On my desk this week #1

On any given week I'm usually working on a bunch of different art projects - some that I finish, most that I don't, many that go on for weeks or months, some that are self-directed and others that are directly work-related with deadlines. Since this blog is brand-new I haven't yet figured out the best way to share all of this with you, so I'm going to try a "week in review" type of post - a mishmash of my various art-making adventures from the previous week. Here we go!

Yesterday I finished writing a review of Spectrum Noir Artliners for my Art is Fun website. The company had sent me several complimentary sets of their new Artliners so that I could try them out, so I used them to doodle the mandalas above. In my hand I'm holding the pink 03 Artliner from their "Bright" set.

I enjoyed using the Artliners for doodling, but since I don't usually create artwork with just pens, I wanted to see how well the Artliners worked with other media. For the top right mandala, I drew the outline with pencil, then traced over the outline with a brown 03 Spectrum Noir Artliner pen, then colored it in with Copic Sketch Markers, Sharpie Glitter Pens and Sakura Gelly Roll Pens. I loved that the ink from the Artliners didn't smudge or smear when colored over with alcohol markers, paint pens or gel pens. If you're interested in learning more you can check out my full review of Spectrum Noir Artliners over on Art is Fun.

Valentine's Day Coloring

A few days before Valentine's Day I started coloring a page from my Power of Love Coloring Book:

I wanted to try something I hadn't tried before: covering the black lines as much as possible, so the finished result doesn't look like a coloring page. As much as I've really enjoyed creating coloring books these past few years, I'm ready for a change of pace - creating art that's totally colorful without any (or many) black lines.

I colored in the heart with Sharpies and Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight Pens, and added some subtle shading with Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencils. Then I started coloring in the details surrounding the heart with Sharpies, and used Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight Pens to cover over the black lines.

I wasn't sure what color to use for the background. I considered black, because black usually makes an image "pop", but I decided I wanted this artwork to be really colorful, so I decided to use a neon green Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight Pen for the background.

A word about doubt

When I was about halfway through coloring the background with neon green, I felt rather uncertain about whether it was the right choice for the background. I even wondered whether I had chosen the right colors in general. I questioned whether I should abandon the coloring page and start something new. But then I reminded myself that I go through this almost every time I make art! Doubt almost always seeps in at some point during the art-making process (even for professional artists like me). Experience has taught me that almost all art goes through an "awkward stage" where it looks nothing like what you envisioned and you're practically embarassed to show it to anyone. It's taken me awhile to realize that that's totally natural and if you can plow through that feeling of awkward uncertainty, the artwork usually ends up looking just fine, or even better than you had imagined!

Above you can see a close-up of how well the Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight Pens cover over those black lines! I'm so happy with the opacity of those gel pens!

Above you can see that I'm nearly finished coloring in the background with the bright green Sakura Gelly Roll Pen. Coloring in the background has used up a lot of ink so I'm happy that the pen has lasted this long, and it looks like there's enough ink left to finish the page! Woohoo!

I didn't finish the heart coloring page in time for Valentine's Day, but I'll continue coloring it and I'll post a pic of it when I'm done. In addition to coloring over the black lines, I've been adding lots of extra details, so this page is taking forever to finish. Although it probably doesn't look like it, I reckon I've spent about 4-5 hours on this page so far! The thing about art is that everything always takes longer than you think it will - at least that's usually the case for me!

I recently learned how to make animated GIFs so for Valentine's Day I animated the sloth coloring page above (another one from my Power of Love Coloring Book). I love how it turned out and hope it makes you smile!

That sums up this week... I'll see you again soon!

How I got my books (and art) published

In recent years many people have asked me, "How did you get a coloring book deal? How can I find a publisher?” 

There are many different paths that can lead to a publishing deal, so every artist/author has a unique story to tell. I’m happy to share my story with you, and hope you’ll find it informative in some way! 

