Publisher’s Weekly 2016 Children’s Starred Review Annual

Posted on Dec 12, 2016

publishers-weekly_childrens-starred-reviews-2016If you haven’t seen this, it’s available online. You can download a pdf of it too (upper right link of the page):

“This year’s edition features 390 starred reviews of children’s and young adult books that published in 2016. Plus we talked to children’s book editors about what it was like to work with authors who were their childhood heroes.”

Also, here is the NYTimes “Notable Children’s Books of 2016”

my-name-is-james-madison_by_jonah-winter_and_terry-widenerAn illustrator here in Dallas that I know (Terry Widener) got listed too! He’s a great guy and we’re all so glad he got featured in this list! His book:

My Name is James Madison Hemings
By Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Terry Widener.
40 pp. Schwartz & Wade Books. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 5 to 9)

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Inktober 2016 Recap

Posted on Oct 31, 2016

Thought I’d share a recap of all my Inktober 2016 posts into one image.


My approach was to do two inked sketches per day with each morning post done according to the daily prompts given by @Jake-Parker (listed on each sketch in the image) and the afternoon posts being free choice.

Since I tend to lean on painting/rendering with much of my work, I decided to do most of my Inktober pieces without the use of shading (whether using grayscale or hatching; though, there are about 6 pieces that I did use some hatching on). So, this became an exercise in playing with shape & character styling, line-flow & line-weight, and/or concept (particularly with a push towards the humorous side). Note: I held off of using my ink brushes and decided to stick with a Zebra F-301 for initial lines and with line styling done by a Copic Multiliner SP (0.3 & 0.5 tips) (a little bit of a Sakura White Gelly Roll was used on a few as was a Copic Multiliner SP 0.1 tip).

For me, considering the ongoing development my drawing style & character style direction, I am currently preferring: 09-A, 09-B, 12-B, 16-A, 16-B, 24-B, 25-A, 29-B (with some others coming in “2nd place”)

9A-Tinman is my favorite; or at least right at the top. I think the direction I took with his proportions (also the expressiveness of his emotions) is what is drawing me to him. I use to do a lot work in the past where the figures have quite long legs; kind of reminiscent to many fashion design illustrations. It seems that I am being drawn back to that again.

Also noticeable is that I did a lot of figures with what basically amount to “stick” legs/arms. This is particularly seen in 24B-Cookie-Fairy and 29B-Chef-Cupcake, which also both are more geometric in construction too.

I’ve been using my sketching & Inktober as a way of feeling out where I am generally wanting to go stylistically with my drawing & character structure. I haven’t wanted to commit to or “force” a direction yet, but I think 9A, 24B, & 29B are where I am headed, especially because they are similar in character construction to what is still one of my favorite paintings of mine: Dancing With The Bull

See the individual Inktober posts (with “commentary”) at my “sketches” Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook Page.

Inktober was fun and I’m glad I did it!

For those that don’t know what Inktober is:

Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month.

I [Jake Parker] created InkTober in 2009 as a challenge to improve my inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavor with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year.

Anyone can do InkTober, just pick up a pen and start drawing.

Inktober rules:

1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).

2) Post it online

3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2016

4) Repeat

Note: you can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. What ever you decide, just be consistent with it. INKtober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.

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Dancing Bull Illustration Featured on ILoveFantasyArt

Posted on Oct 13, 2016

Click for portfolio page just featured my Dancing Bull illustration on their IG account (which has 268,000+ followers). It caught me by surprise because I didn’t send them anything or tag them. It was just out of the blue. What a pleasant surprise! Thank you, ILoveFantasyArt!

The direct link is here:

Go like it and share it if you can!

(Also visit

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New to SVSLearn? Start Here

Posted on Oct 10, 2016

svslearnSomeone joined and in the SVSLearn Forum, asked for recommendations of where to start on the courses:

First, the forum is a great place to start!

But regarding the courses, I think it depends upon where one’s needs are.

I might suggest Jake Parker’s class: How to Draw Everything Fundamentals Series as a good starting point.

I started with Lee White’s classes on the business side of things: How To Make Money in Illustration Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Still, there are many other good courses. I’ll put up thoughts on some of my favorites in the future.

