Monday, April 25, 2016

What are Archetypes, exactly?

I find the subject of archetypes fascinating. The Hero, the Sidekick, the Villain—these are labels—archetypes— we all know. But what are archetypes, exactly? Carl Jung, who came up with the term, used it to describe universal character patterns and imagery, which he believed originated in the collective unconscious. The Hero, the Sidekick and the Villain aren't just labels—they're symbols in a universal language. So as we engage archetypal characters and imagery in our work, we, as artists, writers and the audience, all benefit from this collective understanding!

In addition to exploring and using archetypes in our work, I find it fun to analyze the archetypal characters that I personally can relate to. For example, some archetypes that we, (as KidLit artists), probably can relate to are the Artist, the Storyteller, and the Student (the Mentee!) One of my favorite archetypes is the Wizard. Wizards have many aspects—they can be Alchemists, Magicians, Scientists, Counselors—but I keep my own personal Alchemist Wizard as an inner ally. The Alchemist turns raw metals into gold—so first, the obvious—as an artist, as I take raw materials and turn them into art. But I like to think of any creative transformation as an act of alchemy! The act of seeing something in the world, or having an idea and putting it down on paper, can feel like alchemy. Sometimes I engage my Wizard to help me maneuver an upsetting situation. Finding the silver (or gold!) lining can really help transform the experience.

On a side note, I’d like to add that it’s important, (or at least interesting!), to know the difference between an archetype and a stereotype. Both are characters drawn from a set of character attributes, which you can think of as a template—but the difference is in the use of the template. The archetypal character is built onto the template—individuality is added; whereas a stereotypical character stops at the template—it is simple and often clichéd. For example, both Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins are “The Unwilling Hero” archetype, but they can’t be switched into each other’s stories. If they could, they’d be stereotypes.*

Think about archetypes that play a role in your life. Which ones are your favorites? Which ones do you draw? Which ones do you dress up as, for Halloween? I find that identifying the archetypes I personally relate to not only is fun, but can help me get inside characters I am trying to understand, or create.

Here are some brief descriptions of a few familiar archetypes:

The Angel: The Angel embodies a loving and nurturing quality. Angels may also play the role of a Fairy Godmother or Godfather by helping someone in need, either anonymously or with no expectation of any return.**

The Damsel (Princess): The Damsel in Distress may be the oldest female archetype in all of popular literature and the movies. She is always beautiful, vulnerable, and in need of rescue, specifically by a Knight and, once rescued, she is taken care of in lavish style.** 

The Goddess (Heroine): The oldest religious tradition on earth may well be Goddess worship, which some archaeologists trace back further than 30,000 years. The Goddess embodies wisdom, guidance, physical grace, athletic prowess, and sensuality.**
The Knight (Warrior, Rescuer): The Knight is primarily associated with chivalry, courtly romance, protection of the Princess, and going to battle only for honorable causes. Loyalty and self-sacrifice are the Knight’s great virtues.**

The Rebel (Nonconformist, Anarchist, Pirate): The Rebel follows his or her own beliefs. They do not obey rules nor do they accept normal standards of behavior—resisting authority, control, social pressure and tradition. They are a key component of growth and development.** 

Monsters (the Vampire, the Werewolf, the Zombie, the Destroyer, etc.): Monster archetypes represent the part of our being that is least familiar to our conscious mind. They become hostile when they are ignored or misunderstood—expressing themselves through behavior that sabotages our wishes or self image. Some basic attributes: The Vampire: Feeds off the life force of another; The Werewolf: Has something festering inside that is struggling to get out; The Zombie: Has been hurt in life and has "died inside";*** The Destroyer: The Destroyer generates death, madness, and abuse. It can also refer to releasing that which is destroying. The power of positive destruction is enormously healing and liberating.**

There are many, many archetypes, and always something to learn from them. I highly recommend exploring them!


Molly Ruttan
twitter: mollyillo
FB: Molly Ruttan/Molly Ruttan Illustration

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Introducing #digital art #Photoshop tips #Tutorials


This is my second post and I was thinking about what would be a good post to write and share for visitors of this blog who I assume are illustrators, writers, or people who are interested in making children's book.

I've attended SCBWI several times, went to Critique meet ups and attended picture book class last year. I've noticed that there are a few people who were interested in digital painting and wanted to use Photoshop as digital tool for their art.