Above: Surrounded by a bunch of my published coloring books

This blog post is going to be somewhat long because so far I’ve worked with 3 different publishers: Andrews McMeel for my calendars, F+W Media for my art instruction books, and Fox Chapel Publishing for my coloring books. In this blog post I’ll describe what led each of these publishers to contact me. 

I’ll start by saying that I never set out to become a published artist/author - it just happened as the opportunities came to me. In order to tell the story of how I got published, I have to take you back several years, well before the thought of publishing had even crossed my mind. Without realizing it, the choices I made back then - almost ten years ago - started laying the foundation for publishers to contact me with proposals.

Online Art Lessons

Art-making has always been a fun and therapeutic process for me, and back in the late 2000s I realized I wanted to share that joy with others. In 2009, I started an art instruction website (www.art-is-fun.com) to share everything I knew about making art - such as colored pencil tips, photorealism tutorials and pastel demos.

Above: Sample steps from my lesson on "How to draw a mandala"

One of the lessons that really struck a chord with my site visitors was “How to draw a mandala”, which to this date has received over 1.5 million pageviews! Not long after I posted the lesson, I began receiving messages from people who appreciated the instructions, but still didn’t feel confident enough to draw their own mandalas. Thus, in 2010 the idea to create printable mandalas was born!

Printable Coloring Pages

I decided to offer the mandalas as a downloadable e-book that people could print at home. This was several years before the coloring trend hit so in many ways I was fumbling in the dark, figuring out the process of how to create the e-book, and wondering whether anyone would actually buy it! I finished the coloring book in 2011 and offered it for sale on my websites and on Etsy. To my delight and surprise, the concept was such a success that I created 5 more printable coloring e-books over the coming years. 

Above: Three of the downloadable coloring e-books that I created before I got my coloring book publishing deal

F+W Media

2011 was a big year for me, because in addition to self-publishing my first e-book, it was also the year that I was contacted by a publisher for the first time! The Editorial Director for F+W Media's North Light fine art and IMPACT Books submitted a message via the contact form on my website. She said that she had been following my work for awhile and loved what I had created with my Art is Fun website. She felt that my drawing style would be a perfect fit for a new art instruction series they were working on aimed at kids. I was already familiar with F+W because they publish high-quality art instruction books that I often saw in bookstores, craft stores and libraries, so I excitedly said yes! After we exchanged a few emails, it took another 9 months before they actually sent over a contract. I worked on the book, Draw Groovy, for just over a year and it was published in January 2014.

Above: My first book, Draw Groovy, published by IMPACT Books (an imprint of F+W Media)

Andrews McMeel

Just as I began working on Draw Groovy in the spring of 2012, I was contacted by the Licensing Manager at Andrews McMeel Publishing. They were interested in publishing a Day of the Dead calendar based on my sugar skull art. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity so I enthusiastically said yes! I asked how they had come across my art and learned that the Design Director had admired my art for awhile and had purchased an iPod case with one of my skulls from Zazzle. She had brought my art to the Acquisitions Committee, they liked it, and the rest is history! I’ve been creating a Sugar Skulls Calendar every year since (6 so far) and will continue to do so as long as they keep asking me!

My very first Sugar Skulls Calendar, spotted at the Whole Foods in Kailua, Hawaii

Above: My very first Sugar Skulls Calendar, spotted at Whole Foods in Kailua, Hawaii

Fox Chapel Publishing

One day in March 2014 I received an email from the Peg Couch, who at that time was the Editorial Director at Fox Chapel Publishing. She had been searching the Internet for a coloring book artist, and back then, there weren't tons of artists creating art specifically for coloring like there are now. At that time I was just about to self-publish my 6th coloring e-book, Groovy Animals. Peg spotted my promo images for Groovy Animals on Pinterest, which led her to my website. She liked what she saw, so she reached out via my website's contact form to see if I'd be interested in publishing some coloring books with her company. You bet I was! It seemed like the logical next step. Sales of my digital coloring pages were very strong and although my buyers appreciated that they were in PDF format so that they could print and color from anywhere in the world, I was often asked if they were available as actual physical coloring books, so Peg's timing was perfect! 

