Monday, December 30, 2013

More Info on Painting Color & Light Class

First: These Santa images will be part of our homework optional assignments in our "Painting Color & Light" class. We'll be offering finished drawings to use for practice paintings of various color and lighting situations in our LIVE class. Recorded class members will also receive the homework assignments but will not receive the critiques. In a few weeks we'll send out all of our homework options so students can pick and choose what they want to work on during the class.

Second: Because we have so much information to give out on our upcoming Painting Color & Light Class we have decided to offer a few short prep classes.  These classes will be FREE for those who can attend them LIVE online. We will offer the recordings in our store afterwards for a fee but if you can make it on January 7th at 7:00 MST you will be able to join us live for free - we'll send out links to join our GTM session so put your email in the comments below if you would like to receive the joining links. We will upgrade to a higher level of software to accommodate over 100 attendees if there is that much interest.

We'll go over many principles that you would learn in a color theory and rendering class to bring students up to speed for the "Painting Color & Light" class. It's very helpful to be able to hit the ground running when we start our 7 week class and we want everyone to feel like they understand what we're talking about in that class. (did I say 7 weeks? yes - we added another critique class for our LIVE students!) Below you will see the material we will cover in our prep classes:

Light and Shadow What is value and how is it used? What are gradients and how do they work in a drawing? Can drawings work in mostly light values, dark values, both? Lighting shapes What direction should my light be coming from? How does light fall on a sphere, cube, cylinder, & human form? What is the relationship between the darkest dark and lightest light? why is reflected light important to show form? What are cast shadows and what happens to their edges? What direction do shadows go? What are occlusion shadows
Painting Color What colors should I buy or use? Are white and black colors? Should you ever use black? What happens when you mix various colors? What are cold & warm colors? What is a vibrating color? What are color opposites? What’s the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary colors? What are tints, shades, and gradients? What is a triad? How can you neutralize two colors? What’s is a complimentary color scheme and an analogous color scheme? How can I get rich color in my painting?

Our email list is continually growing and all our upcoming classes and announcements are sent out to our email list first. Put your name and email below to stay up to date on what we're doing at SVS!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Gary's Place" LIVE for iPad - Steps 8 & 9

Build the app & submit to the app stores.

So much has happened in the last few weeks! We finished our app - submitted it to apple - got it approved and started marketing it!

In the following video I interview my son Aaron who used Kwik to develop our Gary's Place app. He also submitted it to the Apple app store and we talk about that as well. If you're into this stuff you might find our video useful as you move forward with your own story.

Check out reviews of Gary's Place:
Rob Smith
Jan Watford
Digital StoryTime

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Painting Color & Light Online Class

I'm very excited to announce our SVS Painting Color & Light class that is now available on our website. I'm not sure what I like painting more - color or light - so why pick? Let's do them both! Actually you really can't have color without light and vice versa so it makes sense to have a class dedicated to the exploration of both.

The class will start at the end of January and will run for 6 weeks each Tuesday. You can see all the details here.

This class will also offer some very detailed assignments - I'll blog about them later as we get a few weeks out from the start of the class - but I have already designed them. Students will have a choice of 3 assignments at various levels. Also - there will be two prep class sessions in early January that we will offer for free for those who are new to painting, have never taken formal illustration classes, or need to brush up on their value and color skills. These prep classes will be offered for free if you can attend the LIVE video taping but will be offered as a video in our store if you cannot make the Live session. I'll announce those dates very soon. We'll use an upgraded version of GoToMeeting so we can accommodate a large number of attendees.

Adding luminosity to your paintings can make the difference between "good" and "AMAZING!"

Oh, and we'll also be featuring Blue Sky artist Ty Carter - he's been taking the animation industry by storm with his amazing luminous paintings! Check out his work here and check out the class here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Flying Fish Character Design

This was one of my studies for our upcoming character design class this Saturday - it's been a blast preparing for it. I love taking time to develop personal exploratory work. For those of you already signed up I look forward to meeting with you during and after the class in our personal sessions! Thank you!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 7

Add sound effects to your story app.

