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Archive for the ‘stay at home dad’ Category

Homework fun! Homework fun?

homework

Having a child means dealing with The Homework Issue. Most kids AND adults don’t love homework.

My daughter hasn’t been thrilled with the reasons I give for doing homework. And I admit either have I. They are pretty big picture – to develop your ability to focus, to realize that you can learn on your own, to prepare for later in life when you need to tackle issues by yourself and…and of course – because your teacher told you to, you have to keep up with classmates and most importanly – because if you don’t have homework you’d miss-out on complaining about homework.

My daughter also thinks of me as the grown-up who didn’t grow up. I don’t shave often, I wear pajamas into the afternoon. I read kids book every day.

Now for 24 plus years of my adult life I worked a 9-5 style job (granted more like 7-9) at ad agencies, designs shops, media companies, software companies ETC. But she only knows the guy who sits at home drawing and writing.

I think it’s confusing to my daughter that my job looks like I’m just having fun all day because, you know, art in school is fun time. It’s NOT Homework with a capital H.

And my job is fun. It’s also demanding in ways a kid can’t comprehend. And some days I can’t quite comprehend.

No reason to launch into a defense of what I do and how I am prepared, or not, to do this because of my education. And she does see me during days when it’s not fun at all. And it’s frustrating and can be filled with self doubt in a way no ‘normal’ 9-5 job can be.

But why do math homework when dad sits at home drawing tigers? It will be a long couple years, won’t it!?

 

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You read that headline right. Here in the US, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day is May, 15th. 

cookies_monster

I’m a big fan of cookies, especially chocolate chip cookies. I spent many years working in a bakery. The 4:30 AM shift wasn’t bad when I was 19 years old. I can’t quite imagine it now. I made crosisants, breads, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls and lots of other stuff, but my favorite item to prepare and bake were cookies. I made many a cookie in those days (usually in huge batches of 5 or 6 dozen, monster size cookies) and still do (but now in far smaller batches).

Of course there are lots of recipes online for variations of the standard chocolate chip cookie. But I am partial to the old Tollhouse one, sans the walnuts.

I created a special illustration for the day. I might make a few t-shirts too.

Oh, you’ll be hearing more about this as it apporaches!

And here is a little background on the infamous cookie from ABC news last year.

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I’ve been cleaning out my studio. And filling the recycle bin. Filling and refilling the recycle bin. Wow.

Animation timing sheets and countless reams of old drawings have been collecting dust for too long. I saved a few things and scanned a few others. I spent hours going through character designs from old animation projects, odds and ends from sketchbooks (I was keeping way too many old sketchbooks for some reason), life drawings and random pieces that were no doubt the start of something great, 18 years ago…. I pulled out a book dummy or two. But I must have thrown out at least 80 pounds of paper. It will take two or three weeks to get it all in the recycle bin.3

You can’t keep it all. You just can’t. As I finish all my work digitally now the only physically tangible aspects of a project in progress I have are sketches and roughs. These past 10 years I have held onto way too much.

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I’ll post a few scans of stuff along the way.

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I was recently asked about my ‘career’ by someone interested in writing and illustrating books.

I still have a difficult time saying this is my ‘career’. I have worked as an art director, character designer, UI designer, graphic designer, producer, product manager, creative director…the list is long. I’m not sure how good I was at any of those jobs. And I’m not sure my career path can even be called a career path. It was more off-roadin’ until I got somewhere I wanted to stay awhile. But, I  believe all these professional experiences have helped shape who I am as a writer and artist and created good work habits in me.

But about writing and/or drawing books -

It is not a job where you get promotions and yearly reviews or daily meetings.

It is not a job where you can get ahead by (saying this nicely) becoming involved in someone else’s project.

Response to your work can be fickle. No one knows what will resonate with the public at large. Though some have slightly better luck in guessing.

Working from home takes a lot of focus and I hate to say it, discipline. You must have the ability to push chores aside – or you spend your whole day cleaning and walking the dogs (and posting to your blog) and get no work done.

It is a job for those who like to spend time alone. If you need social contact you will have to cultivate that.

For me it is a job where one day I am happy with my work, the next I want to repaint everything I did.

It’s not for people who can’t take rejection. Maybe it’s just me but I spend more of my time with rejections that acceptance letters.

There is no one path to ‘get there’. And there is no cleared path to where it will take you.

Everyone who manages to be involved in it seems to have come to the work by different means. I know some people who were offered work the first time (yes, the first time!) they showed their portfolio. I know people who were rejected repeadtedly by agents and worked  years to get offered a book.

Writing a a good picture book is as much work as writing any other book. Picture books aren’t ‘easy’ because they have fewer words. The people who make it look easy are just really, really, really good at writing picture books.

It’s the best job in the world when it’s not being the worst job in the world.

But it’s not what most people think it is. And I love it.

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There are a few really good days being a full-time author/illustrator. Getting checks is nice of course. After all, the food doesn’t buy itself. But really the best days are when you get the book you worked on for a year or more for the first time.  Seeing the final proof for the first time is also a good day.

This past week I’ve been busy working on the second picture book I wrote and will illustrate. The dummy is coming together, though it’s at that point where I spend a lot of time wondering if a particular page communicates the right story beat.  I was concentrating so hard that my daughter and her friend snuck up to my studio and gave me a big “BOO! ” on Saturday. Twice to be exact. Each time  I screamed out loud. My wife heard it from the front porch. Well, it is the season for scares.

But the other cool thing this week was seeing the final digital proof of the picture book I wrote and illustrated that will be released  by Candlewick Press next Thanksgiving. The cover, the flap copy, the final art with final type…very cool to see. And I am looking forward to the first hardcopy proofs in a few months. You will hear me talking more about both books as they near release.

Now, back to work. But I better make sure my daughter isn’t sneaking up the stairs.

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My daughters drawing in chalk on the sidewalk and a camera filter make for a great image.

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My wife And daughter recently took a trip leaving me at home with the dogs and time to catch-up on work and house repairs. It was a vacation that I was really looking forward to. It was the first week at home without my daughter since she was born. I’ve been a stay-at-home, work-at-home dad for almost 7 years now.

And it was a surreal week. It took me a day or so to relearn what life not associated with having a kid was like. I reverted to my preferred schedule, working late into the night. I kept busy until 3 or 4 in the morning. I’d be back up by 9 in the morning and walking the dogs without an extended discussion about why we have to walk dogs.

I had no one asking for lunch, so I often skipped lunch. I wasn’t worried about preparing dinner so I ate when I was hungry. It wasn’t a return to the schedule free days of my youth, I still had two dogs to keep happy. But I was able to work a more organic schedule that saw me writing in afternoons, dealing with emails and taxes and such in the evenings and drawing all night.

I admit feeling a bit lost without the need to pick up my daughter from school, or drive her to swimming or gymnastics or a play date. Time didn’t move in the staccato rhythms of caring for kids. It flowed and surprisingly It felt like I had many more hours in each day.

Of course I missed them, and I’m not saying it was better. But only now can I clearly see how much my life changed since my daughter. These slow changes in life, like gaining a pound or the graying of your hair, aren’t appreciably day by day. You become something different without realizing it.

I hope to combine a little more of the old me with the new me as my daughter gets into full time school. I have some learning to do. Again.

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