GOALS: update

WOW it has been a busy couple of weeks!  Who knew that chasing my dreams and accomplishing goals would so all-consuming.  But it has been such a blast so far and honestly really encouraging.

(If you are interested in following along on the day to day I provide a lot more frequent updates via Instagram (@the.megan.mill) and Facebook. 

Goal: Author/Illustrator

If you want to know more about the book I am writing or get a copy of it, you can see the Kickstarter page here .  There are also other rewards, like vinyl stickers, postcards, prints, or commissioned art.  The campaign goes until the end of February and as of right now I am only $700 away from my goal!  Which means 39 lovely backers out there have helped me to get 72% of the way!

kickstarter_19 days to go

The process itself has consisted of so many different pieces, from sketching, inking the final drawings, painting the illustrations, scanning, digitally editing, page layouts, text editing, marketing, researching publishing methods, connecting with nannies on social media, reaching out to organizations and companies to collaborate (that hasn’t been as successful as I would have hoped… thus far anyway… but if you want to collaborate please let me know!), filtering through unsolicited advice, thanking backers, prepping files for print… Gosh, the list goes on and on!

made some art_web_higher res

In reality though, it really has been fun to have a goal to reach for and go after.  And even more encouraging has been the chance to get to connect with so many awesome people!  Lots of nannies have messaged me to say how excited they are for this book… how they have been looking for a resource like this or how they wish there were more children’s books on the market related to the topic of nannies.  I never knew how big the nannying community actually was!  So many others out there who also love kids and crafts, creativity and playgrounds.  But also so many other who have gotten close to a little one, developed a bond, but then had to say goodbye.  It really is a tough balance of holding on and letting go.  And not just for nannies… in life in general.  No matter who we love, nothing is permanent and we will all face changes, transitions, and goodbyes.

waving goodbye_web

Because of the excitement I have seen and how much I have enjoyed this process, I am feeling more and more confident that this will not be my only children’s book.  I have one or two more in mind for now… But am trying to not get too far ahead of myself… Gotta finish one first!

tea party_web.jpg

For those of you who don’t know me or really know my history, I have struggled with depression on and off for most of my life.  There have been a lot of days where everything has felt so remarkably meaningless and it was hard to get excited about anything.  So the fact that I have goals right now… and not goals that were part of a pre-determined plan (graduate high school, go to college, get a degree, get a job, etc.), goals that I am excited about and actually want to achieve… this feels big. My life feel full of passion and authenticity and dreams!  (Man, I sound like a sappy commercial or something…)  And to bring it back down to earth, ya, there have been hard days.  Days of anxiety and self-doubt and frustration.  Days where I have said “holy crap holy crap what am I doing, I’m not qualified for this, I’m going to fail, ahhhh”.  But all-in-all it has been a good season.

Though, speaking of seasons, it has been remarkably cold here in Virginia recently.  So one of my other goals to walk all of Blacksburg hasn’t gotten a whole lot of focus.  In fact, I think I have only been on three outdoor walks since the new year. But as things warm up I am excited to get back into that as well.  Today I went out on a trail I never knew existed and found a beautiful field, informational plant signs, and some deer poop…. So, that was a win, right?

Thanks for following along on this journey!  I would love to connect with you, hear your goals and passions (or what you saw on a walk today!) so feel free to leave a comment below! :)

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GOALS: update

GOAL: author//illustrator

Hey friends,

As it has been miserably cold here in Blacksburg since the new year started I have unfortunately made no progress yet on my goal to walk all the streets. However, I do have some other goals on my list for 2018 that I have yet to share here on the blog.  For example, I would like to complete a Lynda CSS course before the year ends. I would like to attempt to screenprint with the kit my husband gave me for my birthday last year (preferably without making a complete mess of my apartment…).  I would like to knit something following a pattern (that isn’t a scarf, pillow, or standard headband).  But as this post title suggests, the big one for the day is my goal to write, illustrate, and publish a children’s book.  I am really excited about this one and have already been working for a couple months on ideas, sketches, research, layouts, etc.  There will definitely be lots more to come in future posts about the process, the origin of the idea, the inspiration, and my emotions related to it all, but for now I wanted to share a little research project I have been working on in order to learn more about the world of children’s books.

So in college I majored in architecture.  This obviously meant I took lots of design courses and in design courses one learns the importance of diagrams.  There is beauty to the distillation of an idea down to it’s core parts/nodes/interactions/relationships.  In college I also took a children’s literature course (which I LOVED).  The remainder of this post will be a combination of those two areas of my past experience as I explore popular children’s book covers (primarily the ones listed here).