This was one of the funnest parts of the creation process. I was amazed at how much sound can "sell" an animation or idea - it's pure magic. Looking at your little animations work is great but they are silent by themselves - adding the right sound brings them alive.

Tips: I used for a bunch of the sounds I used. The sounds are free to use as long as you give credit to the artists in your project. I only used "public domain" sounds and "creative commons" licenced sounds. The agreements can be easily viewed and read on their site.

I also created some sounds using tinyvox on my iPad and then altered them in Audacity. I couldn't find a good digging sound for Gary but I knew what I wanted - so I scratched my pant leg  - I know - weird right? but it made a pretty good sound. Then I doubled it up in Audacity, changed the pitch, and cleaned up the front and back end and it was perfect!

Kwik allows you to use both mp3 and wav files which you can create in Audacity. My total learning time in Audacity was about one hour from fooling around with the program and watching youtube videos produced by 8 year olds. One of the most important things you can do with your sound files is to chop off the dead space at the front and end of the clips. You don't want the users of your app to hear hiss or crackle before the actual sound is about to play.

Stay tuned as I'll keep sharing my progress on "Gary's Place" which I plan to submit to Apple, Google, Amazon, etc. in a few weeks. I'll continue to blog about this process even sharing my sales stats when it hits the various app stores! If you're wondering where the first steps are I started this project back in September 2013 - check these links:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9

Friday, November 29, 2013

Extra Video for our Character Design Live Class!

As an added bonus we've decided to rope in Disney artist Shane Lewis to start our video series off right. Shane is going to record a "Character Design: First Steps" before our Power Day and anyone who has or will purchase the Live class before Dec 14th will get this one for free - we still have space left.

Shane has taught character design for BYU and brings a unique method of creating unique characters that have proper emotions, gestures, stance, costumes and details that are appropriate for your story - he goes deep getting into the psychology of the character. At Disney he creates characters and story boards for some some of their games like Cars 2 and Toy Story 3. Jake Parker and I will get together with Shane to make this video in a conversation style - we like this format because we can challenge each other to bring clarity to the principles that Shane will teach.

So this is what our lineup looks like:

Shane Lewis: First Steps - psychology of your character
Jake Parker: Design principles, shape, gesture & keeping consistency in your characters.
Will Terry: Exaggerating from Life, simplifying form, & proportion
Brandon Jeffords: Character design demonstrations
Jake Parker: Action & Emotion

This extra video will only be included in our LIVE class. It will become available for purchase after the class as a separate video in our SVS store. Our goal for SVS is to develop a video library that will give any student the tools needed to continue their personal improvement. We plan to constantly create new classes to challenge artists at affordable prices. 

If you can't attend our live session you can always pick up the recorded version to watch at your leisure - our early bird discount ends when the class starts on Dec 14th 2013.

Check out the class right here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Artists Should Always Have A Personal Project

I've wanted to make this video for a while - the idea of having a personal project in the works at all times during an artist's career. Personal projects require a different kind of thinking than satisfying an assigment or commission. In the video I make a few cases why you should push yourself to create your own creations and how to go about it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 6

Record the voice narration.

On my last app "I Eat You" I used the iPad app "Tiny Vox" to record my own voice - making all the crazy fish voices and generally making a fool of myself. It was fun but now I'm in app making 2.0 and for Gary's Place I decided to hire a professional! But back to Tiny Vox - wow! what a cool app for only a couple of bucks. If you're on a budget you can get good clean sound tracks with this little gem. The built in noise cancellation leaves the front and back end of your sound clips hiss free.

But I got really lucky that I ran into Tabitha Thompson from our SVS classes. She was looking into the whole process of leveling up her illustration skills as she's already a talented writer. I mentioned that I was looking for voice work and she said she would love to provide a sample - it was amazing - I only found out after the recordings that she was trained professionally.

Tabitha Thompson has an advanced-level degree in theatre from Cambridge, England, and has worked as a professional actor, singer, and dancer since 1989. You can contact her at tabitha.voiceact at icloud dot com.