So, I thought it will be nice to share what I use to create illustrations on Photoshop.

These tool I am explaining below are what I'm using at work and I have learned from working in animation studios. It is very helpful and you will save lots of time if you know the right tools to use! :)

In this post, I break down into Brush / Layer / Adjustment.

Here are some tips I'd like to share here and I hope everyone finds this information helpful! :)

Firstly, I want to talk about Brush and some brush setting you can play around with.

If you want to give some texture to your work, what you can do is, you can grab texture online and copy and paste on the layer. Here, you might change the normal layer to overlay and bring the opacity down to make it look more natural.

However, it's really up to you as an artist to decide!

Does this happen to you, that you are making over 100 layers and having a hard time finding the layer you want?

Here is a little tip for that one.

Short key for this tool is "V"

Let's say you are on the other layer and want to find the layer you want quickly. While pressing the Control key, click the image on the layer you are working on and it will automatically find your layer. See how comfortable that is! (It was really a struggle for me before I knew about this tool..:/)

Snapping layer tool

How to use it?: Press the ALT key on the layer below you want to snap on.

What it does? : It will only allow you to paint that layer that is snapped on.

Masking tool

How to use it?:Click this box shape thing

What it does? : You can use it to erase only the layer which you have selected.
These tools give you control over the layers you are working on.

Lastly, I want to talk about quick adjustment tools that will help you find value and color, either saturation or desaturated color. Curve, color balance and level adjustment layers are found in small icons on the bottom of layers. Curve is quick way to make adjustment in value and color brightness.

Color balance is a very good tool to make the color harmonized into warm or cool tone. It's great for getting overall mood out from illustration. Level adjustment is similar to Curve but I prefer to use Curve. It's personal choice so you can choose whichever works for you.

I hope this was helpful for some of you who are interested in learning about Photoshop tools.

Here is also my Photoshop Brush tool preset I am using for illustrating my work, please check it out if anyone interested in it!

Thanks and Happy illustrating! :)

Designer | Illustrator

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Illustration Intensives: Intensely Beneficial

Lauren Rille 
Hi there creative friends! I was at an Illustration Intensive this last weekend, hosted by the SCBWI-San Diego Region, featuring the the insightful, and totally entertaining, Associate Art Director,  Lauren Rille, from Simon and Schuster.

(You can follow her on twitter, and if you would like a sneak peak at her design savvy, check out her blog.)

I love going to conferences, but I especially love going to illustration intensives. The purpose of an intensive is to bring you back to art school (only the knowledgeable professor is replaced with an insightful art director). The assignment is suppose to replicate what working with an art director is like.

Months before the intensive, Lauren sent us the text to a picture book. She asked us to create a thumbnail dummy  (or teeny tiny drawings that map out the pacing of the book). From those thumbnails she asked that we send her 2 roughs (or more finished drawings) of the spreads that we wanted to illustrate. Once we turned those in, she would email us a critique. We were to bring the revised thumbnails and 2 final spreads to the intensive, to be critiqued as a group.

The text we got was a sweet and very young picture book called Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by fellow Mentee Brooke Boynton Hughes. I'll be honest, I pulled a few hairs out trying to think how I could illustrate the text differently, especially since Brooke did such a gobsmacklingly wonderful job.

After drawing what seemed like a million and two families with babies, I finally decided to put this family in space... going on a spacewalk, with them bringing their baby home to sleep at their colony on Mars. (Everything is better in space, right?! ;)

Here's what I sent in:

Stick figures in.... SPAAAAACE!!!

This is one of the roughs I sent in. (I do my roughs... extra rough.)

Doesn't this sweet face make you weep?!

Lauren responded with a very helpful critique. She mentioned one reason she had prompted our group with this particular text was because babies are so hard to illustrate; people often get the proportions wrong. So I decided to do some more "research" on babies and ended up waxing nostalgic, thinking of my kid's infancy. Something that I noticed is the lack of neck and the adorable potbelly. Lauren also said babies barely have any eyebrows or eyelashes.

So armed with a refreshed knowledge that babies are not  just miniature adults, I went back to the drawing board and sketched another million babies. 

I redid my thumbnails and revised my roughs.

My sketches are starting to get tighter here. 

Next, I scanned my drawings in, printed them out on Arches 140lb, and painted with watercolor. 