As I have been working on the artwork for this book it has become increasingly obvious that having a good cover is vital. But what constitutes a good cover?  Why are certain ones more successful than others?  And let’s be honest here.  As much as we would all like to say that we try not to judge books by their covers, we know we all do it.  We’re visual creatures with a ton of sensory input to sift through every day and the world is FILLED with books and art and illustrations.  It would be impossible to not function this way.  But knowing that, how can one little book ever hope to stand out admist all the others?

(and before I get discouraged and anxious and fall into an existential crisis, let’s get going…)

summary reduce2

Book Cover Analysis

Aberdeen

by Stacey Previn

Aberdeen

  • mouse the main subject
  • eye drawn to the red balloon
  • colorful flowers
  • eye moves upward to top right
  • subtitle: can a little mouse have a big adventure?

The Bear and the Piano

by David Litchfield

The Bear and the Piano

  • magical environment with fireflies and vines
  • central layout
  • curtains suggest a performance and help frame the subject
  • why is there a piano in the woods? is it big or is the bear small? what will the bear do with it?

Book Uncle and Me

by Uma Krishnaswami, Illustrated by Julianna Swaney

Book Uncle and Me

  • she’s looking off to the left (what’s over there?)
  • the birds flying add motion
  • sign that says “Vote Samuel” (do we meet samuel?)
  • the question we’re all asking…what’s a book uncle?
  • colorful stack of books (inviting and fun)
  • obviously about reading; she is holding a book, stack of books, sign says “books free give one take one read read read”

Cat in the Hat

by Dr. Seuss

example cover diagrams3

  • A classic book with a well-known cover
  • based upon thirds
  • blue, black, white, and red

Cogheart

by Peter Bunzl

Cogheart

  • title stands out well amidst so much going on
  • dashed line for movement (blimp)
  • the fox, people, and blimp are all moving in a counterclockwise direction
  • subtitle: a stunning adventure of danger and daring
  • windup fox, moon/stars/clouds, clock, 2 people, buildings, key, locket-like photo
  • suggestive of travel, especially traveling in time

Counting Thyme

by Melanie Conklin

Counting Thyme

  • cold blue background with most warmth form the window with the girl in red
  • papers thrown/flying
  • Thyme spelled like spice…maybe a name?
  • bird in a window…why?
  • just in general, a question of what is going on? what is this about? I am intrigued.

Dave’s Cave

by Frann Preston-Gannon

Dave's cave

  • distressed, masculine font
  • warm colored focal point (caveman)
  • he’s looking off at… what? his cave?
  • simple, but asks a question of what is special about dave’s cave? he’s smiling… is he proud of his cave?

Full of Beans

by Jennifer L. Holm

example cover diagrams4

  • has a stamped/lithograph/letterpress quality
  • solid colors
  • movement off page
  • just the hand of a kid within the visible frame (leaves mystery)
  • dog in a wagon filled with cans (of beans?)… where are they going?
  • subtitle: Never tell a lie…Unless you have to.
  • what might you have to tell a lie about? mischievous. sounds like like adventure/trouble/mishap

Goodnight Moon

by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

example cover diagrams3

  • classic book
  • solid colors
  • layout based upon diagonal eye movement between the red-orange of the fire, to the red-orange of the curtains, to the moon in the window

Henry and the Guardians of the Lost

by Jenny Nimmo

example cover diagrams4

  • red focal point (jacket on boy, assumed to be Henry) with cool colored surroundings
  • is that a mini person by him?
  • markings on the archway suggest historical/ancient/mystical
  • wolves hidden in the woods on the sides (danger lurks)
  • he’s looking upward, presumably at the markings
  • is Lost a group? a place? anyone lost in that forest? does Henry meet the guardians because he gets lost? does he become a guardian?