Then I worried that I wouldn't be able to afford her - but her rates were really reasonable - so I paid for 3 hours of her time which included driving down from Salt Lake. Then I paid for an hour of time with a sound studio. Since I'm in app creation 2.0 I wanted to leave no stone unturned. My goal in making this app is to give reviewers, moms, dads, kids, peers, very little to find fault with. 

I tried to give as little input as possible during the recording since I'm really just an illustrator. I told myself, "Let Tabitha feel free to explore her art as you enjoy being left alone to explore yours." The result was really fun. Being the professional she is -she nailed it on the second take. I only asked her to re-read a few lines twice for a few reasons she wouldn't have understood without seeing the illustrations.

The sound guy (Ryan Haldeman part of the “kid history – youtube” team)  used (my favorite large file sharing site) to send me the voice recordings. Then I used Audacity to cut the long sound files into page segments. We all thought it would make a better product to have Tabitha read the entire manuscript – rather than break each page for my convenience. I think it gave her a much better flow and rhythm...and it's super easy to cut the file on your PC or Mac.

Audacity is a free program you can download and you can learn what you need in about 20 min by watching various youtube videos. Want to learn how to cut a file? Just ask youtube: “how to cut file audacity” then watch a 5 year old lay it out – could you have predicted this 20 years ago? Ha! Oh – one little trick with Audacity. You'll want to export your files in mp3 format (if you're working with Kwik) – BUT Audacity can't do that for you because of the pesky royalty Audacity would have to pay to let you do that – instead – try to export to mp3 from Audacity anyway – Audacity came up with a link when you try to save that takes you to a 3rd party web page where you can download a tiny program that works behind the scenes with Audacity to magically create mp3 files – in fact after you install that second program you can just export mp3s right from Audacity.

Stay tuned as I'll keep sharing my progress on "Gary's Place" which I plan to submit to Apple, Google, Amazon, etc. in a few weeks. I'll continue to blog about this process even sharing my sales stats when it hits the various app stores! If you're wondering where the first steps are I started this project back in September 2013 - check these links:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9

Monday, November 11, 2013

Breathing Life Into Your Characters

I'm very excited to announce our newest SVS class - "Breathing Life Into Your Characters".

Like our Painting in Photoshop Power Day that we had a few weeks ago this will be an all day event on Saturday December 14th. There will be a limit of 25 seats for the online LIVE class which will be recorded for those who can't get in. Some have asked us - "If I attend the LIVE class can I still get the video recordings of the class?" - yes - they come with the tuition.

Our headliner this time is Brandon Jeffords - head of story at Sony Pictures Animation. He worked on the animated film: Cloudy With A Chance Of  Meatballs 2 which came out in September. Brandon is an awesome artist and communicator and will be demonstrating how he comes up with expressive characters full of life. This class will be a little different as Jake and I will both be in the classroom with Brandon...we'll be monitoring the chat, helping attendees ask their questions, and of course coming up with plenty of our own questions.

Jake Parker and I will share our working methods of creating characters for children's books, story apps, collectibles, and comics. We've worked out a schedule to highlight each others strengths while assisting each other in each session. Creating memorable life like characters is one of the first steps in creating great story art and this Power Day is going to be a ton of fun!

To check out all the details for this class just click here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 5.5

Finish the artwork. (for earlier steps keep scrolling down)

Shoooeeeee - that took a while!

I'm not going to even try to explain how much fun I've had with the art work in this story was like...nope...not going to even try.

Of course it has been an incredible commitment and sacrifice. Lots of work with little or no guarantee of financial reward. I even had to turn down PAYING work to have enough time to work on it - which will cause some to question my sanity. But those same people will probably say it was a good move if this pans out financially. Show me any thing of value in this world that didn't come with some crazy idea and a lot of sacrifice? For me the journey is worth it alone. I'm content because I'm seeing my idea come to life. How many people can say that? Will it make money? We'll find out as I plan to publish all my sales figures right here on my blog.

Check out the other 5 steps:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Photoshop Power Day Videos Now Available!

We just wrapped up the most amazing day of learning how to paint in photoshop I've ever been involved in! The video recordings are finished and ready for you to download right NOW - and they'll continue to be 25% off for the next too weeks until November 10th.

