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Illustration classes and illustrator-friendly SCBWI conference in Austin!

Illustration classes and illustrator-friendly SCBWI conference in Austin!

The Yuletide/New Year’s tornado is over. Most of us are just now beginning to touch back to earth and thinking up illustration plans for 2011.

Artist friend (and fellow instructor at the Austin Museum of Art Art School) Steve Connor and I put together this little video to get you back with your brushes after the holiday whirlwinds. It’s an exercise to help you develop your value painting skills using only one color.

Creating a value structure for your picture is a critical part of the painting that’s often overlooked by the beginner.  But it’s not hard once you see it. You’ll find it helpful to make a small pencil sketch of your scene before you paint.  Organize your shading in the sketch into three interlocking value shapes — one light,  one dark, and one mid-tone value shape. Make the mid-tone shape the largest of the three and bump the smaller, dark, and light shapes into each other.

Learning to organize a picture’s dark, light, and mid-tone values is an important part of a painter’s education. And speaking of education, you might want to head to Austin, Texas in February to meet and hear from Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator David Diaz.  He, along with illustrators Julian Hector, Frances Yanksy, and many other talented children’s book creators will be on hand for Boots, Books, and Buckskins, the 2011 Regional Conference of the Austin Texas Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.)

Discover how to enter an easy contest to win a free portfolio consultation from David Diaz or Julian Hector and possibly other prizes — like having your story reviewed by one of several wonderful children’s and YA authors on the conference faculty.

If you live anywhere near Austin, consider taking a hands-on class:  Children’s Book Illustration I at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art — six Monday evening sessions, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., January 24 — February 28.

Can’t make it to Austin? Know that you have a good home-study option. The  Make Your Splashes Make Your Marks course offers comprehensive multi-media lessons on drawing and painting for illustration, interactive group critiques, and an online community.

Summing up: Lots of opportunities for exciting learning in 2011.


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  1. admin

    What do you think about this painting exercise?

  2. Buddy Harrison


    Excellent ! this is a great extension of your painting-behind exercise in the course. Discovering your website and signing up for your How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator course has been a wonderful personal investment and commitment to rekindling the desire to once again scribble lines and splash paint with a purpose – namely, FUN. Really enjoy the online sharing opportunities with other students.

    Best regards. Looking forward to a very creative 2011 🙂


    • admin

      Thank you so much, Buddy! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the course.
      I’m really enjoying your work and I so appreciate your contribution to the group!

  3. Joanne

    I teach watercolor classes and have been trying to find additional methods for teaching negative painting. Your video will be great for the class to watch. Thanks for posting it. I will give my students the link.

    • admin

      Thank you, Joanne! I much appreciate your sharing the link with your students. It’s always good to meet a fellow watercolor teacher.
      Your blog is a treat! I hope everyone takes a look.

  4. Barbara

    Great excercise!! Thank you so much for this!!

  5. Susan Sorrell Hill

    Very nicely done, Mark…clear and precise instruction (even for the more ‘advanced’ watercolor painter)!
    Your instruction/class has been invaluable to me…
    Best wishes for 2011 and your new blog adventure, Susan

  6. Mark Mitchell

    Thank you, Susan!
    What a nice compliment from someone who handles watercolor as beautifully as you do!. See you tonight on the group critique webcall!


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