Susan Rankin-Pollard – Illustrations and Stuff

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The days until the conference are becoming less and less and, surprisingly, I’m not all that panicked. I’m assembling materials to print for the portfolio showcase and that’s going well. I’ll have black and white, half-tome, and color pieces to show, in both traditional media and pixels.

A little while back I asked for storybook titles to re-illustrate and this suggestion was made.

_How Fletcher Was Hatched_ is the story of a dog whose friends, an otter and a beaver, find a way to make him hatch to regain the love and attention of his owner, Alexandra, who lately has a thing for hatching cute and fluffy chicks that go “peep”!

When I was a little girl, I absolutely LOVED this book and Mom read it so well! She deserves a lot of credit not only for fostering a love of reading, but for theatrical reading! She did voices and everything! It’s left a warm and lasting impression. Here was the perfect book for me to do a re-illustration project! An older book, something well-loved, but not an overdone classic, and something I could be passionate about and sink my teeth into.

First thing I did was find someone selling a copy of it. It has some mustiness, or mildew in it somewhere, so I’ve got to keep it in a ziplock bag (anyone know about book cleaning?), which is a bummer, but I’m just so glad to have it anyway! Then today I chose a page. Something that would sum up the story and be an emotional point to show off my ability to portray emotion. Here’s the page I chose and the sketch I did to update it.

Fletcher in the Egg

"Inside the egg, feeling very homesick, Fletcher wondered if Alexandra was thinking of him."

I’m really pleased with it. The two holes, through which moonlight will come in, were left there in the building of the egg so that Fletcher’s friends could give him “water and the occasional strawberry.”

What’s funny is that while I was drawing this, I began to experience muscle memories. I began to remember that, as a little girl, I had tried redrawing this page already! So, yeah… Really liking this! I’m going to finish this one tomorrow!

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

I am an illustrator. Sometimes, I’m a writer. Even more so than when I’m composing an illustration. My creative life revolves around fantasy and that which is not real, but can look and feel real, if I’ve done my job well.

In the last few weeks, reality has been doing its best to hinder my preparing for a conference in 2 weeks that could make (well, at least boost) or nearly break my career. I say “nearly break” because the irrational fear that I’ll be laughed out of the place hovers just beyond my peripheral vision and the idea of that happening pokes at the place that believes I can do anything I set my mind to doing.

But the realities are these:

We will have to move. We don’t know when (60 days from X, x being at any given time.).
People will be intruding upon my work space, an extension of my mind, every Sunday.
I will very likely lose my studio downtown.
Phil is leaving for Canada on Monday. For 2 weeks.

We’ve begun the process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan as a group. That in itself is nerve-wracking, because I keep looking at what’s for sale and seeing the good properties we might be able to afford getting quickly plucked off the market. If I give up my studio, we have a little more financial wiggle room. The idea being that we make sure there’s sufficient yard space for me to make a studio out of a small shipping container or camper (I prefer the container idea.). If we are unable to buy a house, finding another suitable rental for all of us in a decent area will be a challenge.

I don’t handle excessive uncertainty, nor intrusion, very well. I need basic stability and a certain amount of privacy (we have respectful roomies.). We feel like we’ve just gotten settled, so as you might imagine, I’m a bundle of nerves right now. I’m so frazzled that I’m having even more trouble working than I was before the house went up for sale.

I am doing my best to take the days and tasks one at a time.

Hide the cookies and wish me luck.

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

I’m looking to build my portfolio for the SCBWI conference in LA next month. What I’d like is to do a few re-illustrations. That is, choose a few older, possibly classic, children’s book titles, and create new illustrations for them as examples of my work.

I’d like a few title suggestions and, if possible, cite a specific image, page, or passage from your title suggestion.

Let’s have em!

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Relations between ourselves and the real estate agent for our rental remain interesting. After yet another unannounced visitor last week, I put my foot down in his inbox. Later, when he called, it was time to play good cop. We reached an agreement whereby any appointments made would be forwarded to my email. So far this week, nothing has come in. That being said, I will likely still make plans to not be here, as the invasion of privacy really wigs me out. We’ll see if it is less of a problem with me being gone. And THAT being said, it’s time I safeguard belongings and receipts and things. Bad enough that half of the house’s residents had their check cards scammed at, we think, the Fry’s.

