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On my bedroom wall is a an art print called Life in Motion, by an incredibly talented artist named Julie Dillon. I’ve been a fan of her work for years, so when I heard tell that she had created a kickstarter to fund the first book of her Imagined Realm series, I was ecstatic to pledge.

This campaign isn’t just great because it showcases Julie’s amazing artwork, it is also an incredible for another reason: “‘Imagined Realms’ gives me the opportunity to spend more time creating my own illustrations and projects, and also gives me the chance to create more illustrations that feature positive and diverse representations of women.” Every piece of artwork in this book is of a beautiful, empowered, diverse and unique woman, all set in a fantasy world all her own. The end product is breath-taking.

I am incredibly excited to share with you an interview with Julie Dillon herself. She has graciously taken the time to answer a few questions about her artwork and her already-funded Kickstarter campaign.

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Interview with Artist Julie Dillon

01. Your kickstarter only just launched and it’s already exceeded your goal. How do you feel with having such an amazing success already?

I feel relieved! This whole process has been really stressful, and it’s a big weight off my shoulders to know that I was able to get it funded. There’s still a ways to go to reach the stretch goals, and I have a lot of stuff to add on if the kickstarter gets to that level. Of course, while I want this to be as successful as possible, I’m also very aware of the fact that the higher it goes, the more work I’ll have to do to pack and ship everything. It’s just a big undertaking in general.

02. Tell us a little about what your process was for launching your kickstarter.

There was a lot more preparation work than I realized. At first I was only focused on making the art for the book, which was a big enough task in itself and took up several months. But as I got ready to launch, I realized I had to make all the site graphics, write up the press release, create a video (which I’d never done before), shop around for printers, price everything out, etc. I tried to stay on top of everything and not get too overwhelmed. If you just take it one small task at a time, it’s not so bad.

03. I adore that you’re focusing on empowered and diverse women. Is there a female person (fiction or non) that has inspired you in your work?

I don’t know that I can point to one individual person. I think rather I take inspiration from most women I meet, in some way or form. Their perseverance, how they handle adversity, their joy and love and how they express that in different ways.

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04. Your work is so wonderfully colorful! Do you have a favorite color palette you enjoy working with the most?

I noticed a while back that the purple and gold combo tends to show up a lot in my work. I’m partial to anything with a complimentary color scheme, since that tends to be a very eye-catching and dynamic. Sometimes I try to do something with a more subtle or desaturated palette, but I always end up making it more bright and colorful in the end.

05. What advice would you give another artist who is hoping to launch a kickstarter for their own work?

Get as much prepared beforehand as possible, and plan your promotion strategy long before you launch. You need to get the word out, or it’ll be a lot harder to get funded. Avoid promotional services that you have to pay for; I tried a few and so far they have done absolutely nothing, whereas working with my existing contacts and networks led to most of my traffic. Think about what kind of blogs and websites might be interested in your project, and send them your press release and ask if they’d be interested in featuring you or maybe even interviewing you. Many won’t respond, but some might, and every little bit helps. Be prepared emotionally if the kickstarter doesn’t go well, but also be prepared logistically if it ends up being really successful. Lots of people get overwhelmed in the order fulfillment stage because they didn’t plan properly. But, also bear in mind that at the time I’ve written this, I’m only about a week and a half into my first kickstarter, and I still have a lot of learning to do myself. 🙂

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Pledge to this Kickstarter!

You can pledge to Julie’s Imagined Realms: Book 1 Kickstarter by going to that page and donating at any pledge level. She has some great rewards and some even better stretch goals! So pledge, share, and celebrate in the awesome crowdfunding abilities of art lovers!

The World of Hayao Miyazaki + Beautiful Fanart [Part 2]

Hello friends! Here is Part 2 of our Miyazaki Fanart showcase! I have so many gorgeous pieces of artwork to show you – it’s always hard to choose, but I hope you’ll agree that these are some of the greatest. Hayao Miyazaki is a master at his craft, but these illustrations could give him a run for his money (okay, well maybe not). Don’t forget to read Part 1 if you missed it – it features the first five movies and an introduction who the man who directed these beautiful films is.

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is one of my absolute favorites of Miyazaki’s. “The story concentrates on involvement of the outsider Ashitaka in the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans of the Iron Town who consume its resources. There can be no clear victory, and the hope is that relationship between humans and nature can be cyclical.” – Wikipedia.