Then I scanned the watercolor in and painted in some digital layers.

Finally, after all our blood, sweat, and tears, we went to the intensive, and had our illustrations critiqued. This is what I submitted:

(You can click on them, to see closer,  if you have ancient eyes like me.) 

If you are not already a believer, I strongly urge you to start doing illustration intensives. (You can check out if there are any intensives in your neck of the woods here.) I've been to many of them in different regions, and I've always learned something about myself as an artist, or about how art directors interact with illustrators, or even whether or not my style is right for that particular art director or publishing house. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

Alrighty friends, thanks for dropping by and happy illustrating!


Meridth Gimbel is a freelance writer and illustrator who loves anything art related, story infused, and chocolate covered. When not working on her illustrations or writing stories, she is busy building a time machine so she can hang out with her pirate buddies and find buried treasure. 

Follow her work at:
 Portfolio | Blog | Sketchblog | Facebook professionalpersonal Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Monday, April 4, 2016

Three Social Media Tips For Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

In the past few months, I've given my Social Media Master Class to writers and illustrators at SCBWI events in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. I still feel odd when people refer to me as a social media expert, mainly because I believe:

1. There is no ONE right way to use social media. What works for me may not work for you. 

Also, it drives me a wee bit crazy when some come up to me and say stuff like, "You're so lucky to be so good at this! It comes so naturally to you."

I feel like yelling at them, "It wasn't luck! I started from scratch, made MANY MISTAKES, learned how to use social media gradually through observation and practice." But of course I don't yell because I've made the same sort of assumptions about others who work very hard to learn something over a long period of time; we only tend to see the end results. I try not to make this mistaken assumption anymore, to give people more credit.

When it comes to promotion, part of my "strategy" in social media comes from my introvert tendencies as well as my aversion to asking people for money. It's one of the reasons I very rarely help promote crowd-funding campaigns and will likely never use Kickstarter or similar venues to fund a project.

2. Respect your followers' time.

It's worth taking the time to craft a post that shows that you respect your followers' time. I assume that many others are like me, often feeling overwhelmed with the barrage of information and tweets and "click THIS link" and "look at THIS" posts on social media.

I never post on Twitter with a bare link, or a "Check this out! xxxlinkxxxx" because I rarely click through that kind of post. When I use auto-share tools, I try to customize the descriptive text whenever I can.

I try to make my posts as entertaining or informative or as visually enticing as possible. I try to include an image whenever I can; I have found that my posts with images almost always get more attention that those without.

3. As fun or useful as social media can be, your work needs to come first.

I strongly recommend figuring out what you want to get out of social media; I wish I had done this from the beginning. It will help keep you focused and time-efficient, plus save you frustration. Be realistic. "I'm going to find an editor who will publish my book" is not realistic. "I want to get to know what editor xxx is like" or "I want to find out if agent xxx is someone I'd like to work with" is more realistic.

These are just a few general tips, but they are three of the most important. I could write a book about social media advice (general and specific) for writers and illustrators, but why bother? Social media platforms change all the time; so much has already changed in Twitter since I wrote my Twitter Guide For Authors and Illustrators.

And a last tip: Try to have fun!

Debbie Ridpath Ohi wrote and illustrated WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? (Simon & Schuster Children's). Coming out in 2016: RUBY ROSE, BIG BRAVOS (author: Rob Sanders, HarperCollins) and MITZI TULANE, PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE: WHAT'S THAT SMELL? (author: Lauren McLaughlin, Random House). Twitter: @inkyelbows.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Post-SCBWI Conference: What next?

I usually come back from a conference both jazzed and exhausted. After the flurry of preparing for the conference, and the excitement of the event itself, I'm home. I have all sorts of ideas swirling around, and all these notes and names... what to do next? Here are some things I usually do in the weeks following a conference:
Photo by Andy Musser
Following up: Connect with other Kidlit artists or authors, and maybe some industry folks as well.
  • Pull out all the postcards you collected and find folks on social media. Follow them. Do the same with the faculty bio page – but use common sense. People who don't personally know you are more likely to welcome a connection on public forums like Twitter or Instagram, rather than private facebook pages. 