The big to do this week is entertaining the notion of never renting in the Valley again. That is to say, members of the house pooling their mortgage qualifications and buying a house together.

Crazy? Probably. But it has certain advantages. There’a a peace and certainty that comes with home ownership after having a few landlords, namely the ability to just fix something and not having to wait till the landlord feels like having it done. Such as, oh, I don’t know, a pool/tub heater being out of commission for NINE MONTHS. Then there’s the ability to make changes without worrying for your deposit and, of course, not having to worry about someone selling your house out from under you.

The downsides? Well, other peoples’ quirks can be a big deal. However, in the last few months, there’s been some study of the behavior of others and trying to make sense of it. Having abandoned hope of making sense of it, there’s been revelations about it and learning not only to live with it, but work with, or around it. So far, that’s going pretty well.

A big one is the worry of tying the finances of multiple adults together. I can honestly say that those adults directly involved are very stable and trustworthy, so I’m not terribly concerned about that.

Today we went by a bank owned property for a peek. Five bedrooms, like our current digs, but a smaller place. The lot, however, is huge. Front and back yards, mature shade trees, 2 fireplaces, etc. The back yard is huge. One idea bantered around earlier this week was getting a trailer with good bones, putting it in the back yard, gutting it, and making it into a studio for me. This yard had plenty of space for a 20 footer and more. If I were to do this, I would be giving up my studio downtown. That’s $500 back into our pockets that can be put towards the mortgage. There’s also room for a garden and a hot tub easily. I would even consider adding a tree, if possible, to help shade where the studio would be. I would definitely do some in-ground or container gardening around the trailer’s concrete slab. Did I mention there’s concrete slab already there? Up until this point, I’ve not had much reason to garden. So much was already done here by the landlord’s wife and veggie gardening (which is done mainly by Phil and Lisa) is not my thing. With me having a structure out back, I’ll have the perfect excuse to plant some flowers! Eventually, I’d see about building a more permanent structure. In both cases, taking part in Silicon Open Valley Studios events will be a whole new ballgame.

In any case, it’s probably time I start reducing the amount of stuff I have. I look forward to this with both relief and dread. I’ve a couple of pieces of furniture I really like, but it’s iffy as to whether or not I’ll be able to take them with me. We shall see.

West side of the Valley, by hook or by crook, here I come.

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

And Getting a Mouthful of Mud.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted. It doesn’t seem like it’s been so long, but someone pointed out that it’s been six weeks. Six weeks seems to be about when someone starts to inquire about the status of my well-being, be that alive or dead. Welp, I am indeed alive! Generally speaking, this is good news, particularly to the cats, who enjoy being fed on a regular basis, although my stand-in does admirably when I’m not around.

Let’s see, since the end of May, I have been back to Pennsylvania twice. The first time was to watch my eldest niece graduate (I swear the skin on my hands withered just a bit as I typed that!). I’m not sure if it is for the sake of momentum, or simply to get out of the house, but she has already moved into a dorm and begun college classes. Either way, smart kid.

Mom and Dad seem to be doing well. Things have at least reached an equilibrium there. Mom is not well enough to be doing major tasks, but she can be up and about, and that does wonders for her spirits. Eases my mind as well.

Anthrocon has come and gone. None of my pieces in the art show sold, but a few people bought the mini prints I had available at the table. For the first time, Phil and I bought work from the show. A tea set, a couple of prints, and a Christmas ornament that looks like Gwynn. Especially in terms of shape: round. I also picked up a copy of _The Last Unicorn_ and had it signed by Mr. Beagle, whom I must report is a sweet fellow. With my first earnings, I went to his table, picked up the book for signing, and then we chatted at some length about life in and around the Silicon Valley and, before we knew it, the empty queue had filled with a line of people waiting to have their book signed. I excused myself before becoming too much of a fangirl and hustled back to my table with my prize! I got the opportunity to chat with him again later in the weekend at a party where I asked him what he thought of the convention,

“I have been to many conventions and nothing can compare to this.”

He went on about how he felt like such a celebrity. That, never mind the limo, you never knew what sort of place you’d be rooming in and, well! The Westin! And he’d been so happy to meet so many fans he didn’t know he had and see such amazing costumes and things. I think I recall the words “blown away” used in there.

