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by Steve Barr (from 2013)

I can’t really begin to pinpoint where my inspiration comes from. When people ask where I get my ideas, I don’t tend to have an answer ready. Ideas just seem to leap into my head out of nowhere. My best guess is that there’s some faulty wiring in my brain. That’s most likely due to the regular “thumpings” my older brother gave me on a daily basis as we were growing up. Perhaps he knocked a few screws loose.

I can get inspired by all sorts of things. Some of my best ideas pop into my mind when I’m driving down the highway with no music on, just daydreaming. Or when I’m laying in bed drifting off to sleep. If I had music blaring inside the truck, the lyrics would be too distracting and I’d just end up singing along with them. At home, when I’m locked away in my studio, I do listen to music. But it’s usually jazz, classical or new age. Anything that doesn’t have words blasting into my mind. I want all of the words that are rushing through my head to be my own.

I OBSERVE. By that, I mean I tend to truly look at everything around me. If I’ve hiked miles away from civilization and I’m sitting on a mountaintop watching a hawk fly above me, I’m usually thinking “Oh….THAT’S how their wings are shaped when they’re drifting!” and I incorporate that into my work later. You may sometimes see me sitting in a mall somewhere, and it will appear that I’m gawking at people passing by. Sometimes I stare. But what’s actually going through my mind is “So, that’s how the wrinkles on a coat look when someone bends their arm” or “What a crazy hat! I need to remember that and draw it later.”

I also LISTEN. When other people are talking, I really want to hear what they have to say. Their problems, their frustrations and the things that make them laugh. Because, after all, any of those conversations can be the foundation of an idea for a book or a cartoon. Inspiration is all around us, and we just need to learn how to harness it in our own way.

For instance, a friend was recently telling me that he was concerned that his wife was thinking of getting rid of him. On my ride home, the idea for a cartoon about that popped into my head and I drew it the next day.

Marriage1LoRes

Yet another acquaintance was complaining about having trouble getting to sleep. As I was approaching my cabin later that night, a raccoon darted across my path. Those two subjects merged in my mind, and another cartoon was born.

TherapyLoRes

The process of creating books and cartoon ideas are very similar. It’s just that cartoons are compressed into images and thoughts that can be expressed quickly, while books use pictures and words to give a longer, more complete story.

But, like everyone else involved in creative endeavors, there are those days where I’m stopped dead in my tracks by a severe case of “writer’s block”. What do I do then? Well, sometimes I give myself a break, walk away from my work and let my batteries recharge. But if I’m faced with a tight deadline, whether it’s self-imposed or from contractual obligations, I do have a backup plan. I use a technique taught to me by another successful cartoonist when I was young. I take a sheet of notebook paper and divide it into columns. The columns are labelled “Main Character”, “Setting”, and “Supporting Characters”. I fill the columns with all sorts of possibilities, then either close my eyes and randomly circle sections from each column or I simply pick combinations that I think might work. This creates unique combinations I may not have thought about otherwise, and can help trigger new ideas and possibilities.

Cartoonists, like authors, are doing the same thing as a movie director. They created a cast, give them their lines and put them in the right surroundings.

Here’s an example of the chart:

CreativeChart

Once one of the combinations begins to trigger ideas, I roll with it….trying to think of what the characters might be saying to each other or how they would be interacting. This method would probably work just as nicely for inspiring writers as it for helping cartoonists. I ask myself what the characters would have in common, or what issues they might be struggling with. And here are the results of combining a dog, a restaurant and a woman on a date:

DogDateLoRes

So, my creative process is very similar to approaching a railroad crossing. Stop. Look. And listen!

Sometimes it results in wonderful inspiration. And other times it results in a train wreck. If the latter happens, I just dust myself off, tuck that idea away for a different time and start on another.

As the late great cartoonist Gil Foxx once wrote in a book he signed to me, “Persist. Over…..and over….and over…and over.” Just keep chugging away, and eventually you are bound to end up on the right track.

