Sometimes, it’s nice to leave the house. 

Earlier this summer I officially embarked on my journey as a full-time freelance illustrator. One of my main goals was to get involved more in the fields I have a strong interest in. For years I’ve had a passion for kids picture books and graphic novels. After talking with many friends online who are in this field already, 5 letters kept popping up, SCBWI. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is a non-profit organization where both writers and illustrators are able to unite in their love of children’s literature. Now, there’s all sorts of things being involved and having a membership with SCBWI can include; lots of great information and resources to help jumpstart your career in the industry, awards that focus on writing and illustrating and two major events/conferences that take place annually in both New York City and Los Angeles, to name a few. But probably the coolest thing they offer are regional chapters and conferences.

IMG_0152.JPG

Over this last weekend I was able to attend not only my regional conference (SCBWI Mid South, Tennessee & Kentucky) but it was my very first event with SCBWI. The weekend was full of fantastic keynote speeches and classes taught by some of the industry’s top professionals. I’m not exactly sure how many attended but if I were guessing it was somewhere between 200-300 people. A few really cool things that happened outside of the classes and speeches were the opportunities to include your illustration portfolio in an evening showcase, meet one on one with an editor or art direction from a respected publishing company, compete in story and illustration based contests and intensives and best of all, just meet people.

I won’t go into this too much, maybe another post for another day, but I’m pretty introverted. Big surprise! Honestly, if you know me, I’m friendly, I like to talk and I have no problem holding a conversation with anyone, but there’s another side of me that just wants to avoid it all together. Like many introverts, I have a bit of social anxiety. While I’ve been waiting for this event with much anticipation, that introverted part of me wanted to jump ship altogether and just eat snacks in a hotel room all by myself. Fortunately I knew of a few people going which was super helpful and I knew, deep down it would be ok because of that. 

IMG_0166.JPG

Friday night I was able to attend the author/illustrator autograph session/portfolio showcase/dessert party. Yes, all 3 happened at the same time and it was great! I caught up with fellow illustrators Rob McClurkan and Scott Soeder before the activities began to say hello and introduce myself in person. We hit it off immediately. Rob was one of the guests who was signing books that night so I had the privilege to hang with Scott and meet a whole new mess of people. We were also abel to showcase our portfolios and promo pieces (postcards) to the attendees while snacking on cookies. See!? You show up to places and you get snacks! You don’t have to hide out in your room alone. 

Throughout the next two days the conference was jam packed with great classes and speakers, a nice lunch and of course after conference hang outs which involved grabbing drinks or enchiladas. It was great getting to meet so many new people, hear about their journey, share about my own and also get feedback on the portfolio I’ve been building for last several years. I was able to leave the conference with so much more insight on how publishing works, “do’s and don’ts” in the field and a better overall direction on where my focus needs to be in the future. I already can’t wait for next year. Who knows!? I may try to attend the NYC conference before next year’s mid south, we’ll see. These things aren’t cheap but totally worth going to.

So what’s the point of this post, rather then me fully endorsing SCBWI and telling you that I attended it. The point is, I left my house. Since I’ve been working freelance, I’m not around people anymore, hardly at all. Sure my daughter and wife come in my office occasionally, and we eat lunch together and run errands, but they don’t really need to hear about what i’m working on or anything work related for that matter. Being cooped up in my office is part dream come true and part isolating, in a bad way. It can get real lonely, even for an introvert. Leaving the house allowed me to meet people who are just like me. I was able to talk about what I’ve been up to, hear what they’ve been up to, share tips, stories, struggles, dreams, laughs, you know, just talk shop! I can’t tell you how refreshing that was. When I was a kid, I used to go to summer camp and would always leave with a bit of a “mountain top high”. I always felt so good and ready to take on the rest of the year. I had that same feeling when I left the Embassy Suites this last Sunday. I shook hands, made memories, made friends and it was fun. I encourage you if you are working from home or working alone, find your people. Find the ones who are doing the same things as you or have similar interests. There’s lot of conferences that happen throughout the year whether you design, like horror movies or enjoy gardening. Find the ones that interest you and go. I can honestly say that it’s worth it. If you can’t find a conference close enough or your funds are limited (mine surely are) find people you can Skype with or create a SLACK channel with. Just being able to communicate a couple times a month can do wonders!