Journey

by Aaron Becker

example cover diagrams3

  • the red of the boat and crayon match; similar to title
  • from focal point of boat in lower left, follow gaze of girl up to the castle where presumably her journey will take her; movement
  • upon closer inspection a light purple bird in the sky above the towers that seems out of place compared to the colors of the castle, but more similar to the brightness of the boat

Leave Me Alone

by Vera Brosgol

example cover diagrams4

  • yelled title is the focal point
  • secondarily the old lady yelling it
  • and then eyes go to the four individuals who look friendly and interested in the lady (and are probably the reason for her exclamation…)

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion

by Alex T. Smith

example cover diagrams4

  • colorful
  • expressive characters: mean looking lion, girl looks disapproving/quizzical
  • set of three: lion, girl, goat
  • eyes looking up at lion, lion looking at reader
  • is the lion going to try and eat the girl? neither her nor the goat look too concerned about that possibility…

Madeline

by Ludwig Bemelmans

example cover diagrams3

  • classic book and cover
  • eiffel tower and miss clavel are aligned but slightly off center
  • the real focus is not France, nor the eleven girls, but Madeline in particular who is turned around to face the reader and is along the central axis of the page

The Night Gardener

by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

example cover diagrams4

  • assumption that the night gardener of the title made this owl tree
  • how is the boy related to the story? is he the gardener? discoverer?
  • it is, indeed, nighttime
  • stable and centered, cool colored; nonthreatening cover

One Day in the Eucalyptus Tree, Eucalyptus Tree

by Daniel Bernstrom, Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

example cover diagrams4

  • colorful jungle-like scene
  • animals looking down from vines/tree
  • boy looking at pinwheel in hand
  • he’s in motion, walking and looking happy
  • assumed to be aimed at younger readers given the repetition in the title

Pax

by Sara Pennypacker, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

example cover diagrams2

  • dog/fox/wold looking out over the land toward the sun; assumption that it’s name is Pax?
  • is it longing for an adventure? looking for something? enjoying the sunset? wild? tame? lost?
  • this one is pretty vague as to potential plot

Penguin Problems

by Jory John and Lane Smith

example cover diagrams2

  • assumption: the problem has to do with too many penguins
  • repetition and pattern (and breaking it)
  • simple and effective color scheme
  • one different hidden among many of the same
  • is he confused? concerned? annoyed?
  • could be a counting book…

Saving Wonder

by Mary Knight

example cover diagrams2

  • deer is the focal point, with antlers become trees that two children (silhouettes) are sitting in
  • Wonder the deer’s name?
  • wonder at nature? (mountains, clouds, branches with leaves)
  • perhaps a pun suggesting that both nature and the feelings of wonder toward nature are in need of saving?

Some Kind of Happiness

by Claire Legrand

example cover diagrams2

  • looks like a golden section/rectangle ratio might have been used for the layout
  • central axis with multiple points of interest along it including a house, person, and crown
  • I first assumed the person was looking up the hill at the house, but perhaps walking down in the woods toward the crown?
  • where is the happiness found? multiple kinds of happiness?
  • yellow of the crown draws eyes downward; seemingly hidden in the forest

The Storyteller

by Evan Turk

example cover diagrams2

  • off-center
  • the stories extend beyond the border, as do the clouds (storytelling of a world beyond the current borders?)
  • big and exciting and magical
  • illustration reinforcing the title
  • what’s in the bag? what does he tell stories about? to whom?

Tree

by Britta Teckentrup

example cover diagrams2

  • subtitle: a peek through picture book
  • owl’s hold like a peek through hole into a home/different world; let’s look inside
  • colorful, cool background with warm colored trunk and animals
  • simple shapes and generally inviting

We Are Giants

by Amber Lee Dodd

example cover diagrams2

  • title in red and giant
  • red echoed in the flowers
  • shadows/silhouettes are secondary focal point
  • shadows bigger than the people/kids really are; perhaps they feel big and powerful? holding hands with friends… the power of friendship? are they playing pretend?

When Friendship Followed Me Home

by Paul Griffin

example cover diagrams2

  • pun on a dog named Friendship or the dog becomes a friend
  • title shaped to fit the dog shape and is the primary focus
  • mostly shades of blue with yellow accents

When the Sea Turned to Silver

by Grace Lin

example cover diagrams3

  • double symmetry broken by the sea/horse/people
  • downward slope and fear of children and anger of horse create an overall scary scene
  • disruption of peace and order
  • intertwined cool and warm colors, though dominated by the blue of the sea; interrupted by the silver of the horse
  • seemingly Asian symbols on top and bottom

Wolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk

example cover diagrams3

  • writing in a journal (in a place called Wolf Hollow?)
  • the title is in a hollow created by the trees/words
  • perhaps an actual cozy, secret place, or safety is found in the process of journaling?
  • description within the script that acts both as a frame and a conveyor of information

 

Wow. Okay. So, I think I am done with that exercise for a while. That took longer than I expected!