It was so much fun to teach and learn from Zac Retz, Brooke Boynton Hughes, and Jake Parker. I have to give a special thank you to all of you who participated LIVE in our virtual GoToMeeting classroom - your questions and comments made it so valuable to me and the other teachers. Thank you for being so patient as we worked through our tech glitches.

Here is my finished demo painting that I made for the class - always fun to have an excuse to paint something just for fun!

You can learn more about the class here or purchase the HD video class right here.

We have more classes coming soon so leave your email in the comments below or email me at to be put on our mailing list for future class announcements. We are working on our website right now and our 2014 class schedule. Our goal is to provide instruction that works with current University and Art school illustration and animation programs or with those who have never attended formal art training.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Where Are My Freelance Jobs?

I have been blessed with many connections in the illustration world and many more since I started this blog a few years back and those connections seem to be growing. Every day I get asked questions related to the freelance illustration markets -from how to improve the craft of illustration to how to find markets and clients and I spend a fair amount of my time answering them. I enjoy this time each day.

I made a series of youtube videos on the subject I'm about to discuss a few weeks ago.

In the past month I have been offered three different freelance projects for publishing companies all of which I turned down due to the lack of budgets. I don't want to seem ungrateful - beyond the fact that it's flattering to be wanted - I realize that I'm in a different position than many illustrators since I've been at this a while and have spread out my income streams. I defend the right of our clients to offer what's in their own best interest as we must decide to accept or reject based on our best interests. Some people complain about the price of a water bottle at the gas station...but they don't have to buy it.

But it's the latest offering that I wanted to discuss. If you've gone through an illustration program on a University or art school level you know that illustration rates have either stayed the same over the last 100 years or gone down. The offering I received this week was half of what I used to get paid from this client. This made it very easy to turn down but that's not the point. The point is that what I've been saying (please watch my youtube video if you haven't already - all 3 parts!) is coming true. Prices that have at least "held" for decades are now going the other direction. We are competing on a global scale at many levels. With the ability for individual artists to publish their own music, books, videos, etc the big companies are having to adapt to the competition. It's one reason entertainers like Jimmy Kimmel are releasing anonymous videos on youtube (twerking girl catches on fire) to generate traffic back to his show. Our clients - the people we want to hire us are suffering from the noise just like we are - they are competing with us when we release our own products.

If you look at every potential consumer of your products as having a finite amount of attention per day - in other words in my case a mother will only read a certain number of books or story apps for x amount of time each day to their child. Every quality product that is released has the potential of sucking a certain amount of time out of the pool of consumers. As a result publishers have been going through massive layoffs. Some of this could be due to the recession and slow recovery but I believe that our industry has been hit by a "perfect storm" if you will. The internet is allowing artists and publishers all over the world to work together and compete, technology making creation faster and delivery quicker, a recession, and the ability for anyone to publish cheaply and in many cases - free.

AND education is getting cheaper for illustrators with online options - like our own SVS, Folio Academy, Chris Oatley's classes, Justin Gerard and Cory Godbey's Lamp Post Guild, and many others. This isn't going to go back to the way it was. The number of good and great illustrators is only going to grow. BUT guess what? I think it's wonderful!

I'm doing the best work of my life and getting fewer good paying gigs than ever and I hear this over and over from friends and acquaintances. Why do I think it's awesome? Because I believe illustration is going to become more honest and pure leaving only room for the truly dedicated and passionate artists. The artists that are willing to risk it all for a chance to engage their audiences with emotionally provocative art. Taking on mind numbing, politically correct, predictable, risk free, follow the leader, anemic, cookie cutter, tasteless, agenda driven, thoughtless projects are getting really expensive to produce - because nobody is buying them. I'm up for the challenge - bring it on!

