Ever a story... waiting to be told

Friday, August 26, 2016

New Work: The Bookkeeper

17 x 20 Colored Pencil and Graphite
Katherine Thomas
This was a really fun piece. Not related to the book I'm working on, just an expression of myself, and putting together subjects, shapes, colors, textures that appeal to me!
I need to do pieces like this once in awhile... they help me to stay in touch with my own inspirations, rather than always trying to produce work that is geared toward somebody else's vision or what I suppose to be their vision.
My next little endeavor will be to create promo postcards, showing my illustration work, and mailing them out to all the breweries and wineries in the Cincinnati area. I think this piece might be front and center on the postcard. I could see something like this on the front of a wine label, couldn't you? (nod 'yes'...there ya go...)
The other little endeavor I want to get cracking on is to get my Instagram page spruced up and active. I've had one for a couple years, but haven't been very attentive to the whole Instagram revolution. I've focused on Facebook, which has been really successful for me, but I just have an inkling that I need to have a stronger presence on Instagram too, as I look toward the future.
So lots of projects on the To-Do list. None of them guaranteed to yield any new opportunities, but you don't know until you try, right?
The next drawing is already underway, and it's another illustration for the Lemongrass story. Little by little, page by page, word by word, picture by picture... that book is going to happen!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Turning Up The Volumes

WIP Small section of  16 x 20 drawing
You know that feeling when you hit on the perfect combination, and everything just seems to flow and each new development is more exciting than the last? Yeah, that's what it was like drawing these books! Somehow I managed to get a beautiful blend of colors to create that antique, weathered look. 
On first glance, it seems like I used all warm colors, but I didn't. I used all different values of blue and lavender to bring out the texture and create the forms. It always seems like magic to me, how just the right color can do that. (Probably because it doesn't happen very often for me!) Before those book-drawing pencils could get mixed up with the other pencils, I made sure to write down exactly what combinations I used, and which colors layered in which order. Hopefully, I'll be able to recreate those same tones again on another piece some day! 
But now I'm moving on to the other parts of the piece, where I will make a point to bring these same colors back, in different ways. 
My palette for a typical colored pencil piece consists of about this many pencils. (I'm not going to count them) which I sort of organize in these trays, but they get mixed around and left here and there on the desktop as I'm working. Sometimes I'll put a collection of pencils for a particular subject into one tray, and bring it over closer to the drawing. Sometimes I only need one or two trays. Sometimes I need to use four or five trays... and sometimes there are more pencils scattered around the desk than in the trays! But it works for me! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New Work: The Bookkeeper

The Bookkeeper
12 x 14 Graphite
Katherine Thomas
This fellow was standing outside a little souvenir shop at the Renaissance Festival, and I couldn't resist snapping his photo. From there, I let my own imagination put the story together on the paper. The beauty of working with graphite is the freedom to be able to change things and I took full advantage of that freedom with this piece!
 In my reference photo, his hand was posed on top of an easel, and I didn't want that, so I drew the globe, which has a top edge similar to the easel. I drew it from the Pacific side, because I clearly remember the day, as an adult, I finally realized that North America and Russia are almost touching! I always thought they were so far apart because of the maps we had in school! I changed the shapes of the continents a bit too, just because they look prettier.  
The globe is perched on a stack of books, which have become sort of a trademark of mine. 
He had a purse of some sort where you see the clock, but I didn't like the purse, so now he has a nice big watch, with only one hand. They're better that way, because it can be whatever time you want it to be! 
The walking stick in the reference photo was boring, and didn't stand out enough, so I changed it to a candy cane, which is way more fun. 
For the background, I had planned a long path fading into the horizon to the left, made from a long page of sheet music, or a page of old English text, like a story book... but that started to seem overwhelming, so I opted for a dirt road with a low stone wall disappearing into the horizon. But when I started to draw it out, I didn't like how it broadened the whole scene away from the man. 
It seemed cozier and a much more cohesive composition to put a stone wall behind him, leading the eye down to his face. 
My next project will be to enlarge this drawing and redraw it with colored pencil! I'm thinking I'll use all kinds of blues, with some splashes of bright warm colors here and there. But we'll see what changes I make along the way! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Exhibitions Everywhere

I think this is a record for me... I have seven original pieces out and about at different shows right now. And it's making me a little nervous! I keep forgetting where they are and thinking that I've lost one, only to remember that it's hanging in an exhibition somewhere. 
My "Cadenza", bottom right, is hanging at The American Art Company in Tacoma, Washington at the CPSA 2016 Juried Exhibition. It will be there until August 13. Then they will (cross your fingers) ship it back to me in the same box, with the prepaid shipping label I enclosed. 

