‘Tis the Season

Ho Ho Ho and Merry Christmas to everyone! The decorations are up in the Vecchi household and I’ve been feeling festive ever since. It certainly is the season to be jolly, as the old song says, but it is also a season of reflection for me and many others. January brings in a brand new decade, as well as a brand new decade of life for me, as I turn 30 in March. (It’s still weird to see that written out.)

I have high hopes for 2020, and my 30’s in general! I haven’t been actively posting lately, but my dedication to pursuing an illustration career has been amping up again after a few months’ hiatus due to an injury I sustained over the summer. This autumn has been filled with illustration podcasts, a trip to the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum (formerly the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books), and even a decision to pursue the most intimidating project to which I’ve ever challenged myself! But more on that later.

Since it has been months (and months) since I last wrote, I decided to do a bit of an art dump so you could see the few things I’ve worked on this year. It is slightly saddening to look back on it and see how little there feels like there has been, but I have been trying to live with giving myself some grace for difficult seasons and just double down moving forward. I really didn’t do much over the summer as I recovered and rested, but I did get a few drawings done for #Inktober this year that I really enjoyed!

I also tried to rework a piece I had submitted for my SCBWI chapter’s yearly calendar contest with the theme of “family.” I had really liked my idea, but was unhappy with how I had executed the piece for the actual submission. I went back and inked my initial sketch, threw some grayscale shading in it and asked some of my kidlitart friends for some critique. They had some helpful bits of insight for me! I flipped the orientation, did away with the secondary wall, and cleared up my silhouettes. I tried something more bold with my coloring, but I’m not completely pleased with it yet. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually.


As we were nearing December, a short series of events led to me cranking out a few wintertime animal portraits of myself and a few friends. I now have a few more in the works, and I’ll try to remember to post them when they’re done! Here are the ones I have done so far.

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The first of the animal portraits. Tyler, the penguin.
Leah, the arctic fox.
Me, the lynx.
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Matt, the polar bear.

And now, back to the aforementioned intimidating project I have given myself! Earlier this year, I was struck with a story. It literally started as a dream I had that I just couldn’t stop thinking about. I told my hubby that I thought it would make a great book, talked the idea over with my lunchtime walking buddy at work, and began to flesh out the dream into an actual storyline in my head. I even wrote two chapters of my first draft that I planned to finish, revise, and eventually try to take to a publisher.

In the past month, I have begun listening to Three Point Perspective, a podcast for illustrators by Jake Parker, Lee White, and Will Terry who work for The Society of Visual Storytelling, which I plan to join in the new year (if not before then). Listening to them talk about their work and the benefits of creating your own content really had me thinking about my novel idea. Matt had suggested I make it a graphic novel, but I had quickly dismissed it by saying I didn’t have the right “style” for this kind of story. Now that I have given it some more thought, I’ve decided to give it a go! I’m realizing that there are plenty of graphic novels that don’t look like your stereotypical “comic book superhero” style of art that are still taken seriously for their content and what they are able to communicate.

It is going to take years of work to get this idea off the ground and out into the world, but I’ve already started! By having some of the work done towards making it a book, I have already begun developing a cast of characters and a basic plot, though it definitely has a ways to go. My first goalpost I have set for myself in all of this is that by the end of December, I will have the major components of my storyline mapped out. How do all the major characters come into play? What key scenes lead up to the main conflict? How does the main conflict play out? How are the outstanding issues resolved? My plan is to have this basic framework done by year’s end so that I can begin filing in the gaps between the main points and connecting all the dots until I feel it is ready for me to start drawing up story boards for how it will be paginated and such.

I am totally stoked to get into this project, although I feel quite overwhelmed. As I work on my plot, I am planning to be reading graphic novels from other authors who tackle supernatural, fantasy, or sci-fi themes in conjunction with using more cartoon or stylized illustrations. I am definitely looking for recommendations! I did pick up the first of the Bone series by Jeff Smith from the library tonight, which I hear is excellent. Please comment and let me know of any other titles that might be useful for me to look at!

The Beginning: Part II

Today’s post is going to focus on my upcoming portfolio review! Here are the basics:

What it is

I will be sending images of my works to Guiseppe Castellano for him to review. The night of the review, we’ll use Google Video Chat and discuss my work. He’ll let me know where my strengths lie and what areas I still need to improve, and then we’ll get to discuss how best to build a portfolio, what art directors are looking for in portfolios, and what next steps I should be taking to get where I want to be in my career.