Last year I filled in as an adjunct teacher for a neighboring University to UVU. I was asked to teach the business class for illustration majors. I decided to toss out the playbook we used 15 years ago (put your ad here - generate a mailing list - send out post cards - the end)  in favor of teaching the type of ideas I share in my youtube videos about developing your own projects and testing them in the market. It was appreciated by some and rejected by others. It really bothered me that some of the students were unhappy with what I was sharing. They asked, "Where are our Freelance Jobs?" "We want you to tell us how to get work."  I probably got more pissed off than I should have - after all - they did everything they were supposed to. They worked hard in the first school - got great grades in the second school  and were promised a bright future if they got good grades in the third school which they did - top of their classes. Then they met me in the business class at college where I told them - no - it's all different - it's about what value you can create in a product - that you create on your own time with your own money- and there's no guarantees. Who would want to hear that after being promised a job.

I emailed 20 of the who's who in editorial illustration (I'm talking society of illustrators award winners) asking them if what I was attempting to teach was misleading and false. 17 wrote back telling me (and them) that my advice was spot on and that they have had to make many alterations in their freelance careers in the last decade to stay viable. One said, "I lay awake at night trying to figure out my next moves...what am I missing?" Only one said that business has never been better. We read their letters in class - you could have heard a pin drop. The editorial market has probably suffered the worst with hundreds of magazines and newspapers shutting down or going online only and cutting much of their art budgets.

Where are your freelance jobs? For some there will be nice opportunities but for the majority you're going to have to afford yourself the time to do what you love and if you're dedicated, passionate, and smart enough to make the right products that change people emotionally - you'll do just fine. Just a decade ago the idea of creating your own animation, books, games, recordings, HD video, used to be next to impossible without a middleman. Now it's like there's a yellow brick road leading to your DIY projects. The tools have been created for you - hardware, software, websites, etc. The question is really up to bad do you want it?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jake Parker Will Throw Down On Power Day!

As a special bonus Jake Parker will add his tips and tricks on how he uses Photoshop to our upcoming power day! This was never part of the original class because he was knee deep in a few big projects but when I sensed he was nearing the end I asked and he delivered. So even though he we won't have time to fit him in on the Saturday event his videos will be bundled with the class video recordings.

So for those of you who are seeing this for the first time here's the skinny: On October 26th 2013 we are going to be holding a LIVE online Photoshop class taught by 4 illustrators/animators. Each artist will demonstrate how they use Photoshop to create their personal style - so you get to go behind the scenes and see what tools they use, how they use them, etc. While the class is going on we will be recording the GoToMeeting session. The attendees of the LIVE class will also get to download the recordings to watch over and over later on.

BUT - you can also choose to purchase the recordings only for half price. So why buy the Complete live class? The benefits of the live class: the ability to ask questions to the artists, (even how they broke into the business), my beginning painting in Photoshop tutorial (for out of the box users), and a half hour one on one session with me after the class the following week which can be used to help with your portfolio, work, advice, etc.

You can view the class here: 

And see who's going to be teaching here:

Jake's videos will be bundled with all the videos from the class for a total of 5 artist demos. I think this class is ideal for the artist who wants to switch over to using photoshop to create illustrations or for the person who wants to combine photoshop with their traditional work. We have been sold out for a few weeks but 2 people dropped down to the Lite version for schedule conflicts - so there are still 2 seats available for the Complete class - you can purchase both the Complete or Lite class right now. Either way your videos will be delivered the day after the class via download. Check out the class.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Color Studies for Photoshop Power Day

Just finished a few color studies in preparation to our Photoshop Power Day coming up in a few weeks. I like having everything ready to go long before I get into the online classroom. This way I can pack as much information into my lesson and efficiently cover lots of ground.

Having some color ideas worked out ahead of time takes some of the decisions away so I can focus on the techniques I'll be teaching. Working digitally has made it much easier to make these experiments in just a few minutes...I have about 20 minutes into these studies but being able to move forward with confidence is invaluable. 