Another great source of inspiration can be your editor. (Or an agent, if you have one.) Something I think that many writers and artists tend to forget is that your editor is your best friend. They’re your teammate. You both have the same goal. You are both trying to develop the best product possible. I know quite a few people who like to argue with their editors when they’re given input, because they feel a bit insulted that someone is trying to change part of their creation.

I’ve never looked at it that way. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with some of the finest editors in the field, and I would always listen to their suggestions because I knew they had my best interests at heart.

wildthingsspread

Do you know that Maurice Sendak had originally intended to call Where the Wild Things Are something totally different? Yup. He was going to title it Land of the Wild Horses. But when he started working on the illustrations, he realized that he wasn’t very good at drawing horses. It was his editor’s suggestion to change it to “WIld Things,” inspired by a Yiddish expression that referred to boisterous children.

Can you imagine the world of children’s literature without Where the Wild Things Are in it? I can’t. And it may never have happened if he hadn’t been willing to collaborate closely with his editor.

CrazyCreaturesCover2Christina Richards, my editor at IMPACT Books, edited my books perfectly and seamlessly. By the time I received the galley proofs for Draw Crazy Creatures, I could not tell which words were mine and which ones were hers. She had removed unnecessary and redundant text during the editing process, and had made minor changes to some of my sentences that had a major impact on them. A major impact that made them better. She made the book flow smoothly.

So I’d highly recommend that folks in the creative end of this business open themselves up to constructive criticism, helpful suggestions and any input from the editorial staff they are working with. These people are in the positions they are in because they know what they are doing. They are the inspiration behind the scenes, and when they’re done helping you, they will have played a huge role in making you and your work shine.

Steve Barr is the author and illustrator of Draw Crazy Creatures and Draw Awesome Animals from IMPACT books. He’s also written and illustrated a series of 11 books in the 1-2-3 Draw line from Peel Productions.

In the fall of 2014, Steve began taking free cartoon drawing classes to pediatric patients in hospitals and at camps. In a very short time demand for these programs increased dramatically, and other cartoonists and illustrators started asking how they could do something similar in their own areas. That’s how his non-profit organization “Drawn To Help” evolved into something really special that he’s taking nationwide. Learn more at SteveBarrCartoons.com.

At the conclusion of Storystorm, prize packs will be given away (books, swag, writing tools). Comment once on this blog post to enter into the prize pack drawing.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Good luck!

 

If you read this blog earlier this week, you know I recently embarked upon a happiness project. What you maybe didn’t know is that making other people happy is something that delights me as well. My good friend, illustrator Steve Barr, feels the same. A few months ago he launched a project to teach hospitalized children how to draw cartoons, and it’s already been a phenomenal success, putting smiles on the faces of hundreds of kids. 

DukeChildLife2

Steve at Duke Children’s Hospital

Steve plans to expand the program to include other authors and illustrators nation-wide. Plus he wants to continue giving free art supplies to the children he visits. I am wholeheartedly behind him!

I’ll let Steve take the mic now.

Teachers cringe when I tell their students about my first artistic endeavor. In fourth grade, I basically “carved” a crude drawing of Mickey Mouse onto the the top of my wooden desk. I used a pencil, but back then the desks were actually made of wood!

My classmates loved it! My teacher, not so much.

Apparently, she was not a big fan of art. She made me stay after school to scrub and scrub that desk until it was almost new again. But she did give me a pencil and a stack of blank paper when I was done, and suggested that from now on I try drawing with that, instead of decorating furniture.

I took her advice. In the fifth and sixth grades, I started writing and drawing my own comic books and selling them to my classmates for their lunch money. Which could explain why I am a bit chubby these days and most of my former classmates remain rather thin.

In seventh grade, I sold my first cartoons to newspapers and magazines. I figured at that point, I could just kick back…draw funny pictures…let the money roll in, then retire in a few years.

Well, that didn’t exactly happen! But it did launch me on a pursuit that I have loved for the rest of my life. By the time I was in high school, my work was being featured on a monthly basis in a few magazines and I had done illustrations for books.

SteveWithBook

In my sophomore year, one of the magazines I worked for called and asked me if I would like to move to Chicago and become their Art Director. I guess they were a bit startled when I told them I’d have to ask my mother first.

Needless to say, she insisted that I had to stay in school. At the time I wasn’t really thrilled about that, but at this point in my life it does seem like it was a pretty good idea.

Years later, with some wonderful successes and a file cabinet full of rejection slips, I finally landed my dream job. As a child, I dreamed of two things. One was becoming a syndicated cartoonist and the other was writing and illustrating my own books. I ended up getting to do both!

Several years ago, after searching the world for a publisher, I stumbled across Peel Productions. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that they were located in the same tiny town I live in, here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Within days of contacting them, we were sitting in my kitchen signing a contract for the first three books in my “1-2-3 Draw” series. Eventually, we did eleven titles.

123drawcartoonpeople

That eventually led Impact Books to ask me to create “Draw Crazy Creatures” and “Draw Awesome Animals”. Which led to invitations to do library and school presentations. That helped me hone my public speaking skills, and also became a great way to find out what the kids really wanted to draw.

CrazyCreaturesCover2

I was able to break my lessons down into really easy to follow step-by-step instructions that anyone could follow. And that came in really handy for what was about to happen…

Several months ago, after losing family members and friends that I adored to cancer, I realized the tremendous healing impact creating art could have on patients in hospitals. I decided to concentrate my efforts on teaching pediatric patients how to draw cartoons of their very own. Each child also gets a free package of art supplies that they can keep. Pencils, crayons, colored pencils, and a pad of drawing paper!

Kids1

Everything in my life has come full cycle. Now I’m teaching kids how to draw on paper instead of furniture! And when I walk into a young child’s hospital room, plop down next to their bed and share the story of how I got started, they instantly bond with me and grin.

SteveAtChalkBoard

(Plus, the fact that I bear a striking resemblance to Santa Claus probably doesn’t hurt!)

If you’d like to learn more about my hospital cartooning programs, click on this link to my “Cartoon Fun for Kids In Hospitals” Indie Go Go campaign. Learn how you can become a part of this incredible endeavor, and if nothing else.watch the video at the top to learn how to draw a cartoon fish. You never know when a skill like that might come in handy!

Thanks, Steve. As I said in the blog title, you are a hero! 

Just for visiting and commenting on this post today, Steve will be graciously giving away 3 signed copies of one of his drawing books. I also hope you’ll take the time to visit his campaign and donate if you can. Thank you!

stevebooks

I’m thrilled to welcome Steve Barr today with an idea that will touch the hearts of many…

As a professional cartoonist and the author of 13 “How to Draw” books, I’ve spent my entire life trying to make other people laugh and smile. While this has been an extremely satisfying endeavor over the years, it’s not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme! My path along the way has had many ups and downs, triumphs and failures. But the rewards—those smiles on other people’s faces—have always made me feel like the roller-coaster ride we know as freelancing was worth it.

stevebooks

However, lately I’ve found myself longing to do something with a much more profound, longer-lasting impact. I’ve begun to feel drawn (no pun intended!) to begin working with pediatric patients and their families. Art activities, as well as music therapy, has been shown to substantially reduce stress in young children who are battling really difficult diseases. Drawing and painting has even been proven to have fairly long-lasting effects involving pain reduction.

Find that hard to believe? Check out the results of this study that was released by the National Institute of Health!

I can’t think of a better type of art therapy than teaching children to draw cartoons! It’s easy to do, entertaining and distracting. When kids are in the hospital, they have very little control over anything in their life. They’re expected to follow orders, and do whatever they are told. But when they’re drawing cartoons, there are NO RULES! Cartooning is one of the only art forms I know of where someone’s art is not expected to look exactly like someone else’s. Every successful cartoonist I know has a very distinct style that is easily recognizable as their own.

That’s why I’ll be teaching the children to experiment, to try different techniques, explore options and just have fun with their creations. Their drawings will begin with simple lines and shapes, and we’ll build on that to come up with characters that they can bring to life! The lessons are so easy to follow, I’ve had five year-olds grasp them immediately and amaze me with their natural talent.

HowToDrawAfox

Click image for full page, printable version.

Once the patients and their families feel comfortable with the cartoons they’ve drawn, they’ll be encouraged to experiment by making slight alterations to their creation to change them into other characters. That will let them have hours of fun on their own after I’ve left.

GoFundMeChanges3

I want to provide these services completely free of charge to the hospitals, patients, their families and the art therapy groups that serve the facilities where they’re being treated. I’m dreaming of also sharing them with the surrounding communities and bringing more attention to the lingering benefits these classes will have.

But I can’t do this alone. I need help. I’ve begun researching grant opportunities and funding possibilities, but those can be very difficult for individuals to qualify for. With that in mind, I decided to set up a “Go Fund Me” page and seek funding from other people who would like to help me make this happen. If you’d like to take a peek at that campaign, here’s a link: http://www.gofundme.com/e9oahg

When children are hospitalized and fighting diseases like cancer, they often have a difficult time expressing how they are feeling. Art therapy can often help them open up and share their emotions. When they’re drawing cartoons, they can do that simply and easily with just a few shapes and lines. This can help both the medical staff and their therapists determine where the kids are in the process, and address any problems they’re having in dealing with their treatments.

GoFundMeExpressions

I am hoping that this idea will continue to grow. If it really takes off, I would love to involve other cartoonists and illustrators in the effort. It has already become quite a time-consuming process, but I know the rewards will be fantastic.

If you’d like to help, but can’t contribute, please feel free to share the link with your friends: http://www.gofundme.com/e9oahg. Any exposure will be helpful, and together we can put smiles on lots of little faces and laughter in their hearts.

gofundmescreen

I honestly cannot think of a better way to spend the next few years of my life. And perhaps even longer than that!

Note: Please feel free to use the drawing lessons I’ve included in this blog if you are an Art Therapist, Child Life Specialist, Teacher or Nurse who works with children. Parents and guardians are also welcome to share the lessons with their kids. It’s not to be republished commercially without permission, but I’d be quite happy if it was shared personally with kids who would enjoy it.

SteveBarrCartoonistby Steve Barr

I can’t really begin to pinpoint where my inspiration comes from. When people ask where I get my ideas, I don’t tend to have an answer ready. Ideas just seem to leap into my head out of nowhere. My best guess is that there’s some faulty wiring in my brain. That’s most likely due to the regular “thumpings” my older brother gave me on a daily basis as we were growing up. Perhaps he knocked a few screws loose.

I can get inspired by all sorts of things. Some of my best ideas pop into my mind when I’m driving down the highway with no music on, just daydreaming. Or when I’m laying in bed drifting off to sleep. If I had music blaring inside the truck, the lyrics would be too distracting and I’d just end up singing along with them. At home, when I’m locked away in my studio, I do listen to music. But it’s usually jazz, classical or new age. Anything that doesn’t have words blasting into my mind. I want all of the words that are rushing through my head to be my own.

I OBSERVE. By that, I mean I tend to truly look at everything around me. If I’ve hiked miles away from civilization and I’m sitting on a mountaintop watching a hawk fly above me, I’m usually thinking “Oh….THAT’S how their wings are shaped when they’re drifting!” and I incorporate that into my work later. You may sometimes see me sitting in a mall somewhere, and it will appear that I’m gawking at people passing by. Sometimes I stare. But what’s actually going through my mind is “So, that’s how the wrinkles on a coat look when someone bends their arm” or “What a crazy hat! I need to remember that and draw it later.”

I also LISTEN. When other people are talking, I really want to hear what they have to say. Their problems, their frustrations and the things that make them laugh. Because, after all, any of those conversations can be the foundation of an idea for a book or a cartoon. Inspiration is all around us, and we just need to learn how to harness it in our own way.

For instance, a friend was recently telling me that he was concerned that his wife was thinking of getting rid of him. On my ride home, the idea for a cartoon about that popped into my head and I drew it the next day.

Marriage1LoRes

Yet another acquaintance was complaining about having trouble getting to sleep. As I was approaching my cabin later that night, a raccoon darted across my path. Those two subjects merged in my mind, and another cartoon was born.

TherapyLoRes

The process of creating books and cartoon ideas are very similar. It’s just that cartoons are compressed into images and thoughts that can be expressed quickly, while books use pictures and words to give a longer, more complete story.

But, like everyone else involved in creative endeavors, there are those days where I’m stopped dead in my tracks by a severe case of “writer’s block”. What do I do then? Well, sometimes I give myself a break, walk away from my work and let my batteries recharge. But if I’m faced with a tight deadline, whether it’s self-imposed or from contractual obligations, I do have a backup plan. I use a technique taught to me by another successful cartoonist when I was young. I take a sheet of notebook paper and divide it into columns. The columns are labelled “Main Character”, “Setting”, and “Supporting Characters”. I fill the columns with all sorts of possibilities, then either close my eyes and randomly circle sections from each column or I simply pick combinations that I think might work. This creates unique combinations I may not have thought about otherwise, and can help trigger new ideas and possibilities.

Cartoonists, like authors, are doing the same thing as a movie director. They created a cast, give them their lines and put them in the right surroundings.

Here’s an example of the chart:

CreativeChart

Once one of the combinations begins to trigger ideas, I roll with it….trying to think of what the characters might be saying to each other or how they would be interacting. This method would probably work just as nicely for inspiring writers as it for helping cartoonists. I ask myself what the characters would have in common, or what issues they might be struggling with. And here are the results of combining a dog, a restaurant and a woman on a date:

DogDateLoRes

So, my creative process is very similar to approaching a railroad crossing. Stop. Look. And listen!

Sometimes it results in wonderful inspiration. And other times it results in a train wreck. If the latter happens, I just dust myself off, tuck that idea away for a different time and start on another.

As the late great cartoonist Gil Foxx once wrote in a book he signed to me, “Persist. Over…..and over….and over…and over.” Just keep chugging away, and eventually you are bound to end up on the right track.

Another great source of inspiration can be your editor. (Or an agent, if you have one.) Something I think that many writers and artists tend to forget is that your editor is your best friend. They’re your teammate. You both have the same goal. You are both trying to develop the best product possible. I know quite a few people who like to argue with their editors when they’re given input, because they feel a bit insulted that someone is trying to change part of their creation.

I’ve never looked at it that way. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with some of the finest editors in the field, and I would always listen to their suggestions because I knew they had my best interests at heart.

wildthingsspread

Do you know that Maurice Sendak had originally intended to call Where the Wild Things Are something totally different? Yup. He was going to title it Land of the Wild Horses. But when he started working on the illustrations, he realized that he wasn’t very good at drawing horses. It was his editor’s suggestion to change it to “WIld Things”, inspired by a Yiddish expression that referred to boisterous children.

Can you imagine the world of children’s literature without Where the Wild Things Are in it? I can’t. And it may never have happened if he hadn’t been willing to collaborate closely with his editor.

CrazyCreaturesCover2Christina Richards, my editor at IMPACT Books, edited my books perfectly and seamlessly. By the time I received the galley proofs for Draw Crazy Creatures, I could not tell which words were mine and which ones were hers. She had removed unnecessary and redundant text during the editing process, and had made minor changes to some of my sentences that had a major impact on them. A major impact that made them better. She made the book flow smoothly.

So I’d highly recommend that folks in the creative end of this business open themselves up to constructive criticism, helpful suggestions and any input from the editorial staff they are working with. These people are in the positions they are in because they know what they are doing. They are the inspiration behind the scenes, and when they’re done helping you, they will have played a huge role in making you and your work shine.

guestbio

123drawcartoonpeopleSteve Barr is the author and illustrator of Draw Crazy Creatures and Draw Awesome Animals from IMPACT books. He’s also written and illustrated a series of 11 books in the 1-2-3 Draw line from Peel Productions.

Steve’s cartoons have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guides” and the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. He’s also done a lot of art for a wide variety of educational products and publications. You can take a peek at some of his work on his website SteveBarrCartoons.com.

prizeinfo

Steve is giving away two signed copies of Draw Crazy Creatures!

Two winners will be randomly selected at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!


7ate9

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Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019


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Disney*Hyperion
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HarperCollins
Spring 2020

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