  • Update your mailing list with industry folks you may have seen or met at the conference. If you write, and have a story ready for submission, make a special note of anyone who said you could query them in the following weeks, and put the deadline on your calendar (assuming you want to query them).
  • Send a postcard mailing to your updated list (if you haven't done one just prior to the conference). 
  • Send a thank you note to anyone who critiqued you. In addition to being a nice thing to do, it is another opportunity for that person to see a piece of your art.

Absorbing information: keep the momentum! 
  • File/write up/scan your notes. Look them over and refresh your memory of what was most helpful or meaningful to you. 

  • I usually come away from a conference with ideas for stories or thoughts about how I can improve my work. I've found it very helpful to set a goal or give myself an assignment. For example, after my first conference, I knew I needed more series of images in my portfolio. I gave myself the assignment of taking one existing piece from my folio and adding two more pieces with the same character, and I gave myself two months to do it. 
Good luck!

Jen Betton writes and illustrates for children. 
You can find her work at
@jenbetton on Twitter

Monday, March 7, 2016

Favorite things...

I'm always interested to learn what supplies other illustrators swear by.  Sometimes seeing someone else's tried and tested tools inspires me to try something new.  So, I thought I'd show you my favorite supplies for drawing, inking, and painting.

For drawing & inking:

-My favorite pencils are Faber Castell 9000 in HB.  I'm sure there are nicer pencils out there (some of my grad school friends swore by these Tombow pencils, and I know lots of illustrators who love the Blackwing), but for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, I'm partial to Faber Castell.

-I've had my Alvin Glass Inkwell sharpener for about ten years and it's still going strong.

-I usually buy whichever kneaded eraser happens to be on sale, but I'm sort of partial to this one.

-My trusty green tape measure has been in my life for a long time and I sort of feel weirdly attached to it.  I use it to measure out the size of each illustration onto my paper and while I've used other tape measures none of them has been quite as comforting as Little Green.  Also, I'm pretty sure Little Green is instilled with luckiness, which is maybe why I'm so fond of her.  (Do you have superstitious attachment to any of your supplies?)

-My ink of choice is FW acrylic ink.  It comes in lots of different colors (I mostly use sepia and occasionally white) and I like its fluidity.  I pour the ink into a wide mouth, tight sealing container, so it's easier to dip my pen into.  Also, if I want to thicken the ink slightly I leave the lid of the ink container open for awhile (overnight), and alternatively, to thin the ink I just add a little water.  Once acrylic ink is completely dry it's water fast which means that my watercolor paint doesn't affect my ink lines.

-I've experimented with lots of different pens and the one that works best for me is the Speedball Standard Pen Holder with a #512 nib.  I think pens and different pen nibs are highly personal and if you're interested in using a dip pen I encourage you to experiment with as many nibs as possible until you find one that suits you.

For painting:

-My favorite brushes are short-handled round brushes.  Investing in a good quality large brush for big, loose washes was sort of life changing.  Adding a good wash brush to my arsenal made covering large areas of paper (for sky, water, etc) suddenly fun and free instead of terrifying.  For the rest of my painting I use Winsor & Newton Cotman round brushes in sizes 3, 5, and 10.

-For watercolor paints I prefer Holbein and Winsor & Newton Professional grade.  My color palette varies a bit from image to image, but the colors pictured above are the ones I use most often.

-I've had my paint palette for a long time and by now it feels like an old friend. Here's one that's similar.

-It isn't included in the photo, but I also rely heavily on Scmincke masking fluid.  Its squeeze tube makes applying it fairly easy, and as long as you remove it gently and within 24 hours of application it comes off easily and without damaging the paper.  (I use the colorless version.)

-I always have two jars of water while I'm painting and I change the water often (pretty much anytime I switch to a new color) to keep my colors from becoming muddy.  I also keep a roll of paper towels at hand and use a paper towel to soak excess paint off my brush or from the paper.

Paper and preparation:

-My paper of choice is Arches 140 lb. hot press in bright white.  Although, lately I've been experimenting with other brands and with cold press papers.  (Hot press paper has a smoother finish and cold press papers are more textured.)

-In order to achieve a stable surface that won't buckle under very wet watercolor washes I stretch my watercolor paper by soaking it in water and then stapling it onto 1/2 inch Gatorfoam Board.  I used to use plywood, but I prefer gator board because it's light weight but sturdy.  (Usually a single row of staples is sufficient, but because I live in the very dry Colorado mountains I use a double row of staples on large paintings otherwise the paper dries so tightly that the staples pull out.)