Also - the Complete version of this class WAS sold out but we had a few people with schedule conflicts that asked to drop down to the LITE - video only version of the class. So there are 2 spots left as of today if you're interested you can sign up here -but if they're gone you can still sign up for the Lite version.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Speech To Illustration Students - Part 1 - Will Terry

This is the most important message I have for up and coming illustrators and those that are still in school! This is the advice I would want to hear if I were planning a long career in illustration.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How To Write A Children's Book

I'm very happy to announce TWO things this morning. The launch of Ann Cannon's Folio Academy video - "How To Write A Children's Book" and our Fall 30% off Sale at Folio Academy on the entire store! (use code: fall3)

Ann is a very accomplished author of children's books so about 6 months ago we asked her if she would be interested in making a video tutorial. We wanted a lesson designed specifically for illustrators and beginning writers. I'll be honest - I wanted that video for myself. With all the possibilities of indie publishing both traditionally and in electronic form becoming available - the demand for the kind of information packed in her tutorial is going up.

It took us a while because Ann is a busy woman who also writes a weekly column for the Salt Lake Tribune but we finally got time where we could all get together. I really hope this video helps the illustrator who wants to create his/her own story.

....AND - you can get it for 30% off for the next two weeks if you use this code: "fall3"...after that the sale ends.

Here is one of Ann's latest books and you can check out the tutorial here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Family Plot in my Book!

My new book Skeleton For Dinner by Margery Cuyler takes place in a graveyard. So I put tomb stones on most of the pages of art...and then an obvious problem hit me. There were no names on the head stones. So I placed a call to my editor - Nick Temersma at Albert Whitman and said, "ummmm...what should we put on the grave markers?"......."hello".....Then Nick said, "I don't know - what do you think?" Having been around this business for a while I've learned that it's better to have a solution that works for you when you call with a problem. So I suggested, "What if we put our family names on all the tombstones - I could put yours, mine, Margery's..." Eventually the answer came back, "Sure, sounds good". 

I had enough markers to put names from both sides of my family, my mom, my editors, and authors family names, and all the dogs I've had over the years - including pooch who is still very much alive but hey - never hurts to think ahead.

What better way to start October than with a cheesy pitch from Will Terry and a copy of Skeleton For Dinner? Click here for Amazon

Here's a review from Kirkus

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Teaching Has Given Me!

I've been teaching on and off now for the past 20 plus years. At first I was petrified. In fact I really feel sorry for the first students I had back in the early 90's at BYU - I wasn't very good at my craft which caused my teaching to suffer. I hadn't put in enough time to formulate my opinions about image creation.

Fast forward to today - boy am I glad I didn't quit after those first few teaching experiences! I strongly believe in exposure therapy. Afraid to skydive? Go skydiving a bunch of times. I really believe that if you're committed to helping your students learn it will improve your understanding of the subject 10 fold - especially in a subjective subject like art.

The process: You do something that's working in your painting. You have to explain it to someone else. You have to formulate words to describe your process. You hear your own words like you've never heard them before. You make a stronger connection. You make other connections to other principles. You now have to live by those principles for accountability to your students. Your art making improves. Rinse & repeat.

But is doesn't stop there. Because as you help someone else attain the satisfaction you have gained you are rewarded emotionally as well. The connections are so much a part of the teaching. Feeling like you can make a difference in the lives of others is priceless. I have made many friends over the years from some of my former students- and can you have too many friends?

And it doesn't stop there either because it has helped me heal. I've talked about my horrible public school experience as a child here on my blog in the past so I won't go into it again - but finding what you're good at and feeling valuable doing it has been very therapeutic.

I can't begin to tell you how rewarding it has been to teach at UVU and be able to start Folio Academy with Wayne Andreason and now SVS with Jake Parker. To be able to dream up a class and offer it online is such an amazing turn for me. When we get together the ideas just start flowing and we think of all kinds of classes. Early next year we plan to offer a  "Luminous Color & Light" class. You can check out our Digital Painting class here.

My suggestion to artists: Start by mentoring another artists or volunteer at a community art program. Donate your time at various art events and offer pointers. You'll be amazed at how it will inspire you to want to create more...and you might find yourself teaching at an institution or online sometime down the road. The world is getting connected and if you embrace it - it will embrace you.

The image above was created for both my UVU Children's book class & my SVS critique class. I gave both groups the same assignment and I decided to solve it as well - too much fun!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 5

 Adding color using Photoshop!