My "Side Street" and "Menagerie" are hanging at the Kennedy Heights Art Centre's juried exhibition: Summer 2016. I was happy to see that Side Street was the first piece people saw when they walked in the door, right there in the main entryway. 
I'm not sure when this one ends, but it's around mid-August. At which time, I need to go collect them, so I'd better check into that! 
Lastly, I have four pieces hanging at the Atrium Hospital in Middletown. These too, will be on display until mid-August some time. This mini solo exhibition is a spin-off of my solo exhibition at the Middletown Art Center. If anybody wishes to purchase these, the hospital contacts the art center, who handles the sale (and gets the 30% commission). 
I'm laughing to myself... that's a lot of artwork in shows... coming from the woman who last week said she didn't think she wanted to participate in so many public showings of her artwork! 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Greens And Such

Snippet from 13 x 20 Work-In-Progress
I did some studying on greens, because I wasn't happy with the way my little grasshopper friend was turning out. I took 39 different green pencils outside and tried to match the hues in the plants. Interestingly, only about 8 pencils were needed to match every green thing outside! 

I'm treating the greens as if they are flesh tones, and adding some golds and lavenders in places where I would put them on a person's face. I think these two have more personality now. 
Joon Illustration. Graphite.

In other news, "my" beer, Joon, has been re-released for the summer. It's available on taps and in bottles at various places around town. It's nice to see that, and reminds me how much I love to do illustration work that gets printed on something like that. I'm even thinking it might be time to back off on the fine art biz, or entering exhibitions and framing all my pieces and carting them around, hoping somebody will buy them. I kind of want to just stay in the studio and make illustrations and write stories. 


Friday, June 10, 2016


14 x 20 Colored Pencil
By Katherine Thomas
Yep, it's another page for the story. And also a stand-alone piece of artwork hopefully. This one was a joy to draw. I love drawing in perspective, and I love making things up, so drawing 36 little houses (count them if you don't believe me) was really fun... for the first 25.... at that point I started to wonder if I'd ever be finished drawing little houses! But finish I did. 
The most challenging part for me was the girl's face. I still have that paranoia about skin tones and faces. How many times do I need to draw them before it becomes as natural to me as drawing houses? 
I'm already on to another page for the story, involving the whole grasshopper family: Mrs. Hopper, Clod Hopper, Belle Hopper, and little Edward Hopper! I'll be showing them to you very soon!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Layer Upon Layer

Photoshop has always been a great mystery to me... Sure I knew the basic photo-editing tools, but I also suspected that there were many, many creative possibilities,  just waiting to be discovered.  It was just a matter of sitting down and diving in. So I did that. Starting with LAYERS. What the heck are those, and why do I need to use them?
Aha! I found out! And I love using layers! 
The SCBWI workshop was helpful, but I didn't really get it, until I watched a bunch of Youtube tutorials. I chose videos that were made by illustrators, doing the things that I wanted to be able to do. 
This two-page spread was done with six different layers. One of those layers was for text only, and I wasn't sure how I wanted to align the text. So...... I hid the existing text layer, temporarily, and created a whole new layer with the text aligned differently. Then I toggled back and forth looking at how each one looked on the page. Then I just deleted the layer I wasn't going to use. How cool is that!
For the trees on the left, I made a layer with my original drawing flipped, and then used selection tools, etc, to get just those trees. I had to touch up the lines a bit, which was not an easy task, using the trackpad. I need to be able to do this with a stylus of some sort. So guess what.... I googled up some Youtube tutorials and discovered that I can work on the iPad with the Apple pencil, connected to the computer with the app Astropad! I haven't bought the new iPad or the pencil yet. I'm hoping to be able to test them out somehow first, to see if they'll do what I need them to do.
I don't think I'll ever be a digital artist. I love my pencils on paper too much for that. But to shun the digital art world and all the possibilities would be a huge mistake,  I think. There is so much that one can do, combining the best of both worlds. And I'm excited to explore!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Takes A Village

16  x 20 Colored Pencil
Another page in the story, as the intrepid adventurers, Lewis and Clark sail over the rooftops.
I first created a rough draft in graphite, with lots of erasures and experimentation. Then had it enlarged and transferred to the 'good' paper for the final version in colored pencil.

