5. Q&A: What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

A: There are quite of few pieces of advice I have been given over the years and I am happy to list a few of them and explain a little about each one.

1. Push Your Darks: I had a high school teacher who passed on this helpful bit of information that was passed onto her as well. When I began drawing and introducing shading methods into my work, it was crucial for me to learn how not to make my work look muddy.  This is especially critical when working in black and white. When beginning to draw it is typical for young artists not to use their full grayscale but rather hang in the middle.  When you use the full grayscale spectrum your drawings will come out much richer.  Because I love to work in color most of the time, it is easy to forget this piece of advice.  I like to sometimes take a xerox copy of my color work and see if it holds up in black and white form.  If it doesn't, then I know I have more room to push my light and dark spectrum. Remember, if you can't push your darks anymore, then push your lights.

2. Don't Use Your Handwriting:  My handwriting is absolutely atrocious and I used to use it all the time when illustrating titles or making text bubbles.  My professor told me and I quote, "Don't you ever, ever, ever, EVER, use your handwriting again!" With this advice in mind, I would have to expand my typographic skills by opening my font list in my computer and learning how to correlate the mood and manner of the fonts to the mood and manner of my artwork. Later, when I was working as a graphic artist, I worked with font books and this enriched my illustration skills even further, especially when scanning in work and applying fonts to it from a computer program such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign.  Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.  One of my weaknesses happens to be my handwriting.  By taking my professor's advice seriously, I was able to avoid banging my head against a wall and wasting time "working on" my handwriting when I should have been working on my art.  Instead, by accepting that weakness, I was able to open my eyes to a great new set of tools as well as to put the focus back where it belonged - on my work, which now includes the element of typography in a more considered and fully synthesized way.

3. Be Able to Handle Rejection:
This was easy advice for me to take because when I was younger I always tried out for sports teams, music competitions and art awards, and I was virtually never selected or even given an "honorable mention."  These experiences helped me learn to push myself and to never give up. Stay positive and focus on the bigger picture.

4. Research, Research, Research: Illustrators need to do research on their projects, especially when working with either realistic or serious subject matter.  For example, typically it wouldn't make sense for certain mammals or birds to be illustrated in a region where they do not live, unless of course it was a crucial element of the story line (ie: a penguin who waddles through NYC).

5. Don't Color, PAINT:
This piece of advice sparked what was to become my "process style."  I used to draw my layout and then fill in the blanks from the outline.  My work was very tight and even though I thought I was mixing colors well, the feeling of the piece was too controlled and I was having trouble executing my concepts in a way that gave my finished pieces the character and sensibility I was going for.  Eventually, through much trial and error, I found that I can achieve these goals in my work better when I start bigger and use multiple layers.

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