Making progress! I have the opening screen finished! I'm now adding color to all the pages. This step is going to take me a while so don't think that I've quit if you don't see step 6 for a few weeks. I had to make sure that every screen/page was working with the story and that the animations made sense. The last thing I want to do is start my finish work before the framework is in place. It's much easier to alter a sketch than a painting and if I were doing this 10 years ago (even though there was no such thing as an iPad) I would have most likely started on the color before I was ready.

So the way it will work is that the user will be prompted to touch Gary at which point he disappears into his hole and hopefully entices the user (kiddy) to want to know where he went and what it looks like down there.

If you're new to my blog you can scroll down to see my first steps on this journey - and I haven't forgotten that I plan to share all my stats with you when I put this baby in the app store. I'm always so curious to know how other peoples apps are doing - but nobody shares that info - like it's classified or something...think of me as your own personal Eric Snowden - I'm going to leak all the intel on my app - good or bad - we'll all see how it does.

I'll be making my app with Kwik - the DIY Photoshop plugin that allows a non-programer to create their own code behind the scenes of this wysiwyg. Our Kwik class starts tonight - can't wait!

Check out my first steps:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SVS - Painting in Photoshop POWER DAY!

I'm so excited to announce our
On Saturday, October 26, 2013 we will be offering an all day online live class taught by 4 different illustrators/animators. In addition the class can be picked up for half price in video recording version for those who couldn't get into the Complete class. We think this will be a really great way to get lots of ideas of how to use the tools in Photoshop since each artist will have a different approach.

I'll be teaching first and then co-teaching with the other 3 artists in their sessions. Then the following week I'll have a follow up one on one session with each person in the Complete class. We can use this time to paint on one of your paintings or drawings, critique, or talk shop - it's your time to decide how to use it.

For those who are brand new to photoshop the Complete class comes with my "Beginning Painting in Photoshop" video tutorial series at so you won't feel lost in the class.

Since there is NO assignment in the class you do not need to currently own photoshop to attend. Each artist will be presenting their methods of working as they demo in Photoshop. While they work I'll be fielding questions and working them into the conversation as we did in our "Illustration for Storytellers" class.

In all I chose each artist for their unique style and career success. Zac and Brooke are brand new in the children's book world and both are having great success in a short period of time. To me this is a huge benefit to be able to learn just how they did it! I often get asked for advice on breaking into this business but I'm an old guy - these guys have done it in today's ecomomy!

Zac Retz- was born in New York, in 1991. Zac works mostly digitally. Completed his BFA in illustration from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2012. Since then Zac has illustrated a best selling children's book, Too Much Glue. He now works full time at Workinman Interactive making Disney and Nickelodeon games. He continues to work on many concept art freelance projects,  illustrate children's books, and his own projects. 

Brooke Boynton Hughes- has a BFA in printmaking from Colorado State University and an MFA in figurative art from the New York Academy of Art.  She currently lives in Fort Collins, CO where she illustrates children's books, goes hiking with her husband, and wrangles two bouncy dogs and a chatty grey kitty.  Brooke's first book, Cupcake Cousins by Kate Hannigan (published by Disney/Hyperion), will come out in the fall of 2014.  She also has two picture books coming out in 2015 (Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi, published by Beach Lane Books and MORE! by Linda Ashman, published by Random House).  Visit Brooke online at

Kevin Keele- has always enjoyed creating artwork in many forms: drawing, oil painting, digital painting, sculpture, even stained glass and pumpkin carving. His work has been featured in numerous picture books, magazines, board games, video games, and novel covers.
Kevin is currently an artist for Disney Interactive. He lives in Utah with his wife and two sons. They’re the caretakers of one cat, three chickens, and thousands of Italian honeybees.

To learn more about the class click here!

If you would like to be placed on our "advance notice" list for future classes please send me an email at

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 4

Step 4 - Work on character sketches, Interior sketches, and animations.

If you're new to my blog you might want to scroll down to see my first steps...and keep in mind that I'm making this up as I go - I really don't know what I'm doing but I'm going about this as systematically as possible. I'm using my experience from illustrating children's books to guide my process but apps are a whole new beast so we'll see if this works out. Right now I have the entire app sketched out and am now checking all of my animations to make sure they work and communicate.

The hard part was figuring out what to animate but more importantly what NOT to animate. I really want this app to be able to do more than a book but I don't want to get into full blown animation. I like the idea of page breaks to let the reader fill in the missing visuals with their mind - so not getting caught up in time consuming non-important animation is key to making my self imposed deadline and keeping my sanity.

PLUS! I'm NO animator - This is the first time I'm taking a serious crack at it so I don't want to bite off more than I can chew. The little guy above is my main character and I'll be able to re-use this animation over and over in my story. Of course I still have to paint him so my work isn't finished but you can see that even an old illustrator can learn new tricks - I made a video tutorial on how to prepare this kind of artwork for a story app here.

Alex Sousa is going to show us how to make these kinds of animations work in Kwik in our upcoming class that begins in a few weeks. We still have a handful of slots left for the live class but many are opting for the LITE video recordings of our class.

Check out my first 3 steps:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 3

Decide what you can put into your story app that will be unique to set yourself apart from the competition.

Are you a follower or a leader? When I look at many of the story apps available in the app store I notice that many creators seem to be playing follow the leader - and some aren't even following the leaders. It's hard enough to actually make the app but to put something out that is predictable and average is a waste of time. It's already hard enough to get noticed so don't make your app forgettable by doing what the other guys are doing.

If they are all putting coloring book activities in their story apps don't add a coloring activity - unless you can do it better or different. If the other guys are making every object wiggle with a silly sound when you touch it - yeah you get the picture. We're at the front of a new technology so don't assume the other guy is doing it right. This is your app. What do you want to do? Yeah? than do it and don't look back!

Afraid that you'll do something other people will scoff or laugh at? Perfect! It's not art if there's no risk! Better to fail big and learn than to copy and be forgettable. Be remarkable.

So how can you be original? I think it's by having one or more unique aspects in your app. Suggestions:

Great story
Great artwork
Animation that is unique to your story
Great voice acting
Integrated music
Unique navigation
Teaches niche moral or principle
Appeals to a niche market
Insert other unique aspect here.

So what am I planning for my app?

1. I think Rick Walton wrote a unique story for us - but the market will decide that.
2. I'm going to work hard on the artwork so I'm hoping to impress in that category.
3. I'm working on animation that helps further the story.
4. I will hire voice actors to enhance the experience.
5. Instead of page turns my app will navigate up, down, back, and forward.
6. The story has a sustainable living theme running throughout.

Like I've written before - none of this is a guarantee of commercial success but all I can do is put out the best I'm capable of in a reasonable amount of time and then begin work on the next app.

I'm really looking forward to beginning the Kwik class in a few weeks! Learning how to program my own app without any programing experience is going to enable me to take control of my app creating bug! More info on the class here. 

Check out steps 1 and 2:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 2

Consume as many Great story apps as you can (or whatever type of app you plan on making)

Often I see artists embark on a journey without knowing how people made the same trip before them. The pioneers before you encountered the same problems you're going to encounter and looking at their solutions will make your project much easier. The more you consume the more you will develop your own opinions about what works and doesn't work. In addition, when you look at great art it inspires you to be great and the ideas begin to flow.

Where can I find great story apps? I'm so glad you asked! You need to check yourself into Digital Storytime! Here's a screen shot from their site. I like to click on "Quality" and then "Overall Rating" to see what they think are the best story apps. I devour these being aware of  the commonalities of each one. Do they all have read to me files? Do they have static text or highlighted text? Do they offer them as options or are you stuck with the read to me file and highlighted text?

Next, you need to tune in to #Storyappchat every Sunday night at 9:00PM Eastern 6:00PM West Coast. This is a twitter chat where anyone is invited and there's a new topic about story apps each night. The information being shared is pure gold if you're looking to produce your own apps.

I'll be back soon with step 3 and don't forget to check out our Kwik class that begins in October 2013 - and you can always sign up for the video only version - the recorded live classes.

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9