A little shoutout to both Rob McClurkan and Josh Lewis for helping me prepare for the conference and look over my work beforehand and a special thanks to Rob and Scott who were the NICEST dudes on the planet. Never once did they hesitate to include me in their hang outs, dinners and conversations. I can’t thank them enough to making what was a scary situation in my mind a very fun and exciting time. You guys are awesome! Also thank you to all the nice and hard working people in the SCBWI organization for putting on such a great event and making it a weekend I’ll always remember.

NES Classic...Cereal!

Finally, almost two years later, Nintendo has re-released their NES Classic console after it vanished from store shelves back in late 2016. At the time I was one of the MANY unlucky folks to miss out on this wonderful, high-def, nostalgic gem of a mini console. Jam packed with 30 beloved games from my childhood, I was drooling and wishing they would make more of them! The system is now back on the market (if you can find it) and I was happy to have got one for myself they day it was released.

Since the anticipation of this machine was making me giddier than a school boy as the first day of summer approaches, I thought, why not celebrate by doing some fan art based off a few of my favorite games this baby has to offer!? I chose to go with doing faux cereal boxes. Why? Because cereal is awesome. Also, if you don’t remember, back in the mid to late 80’s we had this:

Nintendo Cereal System!

c_254_nintendo_cereal_system_box_front.jpg

That’s right, a Mario AND Zelda themed cereal in ONE BOX. Oh what a time to be alive. It had me thinking, what if more franchises from the NES era were to have their own cereals, what would they look like? That my friends is what got the gears turning for this little side project. 

I began researching vintage cereal boxes and designs, all the way back to the 50’s and through today. I really wanted to try and mimic different styles from each decade if possible. My only rules for this were, to create cereal for games that didn't already have one (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, etc.) and TRY to not use exact likeness or even main characters so it feels a bit more random and fun. Below you’ll see the boxes I’ve created along with the inspiration for them.

Megaman-mock.jpg

I really thought Megaman lent himself to a much older style. There’s been so much Megaman fan art over the years I really wanted to see what it would be like if he had existed back in the mid to late 50’s. My favorite thing about this was using Sugar Puffs as his pellets from his cannon arm. In the original games the ammo even looks like it!

One of my all time favorite cereals is Count Chocula. I knew I wanted to make a box for the Castlevania games and these two mashed up together perfectly! I really enjoyed making the spooky marshmallows based off some of the enemies in the game. Also the thought of a free Rosary made me chuckle. 

CastleMock.jpg

Final Fantasy is often a game people forget debuted on the NES because it's SNES games were SO MUCH bigger. I thought it would be fun to use Lucky Charms cereal as the basis of this idea. What really stuck with me was finding an old LC box that used a different mascot outside of our favorite Irish man. This guy was more like a wacky wizard which reminded me of the magic/warlock character from the game. I loved how meshing these two characters together made for a distant cousin of Orko from He-Man. 

FantasyMock.jpg

Below are the rest of the boxes I created along with their inspiration.

KirbyMock.jpg
ShyMock.jpg
NinjaMock.jpg
GhoulsMock.jpg
cerealsketches.jpg

This little series was a complete and total BLAST to work on. I really enjoyed putting my design skills to the test by capturing the fun type and layouts the boxes are known for as well as creating fun mascots based on the games and older illustration styles. Not only were the boxes fun to do but making up fake box prizes was the best! If you ever feel stuck in a creative rut, I really think doing a personal project is the way to spark things back up. I can't recommend doing this enough, it's fun and important even if your just playing with your food. 

