fly fishing books for kids

How I draw Olive the woolly bugger.

I’ve had more than a couple people ask me how I create the illustrations for my Olive the woolly bugger fly fishing books, so I thought I’d share the process with my vast listening audience.

Let me start by declaring that I’m Olde Skool to a certain extent.  I didn’t grow up with computers, and it wasn’t until I was in my mid 20’s that the personal computer came to prominence. Since I was working in the field of graphic design at the time, I had to learn how to do everything I’d learned to do by hand, on the computer.  At first I resisted, but when that proved futile I embraced the computer as a new tool.  However, there are some things that just can’t be achieved with a mouse.

All of my illustrations begin the old-fashioned way with a piece of paper and a pencil.  I’ve never found a suitable replacement for the tactile relationship between the hand and the pencil/paper. More than anything it’s a hand-eye coordination thing. I can draw pretty well with a mouse (don’t care for those Wacom tablets), but the free-form ability to create fluid shapes and gestures is only revealed (to me, anyway) with a stroke of the pencil. I create my rough sketches in this manner, and those rough sketches provide a basis for the next step.

Step #1: Pencil Sketch

Once the rough pencil sketches are done I scan the drawings and import them into my primary drawing program, Adobe Flash.  Yeah, you heard me right–Flash.

“But wait, Kirk,” you ask. “Isn’t Flash just a tool for creating web graphics?”  Why yes it is, and I’m glad you asked.

“Hold on just a second,” you interject. “For printing don’t you have to use a program that allows for CMYK colors?”  Well, yes. But you’re getting ahead of me with that line of questioning.  Please be patient–we’re getting there.

I use Flash to trace over the scanned pencil sketches.  I like the drawing tools in Flash better than any other software program I’ve ever used and it allows me the most flexibility that can only be topped by drawing completely by hand (which in and of itself has limitations).  The first step within Flash is to draw a thin black outline around all my shapes. At this time I also add some details that were not done in the pencil sketch. Full creative license to do as I please. 😉

Step #2: Outline in Adobe Flash

After I’ve drawn my outlines I then go in and add my main colors. Then I use secondary shading to add detail to the drawings.  This is all very easily done with Flash.  But now, as was noted in our discussion above,  I have a file that uses RGB colors (Red, Green & Blue). The computer screen uses a combination of these 3 colors to display images. If I were creating my illustrations only to be viewed on the computer, then my work would be done. However, for printing my books these RGB color files are not suitable.

Step#3: Colors added in Adobe Flash

My Flash files must then be converted to another software format that allows for colors that are used in commercial offset printing.  This process of printing is called the 4 color process, or CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black). The program I use to achieve the CMYK colors is known as Adobe Illustrator. Fortunately Adobe makes both Flash and Illustrator, so the two programs play nicely together.  This compatibility allows me to export my Flash file to an Illustrator format, which does have a CMYK palette needed for offset printing.  The problem is that when I open the newly-created Illustrator file, the colors which were so vibrant in Flash, are now dull and washed out.  This is a result of color palette discrepancies.

Step #4: Faded colors in Adobe Illustrator

What I have to do at this point is select new colors to replace those that are now dull and faded.  It can be a tedius task, but I have found ways to streamline the drudgery. Yes, it’s an extra step but one that cannot be avoided. It’s not a perfect world, but it works for me because it allows me to work in a manner that suits my style.

Step #5: Final colors in Adobe Illustrator

Essentially after I have converted all the colors, I am done. At least with one illustration.  Now I have to do the same for every other illustration in the books.  As you can imagine, it’s not a task to be done overnight. You may be asking, “Why don’t you skip the Flash step, and just draw directly in Illustrator?”  The answer is simple:  Flash is a better freehand drawing tool that allows me to work in a manner that Illustrator doesn’t.  The most important thing to me as an artist is to have final illustrations that look like they were hand-drawn (because essentially they are).  I don’t want software to determine the look and feel of the illustrations.