We had a brief introductory phone chat during which she told me more about Fox Chapel Publishing and explained some of their previous titles and successes. I was happy to hear that they had a strong relationship with craft stores like Michaels, JoAnn and AC Moore so the opportunity sounded very promising. Peg asked me to submit four ideas for coloring book themes. I had so many ideas running around in my head that I wound up sending her nine ideas, and to my surprise, Peg quickly replied that they wanted to contract me for all nine! We exchanged a flurry of emails to hash out the details, and within days we had a signed contract for a series of nine books. And that was the start of my coloring book journey!

Above: Some of the coloring books I created with Fox Chapel Publishing

Summary

So in a nutshell, that’s how I got started with my publishers. They all reached out to me after seeing my art online, which goes to show how beneficial it is for artists to have a strong online presence through their websites and social media. Working with these publishers has been a wonderful experience that has taken my work in new directions and exposed my art to a wider audience.

Sometimes people ask me for tips about submitting their work to publishers, but since I don’t have any experience with that, I’m afraid I can’t offer much help. But if you have any other questions about publishing feel free to ask in the comments below (and please note that I don’t answer those types of questions via private email - I prefer to handle Q+As publicly so others can also benefit from my responses). 

Thanks for reading! Take care & see you soon! 

Welcome to my new blog

Thank you for checking out my new blog! I’m so excited to explore this new way of connecting with you! I see this blog as a fun space where I'll share things like:

  • Works-in-progress: Go behind the scenes as I create, color and experiment
  • Tips & techniques: Quick tutorials and explanations of various art techniques
  • Art supplies: I'll tell you what materials I'm working with and what I think of them!
  • Field trips: If I go somewhere art-related and/or inspirational, I'll show & tell you all about it
  • Inspiration: I'll post pics of things (and concepts) that inspire my artwork
  • Q&As: Since I don't always have time to answer one-on-one questions that people submit through my Contact form, I'll answer them here, so that everyone can read the answers
  • New books & merch: Learn about my upcoming projects & new releases!
  • Special sales & coupon codes: If there's a deal available, I'll let ya know!
Thaneeya McArdle at work in her studio
Above: At work in my studio, coloring a happy sun from my Free Spirit Coloring Book

I'm looking forward to using this blog as a fun way to communicate all these creative ideas with you! Starting a blog has been in the back of my mind for quite awhile now. Although I already have a site where I share my art knowledge and post tutorials (www.Art-is-Fun.com), I wanted a space that's a bit more casual, where I can post mini-tutorials and mini-reviews, show you what I've been working on, and do all the other things listed above... plus post fun/whimsical images like the animated GIF I created for the top of this post! 😊

Thaneeya McArdle's art wall of coloring pages from her More Good Vibes Coloring Book
Above: A glimpse of my clothespin wall where I pinned pages from my More Good Vibes Coloring Book as I finished them

If you already follow me on Facebook, you'll find that this blog will go more in-depth than what I post there. Although I thoroughly enjoy connecting with people who comment on my Facebook posts, posting on Facebook has its limitations. Algorithm changes on Facebook (and Instagram) mean that my posts only reach a fraction of my followers. Facebook's algorithms make me feel pressured to carefully curate the types of things that I post, whereas I see this blog as a way for me to get more in-depth by sharing lots of pics and info on my process and techniques. Plus, this blog will be the perfect space for me to share rambly thoughts about creativity, the business of being an artist, and things that inspire me. In other words, I feel like I can be more "me" here!

Thanks for reading my first blog post! Feel free to bookmark my blog to follow along with my posts, or subscribe to my RSS feed to ensure you never miss a post. If there's anything specific you'd like to see me blog about, please feel free to let me know in the comments below!

Take care & see you soon!

Art from Happy Campers Coloring Book by Thaneeya McArdle
Above: Art from my Happy Campers Coloring Book