Friday, December 14, 2012

Year of Living Creatively/ 12 x 12 Blog Party

Although I only completed 4-5 picture book manuscripts as part of the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge, I've had a super creative year. So in this party post, I celebrate my creative highlights and share what I learned, including some resources for illustrators and writers.

Creative Highlights of 2012


(1) In April, I was thrilled to be a part of New Waves 2012, a curated exhibit of "up and coming" artists at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach.

Contemplating my lionfish painting




(2) In May, I sold three of my four pieces at the annual Norfolk Academy art show.
Norfolk Academy art show pieces

(3) Starting in the Spring, I became a monthly contributing artist at AltDaily.com, a local alternative news and arts website. A sample piece (a quote by my older daughter when she was 5, wondering why her younger sister had imaginary friends):

© 2011 Sylvia Liu

(4) Over the summer, the marine conservation group Oceana commissioned me to design several infographics. Two of them ended up being published, one on gas prices and one on seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean. Working on them gave me the opportunity to learn Adobe Illustrator. A snippet of the seismic testing infographic:


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(5) Last month, I broke through an impasse on my picture book project that has been in the works for a couple of years. It wasn't working, yet I kept working at it. Now I'm taking a whole new approach, basically scrapping all of my previous work, both the text and illustrations (I had completed illustrations for 2/3 of the story). Instead of despairing about the "wasted work," I'm excited to be excited about it again.


What I Learned in 2012



(1) As an artist, never stop learning or trying new techniques.

I love experimenting, both with genre (comics, paintings, infographics) and techniques (digital, traditional). Two things I did that pushed me to experiment with technique were taking a course on encaustic painting and participating in Sweet Squares, a daily painting challenge.

© 2012 Sylvia Liu

(2) Recognize when something isn't working. Move on or rework it completely.

I've learned that I have to go through the experience of making disappointing art in order to come through the other side to art I can live with. Or as one of my favorite someecards said in a similar vein, "Good judgment comes from experience, and experience - well, that comes from poor judgment."

(3) Treat your writing and art seriously.

Don't let it come after you do the housework, the gardening, and the errands, because you'll be too tired and drained. Don't procrastinate. Don't blog when you can write or create art.

I've fallen short on every one of these directives, and multiple times a week. But on the days when I get right to work, I am so much happier.

(4)  The children's book community is as supportive as they come. Soak up the knowledge, experience, and support a community of like-minded individuals can provide.

My sources of inspiration and information this year:
  • My SCBWI critique group - The Word Wall is my local writing group composed of four of us who write and create in different spaces in the kid lit world: YA, middle grade, picture book, and graphic novels. Check out E.G. Gaddess's Dhampyr Heritage, a Victorian-era vampire novel of a teenage vampire hunter discovering his heritage:

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  • Will Terry's blog and video tutorials - Will Terry is an illustrator who provides valuable tips and great inspiration on making apps and digital art. I have found his online digital painting courses at Folio Academy superb. So excellent, in fact, that I'm putting up my first affiliate ad, below (and at my sidebar).
  • And of course, Julie Hedlund's 12 x 12 in 12 challenge - I'm so glad I met this amazing community of children's writers and illustrators. Many thanks to Julie and all of you who came to this post from the blog party for all your support and inspiration throughout the year. I'll see you again in 2013.
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29 comments:

  1. Nice to meet another creative attorney in the 12x12 group. Your art is beautiful. Even from a distance, your lionfish almost swam off the screen. You had an amazing year. Time to party!

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  2. You've accomplished a lot as an artist, Sylvia! I am not surprised though because I have always admired the artwork you shared on your blog. What makes you even more incredible is that you are a writer too. Yay, for 12 x12!

    P.s. nice of you to stop by my alter- ego. You will find that your runs will offer you lots of time to create in your head. Good luck in your half marathon training!

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    1. Thanks, Romelle. I do find myself mulling over stories when I run, and then running back to write down my ideas. Have you read Born to Run? An excellent book...

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    2. Yes, I have. That was some time ago. May have to re-read it.

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  3. That is an incredible list of accomplishments. I managed to do 12 manuscripts and taught my dog to jump through a hoop. ;)

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    1. Thanks! Your accomplishments are pretty impressive too... congrats on the 12 manuscripts and the new dog trick!

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  4. This is an astounding list of achievements for one year! Congratulations on all fronts and on your dedication to your art and creativity. I wish I would do my creative work before my "work work" more often!

    And I LOVE this quote: "Good judgment comes from experience, and experience - well, that comes from poor judgment."

    We have to let ourselves make bad art before we can make good art. Also, I now finally believe that no work is ever wasted. Even if we scrap it completely, as you did, it taught us something and set us on the next path.

    Looking forward to more creating in 2013!

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  5. Wow, it sounds like you have had a super year. Incidentally, my parents live in Hampton, so I recognize a lot of the places and spaces you mentioned in your post. Very cool!

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  6. Interesting content and beautiful artwork.

    Nice blog work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the Next Blog button on the Nav Bar located at the top of my blogger.com site. I frequently just travel around looking for other blogs which exist on the Internet, and the various, creative ways in which people express themselves. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I sometimes use the Nav Bar too, but I always find that the blogs I get sent to are themed (I'll get four blogs in a row about sailing adventures) and I don't get that much variety.

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  7. What a creative year you've had. I especially agree with your number 3!

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    1. Thank you, and I think that's the hardest point for me.

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  8. Congratulations on all your accomplishments! That's wonderful you've sold art and have been commissioned to do projects!

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  9. What an amazing year, you've had. Congratulations! Thank you, thank you for sharing your gifts with us.

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  10. Congratulations on all of your wonderful accomplishments! I am not an artist or an illustrator, so it's nice to see this year through the perspective of someone who is. :)

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. Your accomplishments are also impressive; I've checked out some but not all of your blogs!

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  11. LOVE that header (and the artwork inspired by your daughter)! BIG congrats on your success this year, in 12 x 12 and beyond--really enjoy your artistic view.

    ~Cathy C. Hall

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  12. What a great year you've had! Congratulations! Glad you'll be along for the 12x12 ride in 2013, as well.

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    1. Thank you Beth, and glad to connect with the Children's Hub now too!

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  13. Wow, it sounds like a wonderfully creative year for you. I need to work on #3. So glad you joined 12x12. Hurray for the children's literature community!

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  14. Well, better late than never...congrats on your accomplishments, Sylvia! I love your lion fish. How exciting to be a part of an exhibit, and actually sell most of your art...wow! I admire you for being willing to scrap a manuscript and start all over again. Good for you...
    Looking forward to our 12x12 community in 2013. See you then!

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