This is, to me, what makes being a guest at a smaller convention (Small compared to say, San Diego Comic Con or one of the big anime conventions. Anthrocon’s numbers continue to grow. This year there were just over 4,400 people in attendance.) such and honor, and so very worth being. When you’re a guest (usually one of two, or three), at a smaller con, you get the royal treatment and people come to see you. They come to see you and you can really connect with them, because it’s not so crowded and rushed and overwhelming. It’s easy to be lost in the crowd as a guest at a larger con. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and exhausted, physically and mentally. I’m by no means knocking the larger cons, they’re amazing if you pace yourself, but it’s not the warm fuzzy you get from a good-sized small con.

Before he left the party, I gave him one of my hand-drawn business cards with my name and email address on it. He seemed thrilled to have it and indicated that our paths will quite likely cross again. I certainly hope so.

It is perhaps that good feeling that lasted well into the next day that softened a few blows that were to immediately follow. Not the least of which was finding out that our landlord had decided to put our current residence up for sale.

This is what I get for saying things like, “This side of the valley sucks, ” and “It sure would be nice to be near stuff again.” Yes, I was done with the East Side, but I wasn’t ready to drop everything and go house-hunting and move quite right now! Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. In spades. Wrapped nicely around the business end of a hammer. And for the better part of a week, Phil and I were still out of town and otherwise occupied. Our hands tied and relying upon those at home to tell us what was going on.

Granted, it’s not RIGHT NOW, Right Now. It’s uncertain, really. The house went on the market on the 2nd of this month and the very first people to look came the next day. With no notice. Needless to say, we weren’t entirely prepared. Things were not as clean as they could be. People were in their rooms in various states of dress and had to be told “Someone you don’t know will be traipsing through your room in a few minutes!” At the end of their walk-though, their agent gave us her card, told us to contact the landlord’s agent, and have the house number put on the listing. Oh, and that they wouldn’t be back. “This house is too much work for them.” (Young couple, new baby.)

A quick call was placed the the landlord’s agent, the phone number was added, a second showing that was scheduled never happened.

If we were not being given $500 credit on our monthly rent, I assure you, we would have agreed to be present in the landlord’s stead for showings. It’s also added security for us to be here.

Oh, goodie. I hear him outside now. Cutting this short. More later.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Dear cast,

I’m so sorry that it’s been so long since I started your story and then set it down. I’m sorry for what must feel like neglect and abandonment at times, but I assure you, you’ve always been on my mind. In my mind we’ve had such high adventures, over and over, to get the details right, to find the right words, the right setting.

I’m getting my feet under me, though, and there is traction and a line in the sand. We’re all going to LA in August. It’ll be fun, it’ll be scary, and it’ll be a new adventure to write and draw about (I love how you’re all coming to life in sketch work. It really is a joy and moves me forward.). We’re going to meet so many neat people and I just know that many of them will love you as much as I do!

Be patient and keep talking to me, telling me what’s happening. I promise I’ll write it all down.


Dear MC,

You can do this. I’m sorry it’s hard and I’m sorry that it has to be hard. You’ll have really good friends, though and you’ll learn so much and be a really great person for it all. Having so many depend on you is very daunting and you are so very young. But I’m right here. I won’t let you fall.

Your storyteller,

Dear supporting cast (thus far),

Getting you all assembled has been so much fun! You didn’t ask to be a part of the journey, but I’m so glad you’ve all decided to come along! There is a fourth. I’m not sure where she’s coming from and she may be a tough pill to swallow, but you do need her. Try to make her feel welcome, but don’t let her walk all over you. If you give her a nose, she’ll take a furlong. Keep it together for MC and bear in mind that she’s still a child, a strong child, but a child nonetheless.

Love and sugar cubes,

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Last night, I took a bite of a new sandwich, one I’d been meaning to try for awhile, but had been putting off. I joined the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The first bite tasted pretty good, so I peeked into the sandwich to check out the meat and toppings. I found that this year’s summer conference in LA is the 40th anniversary and it looks really good. So, I did what any glutton for punishment would do: I shoved the whole damn sandwich in my mouth.

Oh, and I ordered the sandwich with extra toppings.

There are Monday intensive sessions to choose from. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you mix and match writing and illustration that day, so I’ll miss the Jerry Pinkney demo (*SAD FACE!*), but the sessions for Editing without an Editor and First Pages Read and Critique ought to be really good for me. I’m on the waiting list for Conflict and Character Development in Plot, which had been my first choice over Editing without an Editor. Honestly, I could do with either one, but if a spot comes up for the character dev in plot session, I’ll probably take it.