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The World of Hayao Miyazaki + Beautiful Fanart [Part 1]

This is a post long in the making. A post I have been in the process of writing for a long time. A post highlighting the work of the greatest animator of our time: Hayao Miyazaki and his wonderful Studio Ghibli. A man who has brought more tears to my eyes than any other movie creator. I can’t adequately explain how his movies make me feel, but anyone who has ever watched Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke or any of his epic masterpieces… well. You understand.

Who is Hayao Miyazaki?

“Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese manga artist and prominent film director and animator of many popular anime feature films. Through a career that has spanned nearly fifty years, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of animated feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio.” – Wikipedia.

He is best known for his strong female characters, his simple line art but elaborate background paintings, and his love for nature and magic and the belief that children are the most remarkable and courageous people on this earth. All of this shines in every one of his works.

In honor of The Wind Rises arriving to the US, I thought I would do a showcase of some of my favorite Miyazaki movie fanart. I absolutely love seeing how different artists bring his characters to light. Because he’s done so much amazing work – I’m breaking this up into 2 posts and we’re going to focus on the work he directed under Studio Ghibli. On with the show!
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fc01Forgotten Colours is a beautiful and inspiring iPad app that is filled with stories and illustrations by a very talented group of people. The colors are vivid and the stories filled with wonderful morals and happy endings. I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview the folks behind the magic and bring you some insight into what went into creating such an interactive app. Many thanks to Teo, one of the behind-the-scenes magicians at Play Creatividad, creators of the app, for translating the interview questions and answer for us. Enjoy! And make sure to check out the Forgotten Colours app!

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Give us a little background on Forgotten Colours and the idea to turn it into an iPad app.

Francesc (Web Designer): Since the book had worked very well in Spain, we sought a way to share it with the world and the solution was digital publishing. eBook formats fell short because our book combines text and illustrations, but neither did we have any experience in the world of Apps for iOS. By chance we found a platform called Baker Framework for creating book and magazine Apps using Web development techniques (html, css and Javascript). We knew nothing about Apps but had much experience in web design so we decided to do some testing and the result was very good. We had managed to make an e-book but keeping the essence of the original book! Later, when the book was taking shape, we saw that we could add some small animations using Javascript and also some sounds and the result was …An enhanced eBook!

Desiree (Illustrator): We love technology! Working for the iPad is a delight because you can bring characters to life and create atmospheres, moving eyes, playing music, a surprising movement, interact… make a complete book of feelings.

How long did it take to make this app, from preliminary ideas to the full version it is now?

Francesc: From the first tests to the publication in the App Store… about 4 months.

Desiree: This never ends, there are always things to tweak and even more in the iPad world where new possibilities appear every day.

I read in the book that Silvia was originally an accounts assistant. How did it happen that you found your love and talent for writing?

Silvia (Author): Actually, I wrote short stories and scripts as a teenager that I let my friends read. But as I grew older I put my studies and work before, and I forgot what I loved so much. Until Desiree, illustrator and designer of the agency, challenged me to write these stories. I do small copy works in the agency, but writing about what you want is much more stimulating. While writing I remembered how much I enjoyed it, and have since resumed this path in which I hope to go on and contribute with my imagination.

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Carmensina is a very unique character. Where did you get her inspiration from?

Silvia: Carmesina was born an afternoon of genuine inspiration, thinking a crazy idea that came that day at the agency: a one-eyed designer. So I started typing her story with that image in mind. A story as a fable of the world we live in: a gray and disenchanted society. But where with our attitude and imagination we can help to make a change. I also added the presence of Black Cat – inspired by the real cat that we have in the agency – and lots of imagination. And there was Carmesina, a character with a great story and still a lot to tell. Of course, then came David’s work, drawing her, giving her charm… but he will tell you better about that.

David (Illustrator): True, Carmesina is a very unique and peculiar character. Not only by herself but her creation process was as well. Usually when I draw a new character do a lot of sketches until I find what I was looking for. For Carmesina there are no preliminary sketches, when I read the story I picked up the pencil and drew her holding Black Cat in her arms. When I finished I showed it to Silvia and her reaction was: “It’s her!” Just like that sometimes magical things happen; the character finds you. Obviously in the colouring process some features, were improved but essentially the early sketch is the Carmesina that the readers know now.

If you were given the choice to be any character in the book, who would you be?

Silvia: It is very difficult to choose just one character, they are like my children, my small creations, and I am very fond of all of them. But perhaps I would choose Carmesina, she has a great personality, or Griselda, because she is a free spirit, positive and cheerful.

Marta (Illustrator): Griselda, without hesitation.

Francesc: Black Cat, definitely.

Desiree: In this book I like Bella and Griselda because they were able to rebel and be different. We can all change our lives if we are not happy, even if there is a writer who tries to define our destiny.

