Ever a story... waiting to be told

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Solo Exhibition 2016

The Middletown Art Center invited me to exhibit my work in their front gallery. I'm ever so grateful to them! It's a beautiful space and I've been doing Meet-The-Artist sessions to demonstrate my colored pencil techniques. I've met so many nice people!

My solo exhibition runs through June 2, so there is still time to book your flight (haha) and come have a look!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Page 21

Work In Progress...
The mapsail.... part of a 16x20 drawing

This will be another page in the story, but can also stand alone as artwork in its own right. That's been my challenge with the story illustration project: to create storybook images, without sacrificing the artistic elements. It's taking a very long time to complete, and I don't anticipate finishing the book any time soon. But that's okay! I'm enjoying the process.

11 x 14 Rough Draft for illustration

Friday, March 11, 2016

Books N Bricks

16 x 20 Graphite
Katherine Thomas
I'm still working on my story illustrations... but I was getting a little concerned that maybe I would be type-cast as a children's artist, with all these little-girl-and-grasshopper drawings. So I took a little side path to do a graphite piece that has been lurking in the back of my mind for a couple of months. 
I love the way the tall brick houses in downtown Cincinnati look like rows of books on a bookshelf, and I just had to bring the two ideas together! I was careful, though, to plan the details so that the eye follows a definite trail through the piece, based on the Golden Spiral, with the main area of interest being the stopwatch. (I hope)

It just got framed today, at Michaels, and I'm pleased with what they did. The frame is actually leather-bound, to match the books in the drawing!
Something's Afoot
14 x 18 Colored Pencil
These two pieces will hang along with about 18 other pieces, at my Solo Exhibition in Middletown Art Center, March 24 through June 2. Speaking of solo exhibitions... these things are a lot of work! I've been busy creating inventory spreadsheets and brochures, framing artwork, and planning an informal Gallery Walk presentation, which I will do five times, on different days. It's all fun and exciting though, I'm happy to have the opportunity! 
Hope you're well and enjoying the turn in the weather toward spring! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Something's Afoot!

14 x 18 Colored Pencil
Our little adventurers are heading off into a strange land... what will they encounter next?!

In other news, the graphite drawing "Aloft" was accepted to the Black And White juried exhibition at Pop Revolution Gallery in Mason, Ohio. This exhibit will run until mid-March.

Also, I've been offered a solo exhibition at Middletown Art Center, which will run from March 24 to June 2. If you live in the Cincinnati/Dayton area, I hope you can visit! The art center is open daily from morning through evening. If you want me to meet you there, just send me an email!

I hope you're having many creative days this winter! And spring is just around the corner... I can smell it coming!