New Beginnings!

Today is what I'm considering my first day into the world of full time freelance. A few weeks ago I left my job of 7 years here in Nashville to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator and I couldn't be more excited! I've been fortunate enough to have a few projects lined up that I'll be able to talk about a bit more later, but I'm currently looking to take on more work.

If you've ever been interested in working together, I'd love to hear from you! I'm interested in anything that revolves around illustration whether it be editorial, packaging, comics/books for kids, t-shirts, character design and really anything else i'm not thinking of. If you need a drawing, I'd love to draw it for you!

The main reason for this post is just to put my freelance statement out there officially. I've been freelancing for the last 10 years off and on while working a full time job, but now I'm transitioning to this way of working full time. I've uploaded LOTS of new work to the site, so please have a look around! Hope to hear from you soon, your friend,

-Cole

 

Edison's Tackle Box, Is Here!

For several years now I've wanted to tap into the world of illustration for children's books, so much that back in 2014 I decided to write and publish my own. That was the first and last time I had done anything like that until this summer when a friend and client of mine had introduced me to a member of their family who was wanting to write and publish her first book. After speaking to Meghan (author of the book) I knew that this was something that meant a lot to her and for me not having a large portfolio or experience in this field, I saw that it would help us both.

The time span for this book started in late May through mid October. While it was a very long process it was challenging and a great learning experience. Meghan for one, wrote a great story with a very lovable character backed with a sweet message. This book really pushed me to work outside of my style. We started with character design for the main character, Edison, his mom & his dad. This helped us find the style of illustration as well as set the tone for how the book was going to look. Below are some character design samples.

It was decided that set number 2 was the way to go. After discussing the direction a little more, we realized that Edison needed to be a bit younger so with a few changes to his character like giving him a larger head, and smaller arms as well as a messier style the final design below is what we chose.

As soon as the characters were finalized I began sketching out all the pages of the book. This part of the process took some time and was probably the hardest part. I needed to make sure that the drawings help tell the story based off the text, the character models stayed consistent, keeping a good balance of close ups and background scenes while keeping the reader engaged visually. We went through several rounds of sketches to make sure everything was just right before I started to ink and color them. 

The book was drawn completely in Photoshop using a mix of ink and watercolor brushes made by the master, Kyle T. Webster. Drawing this book digitally helped me so much as I needed plenty of room for mistakes to be made. As I've said before, drawing digitally doesn't make you a better artist but if you use it to learn and try things you'd be scared of doing on paper, you will get better and more confident in your decision making. Over all, the end result was very satisfying. I know Meghan loves the book and is happy to share it with everyone she knows and honestly, I am too! There used to be a time where I'd be nervous to show off something I've done because the quality wasn't as great as it could of been, but when you work with the right people who ultimately trust you and allow you the room to grow and improve, it makes everything that much easier and rewarding.

Please go buy the book! It's available now on Amazon! I am very proud of this project and hope to do more in the future! Also, give Meghan Colvin a follow on her social networks which you can find here on her website. Thank you Meghan, for letting be a part of your wonderful story!

-Cole

 

Finally Live!

It almost feels surreal to write this. For the last 5 years, on New Years day, I'd write out my list of "goals" to hopefully accomplish. Some personal, some professional. Each year I'd write "Launch illustration portfolio site". Something that I thought would be easy, something you just do. But to have a portfolio site solely based on Illustration work, you need to actually do some work. Most of what you're seeing on this site is from 2014 to now, meaning that since I started making this my goal, there has been years worth of work that I'm not showing due to it just not being good enough. As much as I wanted this to happen sooner, I knew I needed to do more work and that's just it, do more work! Take your time, things will come together as long as you're present, with your head down and your pencil in hand. I love doing this and I can't wait to see where I'm at 5 years from now, because let's be honest, it's great to be proud of what you've accomplished now, but the real fun is in the process.