Now, there are requirements for these special sessions. I’ve got to bring writing samples. So today I came to the studio and fished out the first pages and some middle pages from the book I’d started. The one I’ve been telling family about and gushing to friends and Phil over for the last year, but haven’t touched in forever, save for other development work. I have to tell you what an incredible joy it is to reread one’s work after so long and find that it still stands just fine. Better than fine, if I say so myself. I love it as much today, as I did when I first wrote it. I’ll be nervous about presenting them for critique, but I’m cautiously optimistic that it will be, at least, decently received and that I should get some helpful feedback from the group and the publisher.

And there’s more. I also signed up for the Portfolio Showcase. Someone remind me to bring Bactine for my ass, because this is seriously throwing it into the fire! My work will be seen by agents, publishers, judges, and anyone who attends the conference. There’s even a reception. And prizes. First prize is a trip to New York to meet with 3 art directors. I probably haven’t got a prayer, but I’m happy to shell out extra to get my paintings and drawings in front of the right peepers.

Yes. I’m terrified. Yes. I can hardly wait. Yes. It will be good to see where I stand and learn as much as I can.

It’s time.

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Been awhile since I posted via the WordPress Blog, so let’s do that, eh? Yes, the page itself still needs work. It’s on the list. Honest! In the meantime, here are a few tidbits and thoughts on those tidbits.

First and foremost, “NeverNever: Attack of the War Cats” is now in print and for sale! This is a rather spiffy thing for my ego, as it’s some of my best comic strip work and seeing it in print is really, in a word, neat-o. Even more neat-o is that I will be using it as my most current work portion of the application for the National Cartoonists’ Society.

Also in print soon will be Bill Holbrook’s next book “Kevin & Kell: Honeymoon 2.0”. I mention this for three reasons; 1-Kevin & Kell is a fun comic strip! If you’re not already reading it, you should give it a look-see, 2-It contains a foreword written by yours truly, and 3-Mr. Holbrook was kind enough to write me one of two letters of recommendation needed for my NCS application. He even suggested they make me a full member rather than associate, which is very flattering, albeit a bit scary!

This weekend I have a little event! I have been asked to do pet caricatures once again for Andy’s Pet Supply and Rescue in San Jose. They’re holding a craft fair/bake sale/mini carnival this Saturday from 12-3pm to raise money to keep their rescue efforts going. They were recently featured on TV for their help with a massive pet rat rescue and, honestly, I do adore rats. They’re fuzzy, ticklish, and happen to be my chinese astrological sign.

This brings me to the meat of this post, which is about finding opportunities to draw. I like doing these kinds of events because I love animals, it raises money to help them, I get practice sketching from life, and I get a little pocket money, too. It’s just one of those perfect scenarios. Be on the look-out for those. In this case, I’d seen that they were going to do a fund raiser a year or so ago, so I went in with drawings, introduced myself, and asked if I could help. That simple.

A Sketch Crawl sounds neat. This is when a bunch of artists get together and go from place to place, drawing what they see. Could be the people, the architecture, each other, the dog park, or the shot glass in front of them. If you can’t find a local group, start one.

Keep a small sketchbook with you at all times. I have one that’s purse-sized. You never know where inspiration or the perfect bit of on-site reference will hit. Be prepared.

What’s your favorite Sketching Opportunity?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

It’s been four days since I inked the last NeverNever comic strip. I think it’s settling in now, that whole not sacrificing time for someone else’s project thing. Instead, there is the satisfaction of a promise kept, or work well done, and looking forward to hours reclaimed. It’s a quiet sort of joy that is manifesting itself in many ways.

I’m beginning to sleep better and, when I sleep deeply, the weird dreams have returned. I’ve missed them a lot. Who else can claim to have knit via satellite with Stephen Colbert and had it feel so very, very real? And I can tell you, in my mind, that guy can Fair Isle knit like no body’s business, but his decisions to add beads to the sweater and the colors he chooses for them are a bit questionable. Ah, well. To each their own, I suppose.

I find that my emotional bandwidth is less burdened now. I can put up with things that would have caused me to ruminate bitterly for a couple of hours. I can deal with them in a way that I can only describe as emotionally intelligent akido. I can smooth situations over as they arise. I can deal with challenges with a bit more calmness again. It’s a very good feeling.