Who is Guiseppe Castellano?

He is an art director and illustrator with years of experience! He has worked with some big name publishing houses in the past, but now works for himself. He heads up The Illustration Department, a resource for online classes to help illustrators improve their work and build portfolios.

How did you find the opportunity?

Guiseppe was one of the first guests on the Stories Unbound podcast I mentioned yesterday! At the time of his interview, he was working at Penguin Random House as their Executive Art Director. His website has a link for the Illustration Department on it, and I joined their mailing list, hoping to try sign up for something one day. I got an email last week that they were running a 40% off sale on their courses, so I seized the opportunity!

When is it?

April 12th at 9pm. I am severely hoping that my 6 month old will stay asleep for the full hour of the review. My husband has already said he’ll be on baby duty if Baby J wakes up, but his intense attachment to me means he’ll be crying if he knows I’m there and not holding him.

My illustration experience up to this point has all been either college-level course work or small pieces I have made for myself for practice, so my excitement for this review is tempered by nervousness at how my work will be perceived. Some days I look at what I’ve done and think I really have what it takes, and other days it seems that all I see are the flaws and marks of amateurism. I hear all artists deal with this in some form, so I try not to let it get me down.

I’ll be posting some work on my Portfolio page as I prepare files to send to Guiseppe! I’ll also be posting about a work-in-progress here in the next couple days.

Until next time!     

The Beginning: Part I

As those who follow my twitter already know, I am terrifically excited to share that I have officially scheduled a video chat portfolio review with Guiseppe Castellano, an art director and illustrator with years of experience!

I began typing this post to talk about how I found the opportunity and more about the review in general, but in doing so I found myself starting at the beginning of how I got to where I am at now. It seemed difficult to separate the two topics, but it was too much for one post. So, welcome to The Beginning: Part I!

Almost a year ago, when I first made the decision to start acting on my desire to illustrate professionally, I decided to write down a plan. Though it was not public, it was something concrete I could review to hold myself accountable. It currently reads as follows:

END GOAL: finished portfolio submitted to publishers/companies/agents by May 2018

What I’ll need:

  • Website of work
  • Physical portfolio
  • PDF portfolio
  • Artist card (optional)

10-15 solid illustrations

  • 3 character designs
  • 6 color full page designs
  • 3 b&w full page designs
  • 1 set of sequential drawings (2-3)

I had a plan in place, but I still wanted to be better educated in the ways of the industry before diving in. Education for this busy professional came in the form of podcasts. There are parts of my day job that allow me to listen to music while working, so listening to podcasts instead allowed me to learn more while still getting things done!

My first find was Chris Oatley’s Artcast. It had great reviews, so I gave it a shot. I was hooked right away! I would get so excited about what I was hearing that I would spend the better part of my lunch break excitedly jabbering to my husband about “this guy in my podcast who” <insert awesome thing here>. This podcast was so motivating to me. Listening to artist after artist tell their story made me realize that these people (for the most part) were not just blessed by God with talent that would drop you to your knees. They set a goal for themselves and worked hard. They tried again and again, even after being denied. I began to believe that although the industry is fiercely competitive, with the right combination of skill, persistence, and people skills, you can make a career out of doing what you love!

Through the Artcast, I discovered Stories Unbound, a children’s literature-specific podcast hosted by Shawna JC Tenney. Since illustrating children’s books plays a huge part of where I see myself in the future, I began to spend my time listening to Shawna and her varying co-hosts interview artists, authors, and editors. I would take note of the names I was hearing so I could look them up later, trying to learn who’s-who in the #kidlit world and expose myself to established, successful artists. I have gone through all of the episodes that exist, but will probably go back through them over time. I feel like listening to her podcasts makes me all the more excited, and even somewhat prepared, for the road ahead of me.

Pregnancy and several months of adjusting to life with two kids meant I pushed my efforts to the back burner for a while last year. Even so, I think I may be able to achieve my goal by the end of May this year! That being said, my goal may change in about a month. My upcoming portfolio review has the possibility (and probability) of changing what I think is necessary for me to have in my portfolio as I begin. More on that in The Beginning: Part II!