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SVSLearn Course Spreadsheet

Posted on Oct 5, 2016

Regarding courses, I didn’t see any way to keep track of which videos I’ve watched, mark as wanting to re-watch or make a note on, know how many hours I’d commit to for the set of videos, etc., so I had created a spreadsheet that I’ve been using for such. Thought I’d share it with everyone.

[SVSLearn has added some new courses since when I had uploaded this. I think just the Fall Critique, Loosening Up in Watercolor, and Stylizing Human Characters (and any new ones that follow in the future). You should be able to edit the file you download and add them (and others) or make any other modifications you want!]

Inside the zip are:
• SVSLearn_Course-Breakdown_16-0919.xlsx
• SVSLearn_Course-Breakdown_16-0919.numbers
• SVSLearn_Course-Breakdown_16-0919.pdf

Note: I will probably leave this up in Dropbox for quite some time, but eventually it will get pulled.

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SCBWI Draw This! Galleries

Posted on Oct 1, 2016

logo-scbwiI’ve been bookmarking the past SCBWI DrawThis! galleries. Here they all are:

2015.06 :

2015.07 :

2015.08 :

2015.09 :

2015.10 :

2015.11 :

2015.12 :

2016.01 : No SCBWI DrawThis! Contest

2016.02 :

2016.03 :

2016.04 :

2016.05 :

2016.06 : No SCBWI DrawThis! Contest

2016.07 :

2016.08 :

2016.09 :

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Do you add texture to your drawings?

Posted on Sep 30, 2016

A question was posed by another artist regarding a painting of a dog they were working on (they were particularly asking in regards to fur):

svslearn_therese-larsson_painting-furDo you add texture to your drawings?

Here were my thoughts:

Painterly vs. Textured is really a personal stylistic choice.

I tend towards highly rendered & textured work (or totally graphical too actually). has a great video on “Painting Fur & Hair with Therese Larsson” that may be helpful for you in making a decision.

I tend to paint like she showed, but I also learned a lot & adopted a lot from how Aaron Blaise paints (overall, but also fur). In fact, it was this video of his (“Speed Painting – Photoshop Rajah from “Aladdin””) that prompted me to purchase some of his tutorials, brushes & such a year or 2 ago:

Note: Aaron has Fur & Hair brushes for sale on his site: However, I only tend to use these for things like facial hair or small hair areas (like the snout of an animal) and often it serves just as a quick underlay or as a texture enhancement overlay. The bulk of the hair/fur is done by volume shaping first then getting more detailed with each pass (Like you’ll see in the video by Therese, Aaron, and the examples below)

I grabbed other tutorial images & videos from my Pinterest board “Technique


Video watching fox fur being painted:

Step-By-Step Image with text:

3 Step Image:

More detailed series of images with instructions:

Image of Step-By-Step Instructions for Human Hair:

Image of Human Hair Instructions Part 1 (I think):

Image of Human Hair Instructions Part 2:

Image of Human Hair Instructions Part 3:

Image of Human Hair Instructions Part 4:

Image of Hair References:

Hope all of this helps!

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Where are you from and what projects are you busy with?

Posted on Sep 15, 2016

Another artist posed a question in a forum:

Where are you from and what projects are you busy with?

My answer:

I’m from Dallas, Texas

I work mostly in 2D Digital (Photoshop, Illustrator)
(Though looking to go back to and incorporate traditional as well. I miss inking, acrylics, gouache, & colored pencils)

Origin was illustration, but the past 18 or so years have mostly been in the advertising & intellectual property development industries, doing creative & art direction, ad campaign dev., content dev., logo & brand dev., graphic design, web design & dev., product & presentation dev., strategy & biz dev., etc. (Probably easier to just go here:

Going back to roots of illustration with the intent to re-enter the children’s media market (PB/MG/YA book/periodical, packaging, toy/stationary/other-product, game, etc.) with an illustration focus for myself. Working on developing industry relevant illustration portfolios while attempting to improve a variety of aspects in my work (drawing, painting/rendering, concept/narrative/story-telling, speed, etc.), as well as learning & “networking” as much as possible.

