Friday, February 29, 2008

School Library Journal ranks Babymouse: Puppy Love among top graphic novels for kids

School Library Journal included Babymouse: Puppy Love among its 25 picks of graphic novels for younger readers:

... graphic novels are now addressing important personal and social issues like the power of imagination, being true to one’s self, the benefits of teamwork, and how to cope with divorce and bullying. Teachers and librarians are also beginning to realize that these books are perfect for young readers who are making the transition from picture books to text-only titles. And with graphic novels’ hypnotic power to pull kids into a story, they’re also perfect for promoting recreational or free voluntary reading—one of the most effective ways to increase literacy and create lifelong readers.

Marty Gray #040

Marty Gray #040

Monday, February 25, 2008

Marty Gray #036

Marty Gray #036

Sage advice for students: What I Wish I Learned in Art School

My friend Sadie wrote a very useful post, "What I Wish I Learned in Art School." I recommend all would-be artists give it a read. Some choice points:

Decide what you want to do
For someone who likes to draw and paint in high school and wants to draw and paint for a living, there are essentially two routes: Illustration, where other people pay you to create what they want, and Fine Art Painting, where you create what you want and hope other people buy it.

(There are a lot of other art careers, but I'm just focusing on what I wish I'd been told, as someone who just wanted to paint and draw with traditional materials.)

This is an important point. If you like the visual arts but DON'T want to be an illustrator or a fine artist, there are many, many other routes available to you. Just like someone who enjoys writing doesn't only have to write novels, or someone who'd like to work on movies doesn't have to be an actor.

Illustrations are the drawings and paintings you see in magazines, newspapers, on book covers, and in advertising. Publishers and ad agencies hire freelance illustrators to make those drawings and paintings. A successful illustrator has a consistent flow of freelance illustration jobs, and hopefully earns a living at it.

Fine art
Fine art paintings are sold in galleries to people who want to have original art in their homes and offices. A successful fine artist develops relationships with galleries, consistently shows and sells their artwork, and hopefully earns a living at it.

What to do while you are in art school
By the end of senior year you need to have a portfolio of 10-20 works of art that hold together as a group and look like one person made them all. If you want to be an illustrator, develop a portfolio of illustrations all in one distinct and cohesive style.

If you want to go the fine art gallery route, pick a theme and do a series of paintings on that theme. Show that you can work hard and consistently to make a cohesive body of work.

Portfolio development takes forethought and planning. You won’t have a cohesive portfolio if you just gather up all your art school homework assignments and call it a portfolio. Art school should teach you this. It doesn't.

What to do after graduation
The minute you leave art school, if not before, professionally photograph your portfolio, and start to submit your artwork. Submit your illustration portfolio to small local magazines and print publications. Submit your fine art portfolio to local galleries and art fairs. Submit to contests and juried shows and apply for grants. Submit over and over and over. Assume you will get lots of rejections, even if you were successful and "talented" in art school.

For Illustration
Do illustration jobs for free or very cheap at first so you have professional pieces in your portfolio, not just school assignments. Over time you will replace the college projects with professional work. Publications who hire you to do illustrations need to have an idea of what the finished illustration will look like based on your previous work, and they need to know you are reliable and will finish the project, so present your work accordingly.

For Fine Art
If you want to go the gallery route, this is the most important thing you need to know about being a gallery artist: Galleries need to see that you can produce a consistent output of paintings at a consistent level of quality. Galleries are a business and they need to know you are reliable. Some galleries won’t even consider painters who don’t have a master’s degree so you might need more school. Grad school will teach you how to produce consistently, and they will teach you talk and write about your work.

No one ever told me these things at art school. As an artist you have to think of your artwork as a product and you have to learn to market and sell your product. Most artists don’t like to do this. But most artists also don’t like to operate cash registers or serve food either.

Lucky for me, I always wanted to draw cartoons. Of course, no one really told me how to make a living at that, either. But at least I didn't have to drop a ton of dough to figure it out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Perry Bible Fellowship is over?

Nicholas Gurewitch has told his newspapers that he's no longer going to be doing the Perry Bible Fellowship as a regular feature. Bummer. I guess newspaper comic strips really ARE dead.

Marty Gray #033

Marty Gray #033

This is where I finally start to hit my stride with the strip (if I do say so myself).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Marty Gray #031

Marty Gray #031

The "force you to wax our shiny spaceships" line was something that my creative partner, Jon, came up with earlier, and I figured this was a good place to work it in.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Marty Gray #030

Marty Gray #030

Violent! Actually, I love the way that Marty hums nonchalantly after he has just smashed a melon over a young boy's head. It gives you a real taste of his character. Which, frankly, isn't all that nice.

Confessions of a Cybils judge

Over at Fomagrams, the author gives the inside scoop on his thought process while taking part on the 2007 Cybils Graphic Novel judging panel.

...Looking at the list my first thought was that the category seemed awfully broad, which also made it seem unfair. You would have different expectations for a second grade early readers and a middle grade fiction meant for sixth graders, but in this category you’ve got a cute widdle baby mouse up against a heartless pre-pubescent evil genius...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Babymouse Hearts Captain Underpants" party at NYPL

Via Fuse, I see that the Jefferson Market branch of the NYPL is hosting a "Babymouse Hearts Captain Underpants" Valentine's Day party today at 3:30pm. As Betsy reports:

Here's how Kiera, who co-created this with Jolie, describes the day:

"We're doing the Toilet Toss and Underwear Decorating as well as a Felicia Furrypaws KnockDown Game, and a Make-Your-Own-Mouse-Ears craft. We'll be serving cupcakes in neon green (slime) and hot pink frosting. It should be a blast!"

I'm dying to see that FF knockdown game.

Marty Gray #029

Marty Gray #029

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Matthew Holm (me, that is) interviewed on Tina Nichols Coury's Blog

An interview I did a few months ago has finally worked its way through the queue of Tina Nichols Coury's very active blog, Tales from the Rushmore Kid.

It has some pretty in-depth reflections on my cartooning history, including the false avenues I first went down before I settled on a medium I truly enjoyed.

Marty Gray #022

Marty Gray #022

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Bay-Area Postgame

Had a great time down in Cali this weekend. I had been a bit sick all week (sore throat, stuffy nose), but it wasn't really hindering me. So on Friday, I did a great school visit at Woodside Elementary (between San Jose and San Francisco), which has one of those beautiful made-for-TV outdoor campuses (no hallways, lockers just under a porch roof, etc.--very 90210, except without the evil). I started off by guest-teaching three 5th-grade art classes back-to-back-to-back, which was a blast, and then gave a presentation to the 2nd and 3rd grades in the library.

After a lunch break, I went across the street to the Woodside Public Library, and gave another presentation to the 4th graders, who walked over and helped me make the library far, far too loud.

By the end, I noticed that I was a bit hoarse.

By that night, my voice was squeaky.

By Saturday morning, I could only speak in a whisper.

So, I went to the Orion authors and illustrators festival, where they brought out the throat-coat herbal tea and an endless supply of bottled water, and where I sat and silently signed books, miming my response to questions. I gave my presentation to a packed room—through a megaphone. I think people will remember it, even if they couldn't hear it all!

All in all, a ball of fun, and some very enthusiastic and understanding parents and young readers. (And great young artists! Their versions of the Babymouse characters were stellar.) I highly recommend it to anyone (author or reader) who wants to go next year!