11 x 14 Rough Draft

In the meantime, I joined the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators! 
There was a meeting/workshop in Columbus, about an hour and half away... so I went! The topic of the workshop was Adobe Photoshop, and how to use it to tweak your illustrations and make them fit onto a page with text. I didn't learn as much as I had hoped to... but I did get to play with some tech tools, such as the Surface Pro pad and the Wacom Intuo. It also got me thinking about how writing and illustrating a kids' book is much more than just thinking up a story and drawing a bunch of pictures. Putting all that stuff together into a book, with each page being special on its own... there is where the challenge will lie! And I'm excited about giving it a try! 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

To Judge and Be Judged

How many times do we wonder just what that judge was thinking when he/she either rejected or accepted a particular piece for an exhibition?
The competition element in the art world is such a mystery to all of us. But I gained some understanding when I, myself, was asked to don the judge's cap! 
I judged the 2016 Congressional Art Competition for high school students. There were 133 entries, from which three award winners would be chosen, along with 15 honorable mentions.
Not sure what to expect, I brought a notebook with me, and the hosts provided me with a pack of sticky notes. First I took a good long look at each piece... and if my first impression was that there was something exceptional about the piece, I wrote down the title and medium. I had about 50 pieces written down on that first walk-through! 
Next, I started at a different point in the room, and went around again, looking at the skill level exhibited in each piece and the techniques used by the artist. Was there good composition, correct proportioning, value contrast, texture, effective use of color, and was it mounted well, or displayed in an appealing manner. This narrowed the field down a little bit more. 
Again starting in a new spot in the room, I went around and looked for uniqueness. Did the artist explore a new subject that hasn't been seen before, or did the artwork feature a typical subject depicted in a new way? Also what was the artist wanting to convey through his artwork? Did the piece fulfill that objective?
After a while, it became very clear that some pieces really stood out as being solidly strong in all areas, or showed extraordinary achievement in a particular area. 
I felt good about the final decisions. And went home feeling like I'd really grown as an artist, myself, by going through the judging experience from the judge's side. 
And luckily, nobody at the reception challenged the results, and I didn't hear any grumbles as I walked around! I will acknowledge, though, that the decisions may have been a little bit different on a different day, or I might have reacted differently if the pieces had been arranged in a different order. We are all human, and can't help but be subconsciously influenced in ways we can't even fathom. 

We can't take one judge's opinion too much to heart, because art, after all, is ART.
On the other side of the coin, I lucked out as an entrant, in the International CPSA Exhibition this year! My piece, Cadenza, was juried into the show. This is my third acceptance, so I will receive Signature Status with CPSA. It's just a validation that I'm on the right track, and that somebody saw something of merit in my work. But it's also a challenge and inspiration to keep working hard toward the next goal, and to keep producing the type of art that I want to produce. 
Hope your month of May is full of fresh spring air and sunshine!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New Work: "Outside The Box"

Outside The Box
6 x 9 Colored Pencil
Katherine Thomas
So... I tried my hardest to stay completely realistic, showing my technical skill in rendering true-to-life, just-like-a-photo, perfect strawberries on a gently rolling tablecloth. 
But... I got bored. I had to do something different, something fun, something to make the viewer pause and take a second look, something to THINK about.
That's just what I do! No sense in fighting it, I guess! 

This illustration is for a cookbook page, with the Northern Ohio Illustrators. All of the recipes pertain to the area. I selected my mother's strawberry pie recipe to illustrate. 
The book comes out in the fall, and each artist will have a two-page spread, with their photo, bio, recipe and illustration. I'm excited to see it!

Friday, April 15, 2016


16 x 20 Colored Pencil
Katherine Thomas

This is part of the children's story that I'm working on. The girl and grasshopper sail into a storm and their sail becomes torn. This helpful woman happens along and mends it for them. Some people will look at this drawing and feel satisfied to see a woman mending a sail. And I'm fine with that. 
However, it has been my goal with this project to create pieces that can  stand alone in their own right, and convey their own unique meaning, outside of the story. She is stitching the world back together, with sure and practiced stitches. Her face is weathered and aged, showing the wisdom and expertise that she has gained throughout her life. She is dressed simply, and she is using plain, but sturdy, thread and needle... to perform the work that must be done, and the only payment she expects in return is the personal satisfaction that she has done some good for someone else. That's the story that I see, anyway, and hopefully that idea will be conveyed to the viewer in some small way. 

*Storyboard Tip*
I came up with a really easy way to create my storyboard and keep up with all the revisions as I go along... I'm using the "bookwright" template From Blurb.com, which is a free download. I set it up in the standard format for a children's picture book. It's easy to just open the app, and make additions or revisions. I could even print the book right from there, if I wanted to. But I'm not sure I want to do that. I've got plenty of time to figure out what I want to do with the finished book... I'm thinking at least a year or two... :)

Seamstress (original and prints) available on Etsy.com