted to steer away from a My Little Pony sensibility.  So the unicorns are not awesome, fun characters who bring love and friendship.  In an early version, they were taking kids and forcing them to work in mines.  That was probably a little too harsh.

Then I went the other way.  I made it very silly.  Unicorns were out scouting children to perform in a talent contest to amuse the royal unicorns.  But the stakes were not high enough to cause a full rescue.

Eventually I settled on a unicorn population that felt a little more high society.  The unicorns of the tapestries. 

Image result for unicorn tapestries

Unicorns are the national animal of Scotland, after all. 

So I wanted to create a group that saw themselves as high status, cultured, and intelligent and did not appreciate how children have turned them into rainbow-maned cutie dolls with hearts on their butts.  So when the unicorns find a child - like Mina - who is particularly guilty of this cultural offense, they do something about it.  (I won't say what.)

The balance there felt correct.  Then I proceeded to scene work.

In the next post, I'll talk more about the format of writing a graphic novel.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Have a great day!