David: Hmm… Difficult… I guess that, for the impression made on the audience and being the main characters of the second book we are preparing, I prefer the Black Cat – Carmesina tandem. But being a guy, and that answer would be a bit weird, I’ll say the Master Chew Wang.

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The illustration styles in the book are so diverse. What are your favorite media styles? Pencils, watercolors, digital, etc?

Marta: Pencils and digital 😛

Desiree: I choose the media according to what the illustration suggests. I have no favourite, sometimes watercolour, pastel, pencil drawing, directly on the computer…. It is certain that everything ends up on my screen, where I retouch colours, shapes, illustrate and paint. I personally like the illustrations to have an artisan feel; it’s nice when the textures exceed the paper and make you want to touch it…

David: For the book we worked with pencil and coloured digitally, adding watercolour and colour pencil textures. It’s the cleanest and quickest way… but I have worked many years with watercolour and gouache, the truth is that sometimes I miss using these more traditional techniques.

I love the colors in this book! What are you favorite color schemes?

Marta: Even though the book has a bluish – greyish colour scheme, I normally tend to use colours that help the illustration to express its mood and not fixed schemes.

Desiree: In my case it is intuitive, I don’t think, I let go and just do it, enjoy it… but sometimes I don’t like it and I get angry. But the good thing is that with the computer you can change colours and compare. Sometimes you have to let a week pass to resume the picture and find what you were missing, including a colour for example.

David: I have no favourite colour scheme; I think the colour helps a lot to convey the atmosphere and the mood that the story requires. Anyway this is one of the advantages of working digitally. I really admire Guarnido Juanjo (illustrator of the comic book Blacksad) who works in watercolours and does about 3 or 4 coloured sketches for each frame prior to finding the tone that fits. Working digitally you can change hues until you get what you were looking for.

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Was it difficult matching the design of the website and the HTML layout with the feel of the book?

Francesc: The main difficulty was to resolve the differences between the physical book’s square format and the iPad’s rectangular one. We decided to use the vertical view of the iPad and pretend that the book was displayed on a surface thus maintaining the original format. The rest was relatively easy, we have respected the original spirit, tweaking specific details and giving a bit of life to some illustrations with small effects and sounds.

What was it like collaborating with so much creative talent in the illustrators and the writer and all the people who worked on this app?

Marta: Fabu-astic!

Francesc: We are a team that has spent several years working together every day: designers, programmers and illustrators as well as our own writer. Many of us participated in the development of the App. It has been an exciting experience to learn to move through the world of the AppStore and see how our project crosses boundaries every day.

Desiree: A very nice experience! Creativity calls for creativity, someone’s idea is a spark that makes everyone contribute with theirs. It’s a book that had no other claim than to amuse those who worked on it and I think that’s the key to our success.

David: Teaming up with such creative people makes your work improve much faster and the final product is something that could not be achieved individually. It is a joy.

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And finally… what “Fuels” you in life?

Silvia: Life itself is inspiration, although sometimes our mood doesn’t allow us to see the beauty it hides, I certainly find my inspiration in the small things, in human relationships and everyday stories. Carmesina and all stories were created this way. In my case, literature and film is also of great inspiration.

Francesc: We are currently focusing our energy on our own projects, the second book that we are finishing and new Apps that we expect to launch soon.

Desiree: The inspiration has been different in every moment of my life, now my daughter is my new muse. Children allow us to play and require us to be fun and create!

David: Life itself! There are lots of things that happen everyday that is the fuel to enjoy it… and if you finally manage to draw them, it’s great!

bard-smallFor as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer and illustrator. In fact, I wanted to create children’s books and I wanted them to be fun, colorful, and have animals in them. That’s why I was so excited to do this interview with Bard Hole Standal, author of the interactive kids’ book Jack and Joe, which was built for the iPhone and the iPad. I was given the chance the read the book and play around with it and let me tell you, I loved it! Personally, I think this is HUGE, especially for the iPad. Interactive kids’ books aren’t exactly new, but I feel that with Bard’s style he could pave the way for many books like his. And iPads are a great size for kids to use.

Here’s a few things that really jumped out at me and made me love Jack and Joe:

  • I loved the illustrations! Bright, colorful, good movement! Very cute and great style for kids. The illustrations were really engaging and I felt the artwork went along perfectly with the story.
  • The interactions build into the book are fantastic. The hide and seek page was one of my favorite parts! There are also pages you can shake and some where you can pet Jack! In talking to Bard, I learned that in a future version of the story there will be even more interactive pages.
  • Jack and Joe very much felt like characters that could be on Disney or Nickelodeon – the voices were good too and there was a good pace to the book and the reading.

