Thursday, September 29, 2011

I am (the one who illustrated) Spartacus!

I'm thrilled that my first book is finished and the release date is currently set for Oct 26th!  October has always been my favorite month and this year it's just extra awesomesauce.

The book is called Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows and it was written by Molly E Johnson (another lady with a middle 'E'!) who actually lives in my neighborhood due to pure serendipity.  I can't wait to meet her!  The book is your average boy-runs-away-from-home-to-rescue-his-mom-from-an-possibly-evil-circus story, and is even funnier than that sounds.  I illustrated black and white frontspieces for each chapter as well as painted the cover.

If you're going to WordStock, check out Raintown Press' table for some cool giveaway like these:

Here's the cover so you can check out how great this thing is going to be:

Read more about the book and I'll keep you posted on Spartacus-related events and book signings!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Robin E Kaplan on twitter!

That's right, now I can neglect yet another once-new social media outlet!  Follow me @RobinEKaplan and be prepared for talk about YA and whatever I'm drawing at the moment.

Which is what I shoudl be talking about here!  So I shall.  Got some new colored leads at Kinokuniya (my favorite wallet-vacuum) and used orange lead and brown ink to create this limited-color-palette drawing.

 Besides being cute, it represents what I call my 'Gorgon Woods' world, which is a woodland fantasy for children I'm developing into manuscripts and eventually book dummies.  It comes out of my childhood of nature walks and loving small things, as well as my literary tendencies towards fare like Jill Barklem's  Brambly Hedge and my holy grail, the great Tove Jansson's Moomin books.  With some Elsa Beskow thrown in of course.
(these images are both from wikipedia and belong to their respective owners)

I was very influenced by these three women's work growing up, and while I know little about Elsa, and only know what Jill write about herself in the forward of a massive tome of hers I own, I'm trying to become a scholar of Tove, who I greatly admire.  She was a bohemian and lived quite the alternative life even back in the 40s, which shows her tremendous cool factor, and her books reach deep parts of the human soul without being preachy.

So, watch out for more Gorgon Woods from me, and here's an older piece to whet your appetite!

Also, next time I'll talk about my NEW BOOK and probably a bit about dinosaurs.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What an Adventure!

My summer has been happily spent working on a great book for Raintown Press which I'll start talking about in the next few days, but first I have to share the disastrous adventure I just survived.

Not to get too personal, but I'm getting married sometime soon (he's taking my last name, since I don't think I can live up to the sugary cuteness of being called Robin Robison) and this summer seemed like time to do some Meet The Family stuff.  His folks are in Iowa, my folks are in Indiana--in a small town called Whiting which has little going on there other than a big crazy food festival called Peirogifest (foodies may have seen this featured on the Food Network.)  So our plan was to drive with a van-load of art to sell in their arts and crafts show, where people are usually starved for some nice illustration that doesn't have anything with Justin Bieber's face glued onto it.

For the first two days, it was a magical trip.  We worked on some story development, drew piles of character and environment designs, drank a lot of iced tea, and enjoyed watching most of Oregon, all of Idaho, a chunk of Utah, and rolling hills of Wyoming go by.

Then our transmission died in the middle of Nebraska.

Our adventure sounds like an updated Greek myth: we were sweltering on the side of the road, desperately trying to phone AAA for about an hour--and when we finally did get through, we got a grizzled guy with a lazy eye named Steve. 

He took us down to a place called Julesburg, Colorado, where we were installed in a road motel operated by a friend of his.  On the way, however, we stopped to help a whole lot of other poor folks who'd broke down as well.  Steve informed us that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, he was pretty much constantly rescuing vacationers.  The bets part was when we had to pull over within sight of his garage because a massive storm rolled in and pelted us with quarter-sized hail!

So after determining that it was the car's transmission, and therefore a week (and $2000)'s worth of work, our ferryman dropped us off at this motel so we could plan our next move.  A week was about seven days longer than we wanted to wait, so we knew we had to find a way out of there--but how?  This town was so small it didn't have a bank, let alone a rental car or inter-city bus!  It didn't help that we couldn't find a vehicle big enough to haul all our gear within a hundred miles when I called around.  The bets I could find was a pickup.  It seemed like our best option.  I reserved it.

Luckily the motel owner knew a guy who would drive us to the nearest rental car--90 miles away in North Platte.  We had quite a ride with this nice fellow, getting lost a few times along the way, but we made it in one piece.  Once we had this vehicle, we had to drive all the way back to Julesburg to load as much of our gear as possible into the back of the pickup.

This was taking precious time we needed to get to my relatives in Indiana and set up our tent in the art show!  We drove like crazy quite late into the night and the next day we busted through Iowa, got caught in Chicago traffic, and finally pulled into my grandmother's driveway at 8pm.  After so many days on the road, and so many days not being as on the road as we would have liked, we were so sick of sitting and road food that we started on my family's wonderful fresh fare while standing up in the kitchen.

We opened up shop the next morning at about 9am, and that heat and humidity was killer!  Good food though.  And hello to anyone who bought art from me, it was nice meeting so many people.

Really eveyrthing else went fine, though we did get caught in a sister storm when we went back through Nebraska and felt gale-force winds rock the pickup!  The hail was only dime-sized that time.

Sadly we had to go back to North Platte, which we'd had quite enough of by that time, to pick up the newly-overhauled van, but we sort of hope never to see Julesberg, CO again--the nicest little place you'd never want to be.

So that was my adventure!  In between we met each other's relatives, caught lots of toads, and did lots of research at the Chicago Art Institute, one my my favorite places in the entire world.  Here's a pen sketch I did while en route there on the Metra.

Stay tuned for actual pertinent news about my book!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crazy May

Things never did calm down after the SCBWI conference.  I'm wiating to hear back from some of those lovely folks, and in the meantime, looking forward to new projects which I'm not yet at liberty to chat about.  Surprises coming soon!  In the meantime, enjoy some Wizard of Oz...this is a small version of a poster I created.  Trying to redesign characters while keeping them within the borders of what people expect.  I think the slightly yellow-tinted technicolor palette works, what do you think?

Friday, May 6, 2011

A few notes from the SCBWI conference...part1

A few notes from the SCBWI conference...

I had a terrible nightmare about a week after the conference.  It was actually very lifelike because it was a revisitation of something that happened there.  One of my new friends was a woman who'd worn many hats in her life, all deeply skilled and creative (can you have a skilled hat?  You can certain have a creative one...)  She was a former professor at the Seattle branch of my Alma Mater, so I felt very drawn to her.  Anyway, right as we were leaving, we were talking to the splendid Anne Moore of Candlewick Press, and it pretty much came out that my new friend had been holding back on us--she was an incredible creature designer!  Yet, she had only pastoral scenes in her portfolio.  She was not quite doing what she really wanted to, and spoke as if she was attending to find out WHAT to draw.  But the message of the conference was absolutely DRAW WHAT YOU LOVE.  Create the stories and characters that only you can create.  In my nightmare, she and I were still struggling with this.  I kept trying to assure her, by which my subconscious meant I was trying to assure myself, that it was more important to do the best job of what you can do, rather than changing yourself completely in attempts to his a market. When I woke up, I was even more determined to follow through with what I had learned.

Just because some popular books have sketchy-lined french girls with skinny legs and pink cheeks doesn't mean that = children's book illustration.  Likewise, just because Lane Smith draws the best demented crazy misshapen creatures doesn't mean I have to do that, either.  The market is for unique styles and voices, something to appeal to many different kinds of people.

This is a piece that I did for my portfolio that I'm really in love with:

 bright contemporary colors, lots of warmth...and two girls I just adore.  They look like people you could have adventures with, and those adventures would be especially interesting for having them along.

Next time I will post a bit of what I'm puzzling through in terms of 'draw what you love.'  Please tell me about how you're coming to terms with this, anything you know can help!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

SCBWI Western Washington conference 2011

What a wonderful weekend at the SCBWI Western Washington conference!  In some ways I was looking for a bit of a guidepost saying that I was on the right track, and I found that.  Corny as it sounds, sometimes it is just nice to get a good response from people.  That's what I miss, spending hours wading through photoshop in my office.

My portfolio placed in the show, and my manuscript actually got honored as one of the most promising WIPs!  I arrived terrified and left feeling like I'd won the conference--not least because of the awesome folks I met there. 

Last year, I had just spend a weekend selling art at a convention in Seattle and was completely destroyed--plus, I had rushed my portfolio and hadn't really been able to add and new pieces.  I really didn't talk to any of the attendees let alone any of the guests.  What a loss!

This year I devoted a couple months to improving and laying out my new portfolio, and I rested up a bit beforehand.  It was so worth it; I'm thrilled to be in contact with the other authors and illustrators I met (you know who you are) and can't wait to see how their projects progress.