-A note about stretching paper:  I stretch my paper AFTER I've drawn and inked my image.  As mentioned above, once the acrylic ink is dry it doesn't budge so there's no danger in soaking my inked drawings.  Stretching seems to slightly change the texture of the paper which makes the ink lines a bit more difficult to apply, which is why I stretch the paper after the drawing is complete.

Additional Miscellaneous supplies:

-I'm a huge fan of post-it notes and use them for to-do lists, to keep track of deadlines, and to put notes about illustrations on my drawing table.

-I use masking tape and bull dog clips to attach reference material to my drawing table.

-Plastic containers make for handy storage of paints and other supplies.

-I use the occasional colored pencil and love experimenting with water-soluble graphite.

I hope you found some inspiration here!  I'd love to hear about your favorite supplies!

Brooke Boynton Hughes lives in Colorado's Rocky Mountains where she illustrates children's books.  To see more of her work please visit

Monday, February 15, 2016

An Artist's Life For Me!

As kid lit artists, we are the pirates of the modern world. We are the ones who have said:
We will have freedom! We will explore! We will make stuff!
Sure, we have been compared to many other walks of life: pilgrims, monks, gypsies; but I say pirates for a few reasons:

  •   Pirates are not afraid to bend (or break) the rules    
  • Pirates are notorious for coming up with solutions that are completely unexpected.
  • A very long time ago, it was the pirates who braved the untamed sea to discover the previously undiscovered (think Vikings)! 
  • I really, really wanted to draw some ships for this article.
Art (like old fashioned piracy) is a beautiful, exciting endeavor. We have each lovingly embraced and built a ship for art, in the determination that we will set sail to capture the loot that lies in wait. We have embellished these ships with scraps of paper, ink, paint, and any other tidbits we’ve collected.
We then climb aboard our shiny, new vessels and set out with high hopes for adventure. A fair wind pushes out our sails until they are so full they press us forward into feverish creation. We cast our nets to publishers and agents, inviting them to join in our adventure. We hunt for messages in bottles and maps on faraway islands that will give us directions to build better portfolios and write tremendous stories. Our expeditions are glorious…but fair weather and wind don’t last forever.
Unfortunately, any pirate knows that there are days when the air is as still as a schoolroom in summer. Inspiration whisks away for a time and the sails go flat. We are left alone on our little ships with our computers, canvas, and paper staring blankly at us. What then?
This is the time when a good ole’ pirate would pull out his accordion and play a little jingle to pass the time, but I have a few other ideas in mind! I recommend taking action! Go for a swim in the ocean of art surrounding your craft.

Read a book!


  •               Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  •              The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
  •              Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang
  •             Tell Me A Picture: Adventures In Looking At Art by Quentin Blake
  •             Writing With Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books by Uri Shulevitz

Listen to your favorite music or podcast and watch some inspirational videos!

  •  Let’s Get Busy (podcast)
  •  Will Terry (YouTube
  •  Any Miyazaki film

Go on an adventure with a sketchbook in hand!

  •  Go for a hike
  •  Visit the zoo
  •  Spend a day at the museum
  •  Sign up for a workshop or a retreat
  •  Go see a play or a movie
  •   Visit your nearest library or bookstore

Form an alliance with some fellow pirates and have a party!


  •  - This is a really cool website where artists of all kinds collaborate to make stuff!
  •  - This is a site that is a little bit like Illustration Friday except you can submit to them whenever you want! They upload images daily from all different styles of art. It is really fun.
  • - This is something worth looking into if you want to make special, original pieces to sell online!

Sometimes you might have to take a break to do some house chores that you have been avoiding in order to let the wind sneak up on you. No matter which course you choose to take, remember to trust that the wind will always come back to fill your sails again. So while you are waiting you might as well have some fun.

Yo ho, yo ho, an artist’s life for me.
We paint, we blunder, we scribble and smoosh.
Create me ‘earties, yo ho.
We conference and research and get a big boost.
Create me ‘earties, yo ho!
Yo ho, yo ho, an artist’s life for me.

 ~Jeslyn Kate

Jeslyn Kate writes/illustrates for children and teaches art.
You can find her work at 
these different locations:
Twitter: @jeslynkate