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How long does it take you to finish a piece?

Posted on Sep 10, 2016

Another artist posed the question:

How long does it take you to finish a piece? Do you plan your drawings before hand?

Here’s my response:

I use to track my time (though there are other options).


I have noticed 3 or 4 tier levels:

  1. DAY (1-10 hours) : Simple work, like a character headshot (note: I don’t do portraits, but I would assume that those take much longer) Though, I’ve seen just absolutely amazing work by Artgerm (Stanley Lau) and Aaron Blaise that only took them a couple hours or so (I cry just thinking about it!), and concept artists tend to have to work very, very fast too. Lee White references this and other timing in the first part of his “How to Make Money in Illustration” series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
  2. HALF-WEEK (15-20 hours) : Just slightly more complex than above.
  3. WEEK-ish (30-50 hours) : One or two characters with a relatively basic background (by “basic”, I don’t mean a gradient. I mean that there are background elements but not as involved as #4)
  4. 2-WEEKS-Beyond (60-80+) : These could have just 1 character with an elaborate background or 3+ characters with a basic-to-heavy background. The more complex each character & the background, the more time it will take.

(Note: This is per the current highly-rendered-and-textured style I’ve been doing, not my line art, vector art, or other simpler styles. Also, this is where I am roughly at right now, as it seems that I can now do work in half the time as to what it use to take, and the work is even of higher quality than before.)

These numbers are a little deceptive though. They can be just in-development drawing & rendering time; not included in the timing would be research, brainstorming, studies, etc.

As Simona discussed, the front work is really quite important.

For instance, gathering ample visual & educational reference on the elements of the piece is of immense help in designing/rendering and bringing narrative & emotional richness to the work. That research covers everything from a wide range of several photos of the particular element in different angles, lighting, texture details, etc. to use as reference to a range of illustrations done by others of that particular element seeing how they handled it to education about that element’s background or way of “operation”, etc. (i.e. the history, science, culture, etc. around that element)

Undoubtedly, this alone could take “endless hours” if you allowed it to. And similarly, doing character/element sketches from different structures, angles, poses, etc. along with value studies, color studies, etc. can add in more “endless hours.”

If you don’t have deadlines, have flexible ones or simply a lot of time allocated to a piece, then you can allow yourself to take as long as you feel you need “right now”. Get a feel for how long it takes to do each portion (research, studies/prep, “final” drawing, rendering, and don’t forget about all the admin stuff: phone/emails/meetings, quoting & invoicing, formatting files, file-folder maintenance, etc.). This will allow you to reverse-engineer the time you have for each portion for when you do have a deadline, because if it takes you a long time to render, you may have to cut down on the amount of studies you really want to do even though it may not be ideal.

Also, per my little note just below the tier-breakdown: How long it takes to paint a piece is quite dependent upon the style you pursue. I’m sure a Dutch/Flemish layered oil painting technique takes insane amounts of time while a highly painterly digital art piece can be pretty quick or a whimsical line-art with simple watercolor wash can be even quicker. Plus, how long it takes can change as you grow more experienced and/or learn new time-saving techniques.

Thank you for this topic! I’m always evaluating my time too!

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Do you draw on both sides of your sketchbook paper?

Posted on Sep 8, 2016

Another artist posed the question:

Do you draw on both sides of the paper?

My response:

If you are using pencil or some similar dry media and do on both sides, there is a potential for images to rub against one another when the book is closed, thus causing smudging & such. Also, it might make scans and/or photos of the page show a hint of the sketch on the underside (if done dark enough and the paper isn’t thick enough).

Though I tend to just use “white” paper since my sketches are more for “play”, I have loved the sketching work of Kevin Keele, who does on browns & grays. On one of his Instagram posts, he said, “The process I take when sketching an image: I start by doing a rough, light drawing with a ball point pen ( zebra f-301s are my favorites). Then I fill in the shadows with a 50% grey Prismacolor marker. Next I go back to the ball point, fill in all the dark details. Last, I use a white gellyroll pen to add the highlights.”

A couple of links on Keele:

Oh also, Jake Parker has a list of his tools on his site:

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