In conclusion, I think there are a ton of excellent cover examples that use all sorts of methods for conveying the subjects of their stories and arousing interest in the reader. Overall the basic concepts I seemed to pick up on include:

  • Warm and cool colors of the illustrations
  • Movement and stability in the layouts
  • Symbolism, metaphors, puns
  • Typeface, font size, and color
  • The direction of the gazes of the characters
  • How to create focal points and move the readers gaze
  • How to invoke questions and interest

So, any thoughts? Insights?

Stay posted for more information about my 2018 goals, specifically the upcoming children’s book!

 

GOAL: author//illustrator

GOAL: walk all the streets

I am tired of seeing the same route every time I go for a walk.  I am tired of the extra pounds I have put on since being married.  I am tired of not having any goals that I get me excited.  I am tired of not feeling proud of myself… and in fact, feeling kind of like a loser.  So I am working to change that.  Let’s go 2018.

Goal #1: Walk all the streets in Blacksburg.

(Yes.. I recognize that I am going to have to put some constraints and limits on this but I haven’t yet figured out what those are.  One I do know, however, is I will not be walking the highway (460 for you locals).  Two: I will not be trespassing on any private property or restricted areas.  Edge boundaries are TBD.)

Three days so far to test this idea.  It’s actually been a blast, getting to walk streets full of old memories, but also explore new little nooks and crannies of the town I have lived in for now… what would it be… 6.5 years.

December 17 to 20

I think there will be more maps to come… This project has gotten me thinking about all the knowledge of this place I have accumulated over my time in Blacksburg and how desperate I was for information when I first came here as a freshmen at Virginia Tech.  Stay tuned for more in the future!

december 18d

dec 17 to 20 listsdecember 18 to 20

GOAL: walk all the streets

Shockingly Original Post Idea (aka thanksgiving)

Hi friends,

Happy Thanksgiving!! I know the holidays can be a difficult time for some, ranging from the normal stress and pressure associated with travel/plans or more intense emotions (grief, loneliness..).  So I hope wherever you are today, whoever you are with, that it is as restful as possible.

I just wanted to share a few of the things I am thankful for this year and then share one new art-related technique I attempted recently.

As for things that I am thankful for… there are so many in this season of life right now that it’ll be hard to list.  And I am thankful for feeling like I can even write that.  As some of you know, I have struggled on and off with depression since middle school and there have been quite a few thanksgivings that I haven’t felt so thankful.  Sometimes it is just so difficult, when you’re in the darkness, to see any light at all.  Especially when there is additional social pressure because of a holiday.  Or when your brain says, “you really should be happy, you have nothing to be so depressed about, what is wrong with you, look at all the people in the world who are so much worse off than you.”  Comparison, though it may seem logical, is not beneficial in those moments.  But I digress…

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my family, both biological and in-laws.  I am thankful for their love for me and each other.
I am thankful for how much effort my parents have put into their marriage throughout the last year.  Coming back from the brink of divorce is no small thing and I am so grateful.
I am thankful for my husband who works so hard for our family and who cares so deeply for those he loves.
I am thankful for the time I got to spend with the family who hired me to nanny for them.  I can honestly say that I can think of no other way I would have rather spent that time and I can think of no other family who would have been more loving, more wonderful than they are.  (Love you Caro!) See you again so soon!
I am thankful for my part-time architectural drafting work and for the free time to pursue art/design/collage/sewing/baking/knitting/children’s book writing.  It really has been such a life-giving combination so far.
I am thankful for our new apartment, for no rats, for privacy (and no topless neighbors on the roof outside of my kitchen window), for a guest room I am not embarrassed to have guests stay in, for a washer and dryer in our apartment (!!! goodbye laundromat!)
I am thankful for friends and moments together and laughter and phone calls (even though they definitely aren’t the same as hanging out in person).
I am thankful for the freedom I feel to explore my beliefs and express myself and be who I am.
And I think I can also honestly say in this moment, that I am thankful for the lows… They make the good times so much sweeter, they help me empathize, they provide creative inspiration.  But I am also SO thankful that that’s not where I am right now.

What are you thankful for?

 

And a final little aside: I have been working on developing a children’s book recently and, even if it only ends up on my shelf and the shelf of my beloved little friend, it has been a really awesome experience.  This week I attempted to digitally add some color to a couple of the layouts I had drawn during inktober:

These were just quick digital sketches designed to help me plan how I want to physically paint them with watercolors and it was really satisfying to get to interlace analog and digital methods so seamlessly!

Which one do you prefer?

Thanks for reading.
Talk to you soon!
M

Shockingly Original Post Idea (aka thanksgiving)