On with the Interview!

Let’s start from the beginning. Where did the idea to create an interactive children’s book for the iPad/iPhone come from?

I think all illustrators dream of publishing their own children’s book. For me, it felt like the right time to give it a go. I had focused all my time and energy in being involved in vinyl toys and endless projects with toy companies that seldom went anywhere. I was tired of both toys and spending a great deal of time on things that never came to fruition. With the iPad and the iPhone’s App Store, that would not be a problem. You are in control of what’s published, no second or third parties involved. So I talked to my brother who’s a computer engineer, and we decided to combine our talents to make this book happen. We originally intended on programming it using Adobe’s Flash CS5 iPhone module, but Apple pulled the plug on that. Plus the tech was incredibly slow, nearly useless.
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How did you begin each page? Walk us through your process of completing an illustration for the book.

I started the process by writing a simple outline. The initial idea about a boy and his best friend, his husky puppy. I thought of the fun things they could do together while keeping in mind what sort of interactive tasks would work with that. In the outline I wrote some ideas down for a story arc and how the boy would end up being jealous of the husky. The boy wanted to be a husky too because, let’s face it, there is nothing more awesome to be in the world than a husky puppy!

I never really set out to make a literary masterpiece, I wanted a sort of random character-focused story without morals or life lessons. I just wanted to make it a peek into the world of two best friends.

After the outline was written, I wrote a proper manuscript and drew a very crude storyboard of each page. Then I used Illustrator to draw up the final images, and adjusted the script and drawings as I went along. I also had to come up with what sort of interactive things we could add to the pages. I had a bunch of ideas, but we had to cut back to make it possible to produce. Coding for the iOS devices is very time consuming. Compared to technologies like Flash, this is much more demanding.
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Was creating an illustration for mobile devices different from simply creating an illustration for print or the web?

I always had to keep in mind that everything I drew would have to be cut up into smaller pieces for it to be animated or made into an interactive page. So working with vectors in Illustrator made that very easy, it’s part of my style and it’s how I like to work already. I’m an interactive art director in my fulltime job, so this is part of my everyday life. If you’re a traditional illustrator, I’m sure it would be a little harder to wrap your head around than producing things for print. Also, you have the issue of resolution differences on the devices. The iPhone 1 and the iPhone 4 have different resolutions, and the iPad even has a different format! So you end up exporting everything three times and you have to make sure that the illustrations for the iPad work even though you’re cutting the sides off to make it fit within the format. It’s easy to slip into madness with all of these things to think of 😉

What do you hope kids will take from Jack and Joe? Where do you see this book going?

My biggest wish is that kids get sucked into the world of Jack and Joe and just end up having a really FUN time. That was my goal all along, to make a super fun book kids can play with for hours. And maybe they’ll all convince their parents to get huskies! That would be cool. The world needs more huskies. I see a world in the future where everyone has a husky. I’d like that world!

I hope the book makes it up the App Store charts and that it gets some attention. It’s proven quite difficult to get it out there, there’s no automatic success by having a book in the App Store. You’ll have to tell people about it before it moves anywhere. I was hoping that wasn’t the case, that we wouldn’t need the PR machines of giant publishing corporations. We’ll see how it goes. I think we just need to tell people that it’s out there and that they should check it out. Maybe make a free preview version too.
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Who would you say has influenced your art style?

My art style is definitively influenced by a bunch of Japanese artists. I grew up with a keen interest in manga, so people like Akira Toriyama and Katsuhiro Otomo have been huge to me. In terms of vector style, Furi Furi Company, Buro Destruct and Maniackers Design were a major influence on me when I was starting out. Then of course there’s the video games of my childhood from Nintendo and Sega that were probably the reason for why I was drawn to illustration in the first place.

You say on your website that you love drawing animals. Any hope for a children’s book about pigs in the future?

Haha, yeah now that would be something! I would love to just sit down and draw pigs for a 6 month stretch. That would be a amazing!

I am actually working on a CGI short about a pig that wants to go to the north pole. It’s a side-burner project, so it’ll take a while to complete. I get my monthly dose of pigs that way though, keeps me sane and far, far away from bacon.

I eat a lot of sausages though, so technically I’m a hypocrit!

And finally… what “fuels” your illustration?

Giant exploding mega ultra death pigs! with LASER EYES!

At least the dream of one day giving such a vision a proper rendition as an illustration.
Until the day I do that, I will relentlessly be working on my skills until they can achieve such awesome awesomeness.
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Find more about Bard here: