Still Stuck Going East, and Just Passed Through Italy

4 08 2010

I can definitely relate to my character right now. He’s stuck going east, and I’m stuck going with him. Despite the challenges, he discovers that his curse can also be a blessing, he makes new friend and explores the world as a result. It’s just the same for me. So, though I’ve been able to take a long vacation and refresh myself (while he gets no such thing), I’m back now, and glad of it.

My goal is to get as much done by the end of August as possible. Once school starts up again, I’m going to be swept off to the zany world of classes, senior seminars, art-portfolio work, grad school applications and all the other joys and stresses that fill an ambitious senior undergrad’s existence.

Our Room With A View: Florence

But last time I wrote, I was off on a three week long art tour of Italy, so I ought to tell you a bit about that, especially as it has to do with travel, a main theme on this blog. The first thing I want to say is that I had low expectations for the trip. I’ve had som

e not-so-fun experiences traveling with a large group of students before, so I was wary. But, as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

Italy was more fantastic than I could have hoped for. I enjoyed every moment of it. I

savored delicious Gelato ice cream, quiet moments painting, hours gazing at spectacular art and those quirky observations of people and places. I found myself wanting to make watercolors all the time, and created 30 of them, despite the relatively fast pace of the

Church Di San Marco: Florence

trip. The trip was well organized by a gang of fantastic art professors from my college, and w

e went to Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Florence, Milan, Assisi and Venice, among other places.

I’m putting a couple paintings in this blog post, but you can see more of my paintings over on this awesomely cool site called Paintmap:

The other important update in my life that relates to this blog, is that I found another really cool site called Storybird. On storybird, some fantastic illustrators have up loaded artwork which members can select and arrange into a picture book, adding text to the mix. You can then read and share them. I’ve made five stories on my own, and one in collaboration with someone else on the site. Two of my stories have actually been

featured on the homepage of the site, which is a big honor.  I hope you’ll take a moment to visit the site and read some storybirds!

Alright, well, it’s back to everything else for me. I’ll be working on editing my current draft the text of Stuck this week, as well as focusing on Turkey and North Korea. I’ll post again as soon as I have something new to report.  Thank you all for your continued interest in this project.


Progress, Pictures, and More to be Done

4 05 2010

Exams and general insanity somehow managed to dry up my weekly blog posts, and for that, I apologize. But here I am again with lots of news.

First, I’ve made quite a bit of progress on the illustrations. Below is a picture of my Portugal/Spain spread, where it is at right now. I still need to add the characters. This is the one that I’ve been working extra hard to make happen, as I made the tiles from scratch; shaping, drying, firing, and glazing them.  It was tricky to find a way to transition into the oil painting of Spain.  When I add the characters, you’ll see Jeremy crossing that river on a rope, and Maria holding up a pair of bright-colored silk pantaloons (ballooning trousers) which she bought in Madrid. (Thanks to Megan S. for the story about the pantaloons.) The characters will also be depicted on the left, making their clumsy way across their first foreign country: Portugal.


I’ve also finally got some of the spreads of the book all finished in Photoshop, with the characters added and everything. I’ve included an example of this below, in the spread where Jeremy meets his new friends and they shop for supplies for their trip in NYC. I’ve included my current draft of the text below the illustration.

with characters and draft of text

This week I’ll be focusing on editing and refining the text for the story. I had thought I’d decided that I was going to stick with 3rd person narrative and place the text in the gaps I left in the illustrations. The problem is that I’m not sure there is enough room for the text. So I’m back to square one, and doing some serious thinking about how to tell the story. Should I have most of the text in a bar along the bottom of the illustrations with only brief ‘facts’ text on top of the images?  Should I turn the bottom bar into a journal from the perspective of one (or more) of the characters and write the simple narrative on the images? Lots to think about. (My poor little exam-fried head!)

Laura Lee in Cappadocia, Turkey

One very exciting thing that happened over the last week or so was finding someone else for my characters to meet! Laura Lee is a fantastic artist living in NYC who has done lots of traveling, including a trip through Turkey. She left some great pictures and artwork from her trip up on her Turkey blog ( The plan is for my characters to meet up with her and explore the amazing rock city of Cappadocia. They’ll share some travel insight and experience the culture and place together.

Alright, to wrap this post up (before it gets too long) I’m going to give you an honest evaluation of where I’m at and what’s happening next.

I’ve finished (or almost) the artwork for these 8 spreads:


first day of the curse

shopping in NYC and making friends

traveling across the Atlantic




the final concluding spread

I’ve researched and will be finished designing/writing these spreads in the next week:


Central Asia

Rural China


North Korea


I will also have a solid draft of the text for all of the above places. And that’s as far as I’m going to get on the project this semester. On May 11th I’m leaving on a 3 week trip to Italy with the art department at my college. When I get back, I’ll be moving house, working full-time, and enjoying focusing on a couple of art/writing projects, including spending more time on Stuck Going East. This means you’ll be hearing from me sporadically over the summer.

What’s left to do on the book is illustrate the above 6 spreads that didn’t get finished this semester, and research, write and illustrate the 3 spreads that will take the characters across the USA to that concluding spread. I also need to design a cover for the book, and illustrate the end pages.  There is much left to do, but I’m quite proud of the amount of work I’ve been able to get done this semester, along with a full course load, 2 part-time jobs, and a lot of other things going on.

Thank you very much to everyone who has supported me along the way this semester and shared your time and resources. I can’t tell you how much I’ve needed appreciated the encouraging and enthusiastic words and the ready information.

Now, to conclude, I’ve been worrying over how the characters are going to get through North Korea, and what it is going to be like for them there. The plan is that they will make friends with a government official who is friends with everyone, and he will travel with them through the country. Ray Cunningham traveled in North Korea and has agreed to let me use his pictures of Murals and Propaganda art for reference. They are very very interesting, and you can see them on his flickr stream here:

part of Greece page using photos and narrative from Vikki as inspiration. (plexi-glass etching colored with watercolors with main characters added)

detail from Greece page using Jack's photo as reference

In Beijing and Greece

13 04 2010

detail from illustration

The week of break is over, and I managed to get a lot of work done, though, of course, never quite enough. I’ve done some research for nearly all the places, and have planned out at least 5 of the 7 country page spreads left. (Ask me if that makes no sense.)  I’ve also almost finished 4 of the more narrative-focused pages. My art advisor, Jillian, took a look at what I’ve done so far and seemed generally pleased, which was a great relief. This is by far the most difficult creative project I’ve ever taken on.

The most exciting things that happened last week were my interactions with two people. One was a guy who works in Beijing and has taken some really good photographs that he’s volunteered to share with me. He may also have a story to tell about a person in one of the photographs and is willing to answer my questions. Pretty great. You can see some of his awesome photos on his flickr:

one of Vikki's pictures

The other is Vikki, who is ½ Greek, and has agreed to be a character in the story, along

with her family. She also sent me some great photos, told me some good stories, and suggested that the characters encounter a wedding while in Greece. I think this is a very fun idea!

My plan for the rest of this week is to get some school essays out of the way, and then try and complete 2 more page spreads. This will be a miracle and a lot of hard work. Haha.

A cool thing I found this week was these yummy-looking flags: As I’m trying to include flags from each country in my book, as well as food from some places, something like this might actually be a fun way to include both.

Full Steam Ahead

6 04 2010

the room in the art building that I've commandeered for the week

It’s full steam ahead on the ol’ picture book project. I’ve got the week off school and have

managed to put off or get done early all my other class assignments so that I can focus solely on the picture book.

If you’ve got any pictures or stories or cool information to share about any of the countries the characters go through, now would be a great time to drop me an email at meganlittle.artist Due to time constraints, I’ve put off the pages about the USA until this summer. So right now I’m primarily looking for info or pictures from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Albania, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, (particularly northern China and Beijing), North Korea and Japan. I’ve bolded two I’m super eager to hear about, but if you’ve got anything on any of the above, I’d be quite delighted.

Speaking of gathering information, I got an email from Vikki who is a friend of someone who heard about my project and who is from Greece. She is from Kassandra Chalkidiki which is a spot the characters travel through. She sent me some information about Greek people, and also some basic Greek phrases, such as “Δεν μιλώ τα ελληνικά = I don’t speak Greek.” Very exciting.

So, now that I’ve actually got a chunk of time to get things done, I’ve almost finished 2 page spreads, which you can see in the pictures in this post. All that needs to be added are the characters and the text. Oh, and the second one needs some boats too, which I’m working on. Let me know what you think of them in the comments below.

4 pages on top of each other in 2 page spreads

Today, I’m planning to get to this stage on two more page spreads. I’ll be illustrating their journey across the Atlantic, and then working on my illustration for Italy. Hopefully I’ll also have time to start glazing the ceramic tiles I made for Portugal. At least I should have the stencil, which I’m going to use to put the pattern on the tiles, all cut out and ready to go.

Well, back to work for me! Wish me luck!

Here are some cool websites I found earlier this week:

When I start feeling overwhelmed about how huge the project I am working on is, all I have to do is go to this artists site, where he his drawing a picture of everything.

Flickr Colour selector. This site allows you to select a color and then it shows you a bunch of Flicker pictures where that color features prominently. I have no idea how it works, but it’s very cool.

Oh, and I stumbled across the Oliver Jeffers’ website. He’s an artist/illustrator and I particularly like the look of his children’s books. I’ll have to see if I can invest in buying one this summer.

New Eyes for the World

15 02 2010

Having wandered her way through Spain, and foraged new friendships with co-travelers, this weary world traveler stands up to stretch her legs.

Ahh, if only virtual travel and research and the creating of this book were the only bags I have to carry right now. But I suppose most journeys are far more complicated than that. Mine includes classes with homework and tests, some relational and scheduling issues, and, well, yeah, the usual.

I’ll fess up right at the start: I’m not as far along as I had hoped. On the bright side, I keep learning more about how I should be doing the project, and I’m beginning to be convinced that a few contacts with lots of good input are better than a whole lot with very little response.

Also on the bright side (it’s a very nice big shiny side), I sent out a campus wide email to my college earlier this week and got 9 great responses! Folks who have been to some and all the states my characters travel through emailed me back, and also people with experiences in Turkey, Spain, Italy, China, Japan, and even North Korea!

I’ve also bumped into two people who live right near the 40th parallel. How cool is that? One is a friend from my college named Angela who lives Indiana, and the other is a girl I know as “Archi_Teuthis” who lives about half an hour from the 40th parallel in Utah. (You can find Archi and her writing here, on protagonize.)

Plans for this week: Research, research, research. And try and invite some more cool people to join the project. Also, I need to do some more follow-up on some of those cool people who have already joined the team.

And now, for my weekly cool finds:

A Brief Guide to World Domination – Now this is a very cool and very inspiring document. It encourages you to reject conformity and live life fully—giving to others and doing what you love.  It really inspired me to push on with this project, and it’s also deepened my thoughts about who this project is for.  You’ll probably be hearing more about this soon. Oh, and I’m also considering asking Chris (the guy who wrote the above document,) if he’d want to meet my characters. He’s trying to travel to every country in the world in the next four years.

Google Maps: aerial and road view. Alright, so this is not exactly a new discovery, but I’ve never really toured across a country before this way. I spent some time on Saturday following the 40th parallel across Spain. Enjoying artistic aerial views, and really getting a feel for the place via the road view. Try this: go to google maps, and type in “40,-1.1” in the search. Then take hold of the little orange guy that sits on top of the navigation tool on the left of the page, and plop him down on a road.

The final exciting thing to report is about the above image. tsushima, who I found on panoramio, the place that hosts all the pictures you see on google maps, has given me permission to use their pictures for my book!  tsushima is from Japan and has taken many wonderful pictures there.  That picture above was taken very near the 40th parallel in Japan. So a big thank-you to him!

Up and Away We Go

8 02 2010

Wow! It’s been an emotional roller coaster the last couple weeks getting this project off the ground. One moment I’m so terrified I’m afraid my shaking is going to knock my socks off, the next I’m as giddy as a woman about to meet her first grandchild.

The most time-consuming thing has definitely been the visuals. Creating a suitable banner, an outline, and an intro video all add up to some serious time-gobbling business. It was my first time making a video, so I had to struggle through finding an appropriate video editor, figuring out how to make the quality of the video adequate, and, of course, the ‘filming’ itself takes a while. Then, the sketch-up of an example two page spread took quite a while too, between trying to decide what it should look like, creating the art, and writing the text.

Other progress includes reading up on Portugal, China and Japan in the library and getting some ideas about what I need to research and look for in those places. I also started a draft document for the first few pages of the book. Experimenting with tone and characterization is tricky business. Along with that, I did some very rough sketches for the first 4 page spreads and brainstormed the format for the book.

early format sketch: 4 pgs.

And now it’s time to start my weekly blogs, kicking it off with this one! The plan is to post blogs updating you on my progress and sharing some of the cool stuff I’ve discovered and people I’ve met. You can expect to see them on Saturday or Sunday.

What are my goals for the project this week?

It’s time to get the word out there. My goal is to contact no less than 100 people and invite them to join the project in some way. I’ll tweet through the week to let you know how I’m doing. I also plan to do further research on some of the countries.

Now, for a few of my fun finds of the last couple weeks: – Paint Map: a very cool community site based of google maps where you can upload paintings/art you’ve done by location. I’m hoping to find some fantastic artists and also get inspiration for my own paintings for the book. – The Universal Packing List: definitely going to be helpful as my characters figure out what to pack for their very very long journey. – this is a bit crazy, but people post if they are willing to carry people in their cars, and the locations they are traveling from and to. They can charge if they want. It’s a cool idea, but it just doesn’t seem very safe to me. But what do I know? – Last, but not least, we have Matt, dancing badly around the world. Great project. Very funny.