Now some things do flip me for a loop, like today when I went to the DMV to change my last name, my political party*, and also to renew my permit. The appointment I’d made online didn’t show on today’s docket and I had neglected to bring a printout of the appointment confirmation. The DMV lady was kind. Seeing that I was otherwise prepared, she sorted things out, handing me a number and a form to fill in (perhaps my deflated look at the Walk-Ins line caused her to take some pity as well…). I filled it out shakily** and then waited. Momentary elation that the glasses prescribed by my new eye doctor allow me to read the regular eye chart now, was squelched by their not being able to accept my cheque card***. Frustrated, but not defeated, I asked Phil if he had any cash. He had $28, I had $3, and the bill was $31! Now I’m thoroughly wound up. Just in time to have my picture taken! Which… I tend to not like having done, but it was the least of my worries today. After that, I took the written test (again). I got only 2 wrong. One of which because I’d forgotten my reading glasses and read it wrong. The other because another person’s experience in an accident influenced my answer. In the end, I walked out with a permit that bears a decent picture and my new last name. It took me awhile to settle down, but well enough in time for some of that Emotionally Intelligent Akido at home.

Now to get my car fixed. *chuckle*

The rest of the day is for puttering. Artwork is assembled for presentation at the gallery tomorrow and the paperwork they’ll need is printed out. Holding off on buying that plane ticket to fly back from Atlanta on the 23rd, just in case the gallery and its mandatory March 26th art-drop and meeting, tell me to go pound sand and I can go to to Orlando. I’m 99% sure that the Orlando event is canned for me.****

I’m sad about it as there were a good number of people I’ve been trying to make time for and connect with, but being accepted into this show is too big a deal to pass up. I’ll just have to hope such things work out better at Anthrocon and put that unused travel money towards the professional society memberships I’ve been putting off and artists’ & writers’ conferences. *****

I’ve got a peaceful feeling. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. It’s shaping up nicely so far.

I hope yours is, too.

*Formerly Libertarian. The party keeps using that word. I don’t think it means what they think it means.

**The DMV causes me an inexplicable panic. It must be more Fear of Screwing Up Official Paperwork, like with business licenses and taxes.

***I really must have my bank replace that with a debit card.

****That’s something like 3 years running that I’ve tried to go to this event, it its various locations, and had to cancel for one reason or another. I guess March is just weird.

***** Nothing special. Just felt like making this a 5 star post.

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Sleep deprivation, while difficult on the body, seems to do wonders for my mind. The right side of my brain, more specifically. Usually, the left side of my brain, which I personify as the nuclear physicist I’m certain I could have been, if not for the fact that the right side of my brain is pretty much GIR from Invader Zim.

Anyway, GIR has had a lovely couple of days here, driving my meat puppet self around. Most notably, he’s had fun flicking the switch back and forth that controls my energy level, but he’s also accomplished useful things. We are very close to having NeverNever done and much development progress for the novel(ette) has been made. If not for the physical setbacks which kept me from attending a life model drawing session and the need to be able to do paper work on occasion, I’d be happy to run like this for a large percentage of the time.

GIR manages to also surpress any bits of anger and resentment I otherwise harbor and allow to get in the way of actually working, so I was already in a pretty darned good mood today from the creative burst when I received a piece of email.

From the gallery in Berkley.

I have been accepted into the upcoming “Cartoon and Humorous Art” show!

GIR completely flipped out and dragged me downstairs to have hot chocolate and a banana! And then a tuna sandwich with relish, because we had not, in fact, had a real lunch today. Meanwhile, the physicist sat back with a smile on her face, drumming her fingertips together, very happy with herself for having done the necessary paper work and all that ensured our entry to the gallery arrived on time. She has since had thoughts of resurrecting the resume so that the show can be added, as well as last year’s grant for the printer. GIR continues to knock over test tubes and boil beakers full of things that have no business being boiled, but it’s been a few days of this now, so the physicist doesn’t seem to mind anymore (Heck, it’s an excuse to repurpose the house and design data that’s been gathering via HGTV to redesign the lab anyway.) and besides…

It’s time to celebrate!

This is the first show I’ve ever entered and I got in. How awesome is that? I was happy just to have had the guts and fortitude to try!

Anyhow, shameless plug time, here’s a link to the gallery! The dates are April 2-June 10th, so if you’re in the area, do drop in!