How I came to work in this manner was very much a trial and error basis, and I may be the only illustrator in the universe that works in exactly this manner.  If there is anyone else out there reading this that uses this same process, I’d love to hear from you.  And Adobe, are you listening?  My life would be made a lot easier if you added a CMYK palette to Flash, or added the flexibilty of Flash‘s drawing tools to Illustrator!

Thanks for listening.

Kids & nature- it’s a big deal.

I’m always probing the depths of the internet to find potential venues for promoting my series of children’s fly fishing books, and recently I came upon an organization whose goal is very much that of Olive the woolly bugger: The Child & Nature Network. The C&NN exists to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature. I’ve just begun to explore what the group has to offer, but I am greatly impressed thus far.

So what does this have to do with my books?  Well, everything.

On the surface, my fly fishing book series for kids may just appear to be children’s stories set against the backdrop of fly fishing. While true, there’s much more to them than that. The intent of my books is to introduce kids to fly fishing through a series of fun stories that are both educational and entertaining (call them “edu-taining” if you will). For kids lucky enough to hail from an angling family, no encouragement is needed to get them outdoors with a fly rod in hand.  But kids who may not have the guidance of an adult angler in their lives are really the ones who stand to gain the most from my books.  In other words, my books are for all kids (and frankly, for adults as well). But the goal of my books is also bigger than just fly fishing – it’s about getting kids outdoors.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, according to a study by the Outdoor Foundation fishing is the #1 “Gateway Activity” to launching kids into many other outdoor pursuits such as camping, hiking, boating, etc.  All are excellent ways to get kids away from their video games, off the couch and into the great outdoors for some good, old-fashioned recreation.  There’s a book available by Richard Louv titled, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder that speaks to the lack of outdoor activity facing our youth today. Louv’s book won a 2008 Audubon Model and has inspired Leave No Child Inside initiatives throughout the country.

Aside from getting kids outdoors and instilling in them an appreciation for our natural resources, outdoor activities are good for a child’s health.  Michelle Obama is promoting her national effort to fight childhood obesity, and on April 9, 2010 hosted the White House Childhood Obesity Summit as part of her work with the recently formed Childhood Obesity Task Force and it’s accompanying “Let’s Move” campaign. C&NN is advocating that outdoor play go one step further to involve outdoor play in nature. Being able to roam around the outdoor environment is an enriching experience that brings with it many physical and emotional benefits.  Please read the entire article by Suz Lipman of the Child & Nature Network.

According to a report by C&NN, children are smarter, more cooperative, happier and healthier when they have varied opportunities for free unstructured play in the outdoors.  I interpret that to mean if you take a kid fly fishing where they can experience a natural setting, walk along the banks of a stream or lake and learn about bugs and fish and other wildlife that benefit from clean water, that child is going to be smarter.  I always thought fly anglers were an intelligent bunch and now I know why!

“Protecting America’s Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future” is the mission of the US Department of the Interior. On April 16, 2010 President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors.  The President spoke before leaders representing the conservation, farming, ranching, sporting, recreation, forestry, private industry, local parks and academia communities from all 53 states and territories. For obvious reasons this is of great significance to the fly fishing community and Phil Greenlee, President and National Chairman of the Federation of Fly Fishers, was in attendance. Read more about the Great Outdoors conference here.

To sum it all up in a nutshell, outdoor recreation is good for kids in both mind and body, and the outdoors are important to all of us.  So, the bottom line is this:  Get kids outside.  Fishing is a great way to start them off on other outdoor adventures.  While they’re outside having fun they’ll be practicing healthy habits and getting exercise. Furthermore they’ll develop an appreciation for our natural resources, which will ensure that future generations become stewards of the earth.

It may be a lofty thinking on my part, but I believe every child should start down this journey with the Olive the woolly bugger series of fly fishing books. Now, if anyone has an idea as to how I can make sure that every child hears about Olive, I’m all ears.

Get stuck on Olive and help Casting 4 A Cure

The power of the internet never ceases to amaze me. What’s more amazing than that is the generosity of complete strangers.  In this virtual world of ever-increasing social media and online networking, there are critics who think that the world is becoming an increasingly impersonal place.  While that may be true to some extent, I find that the internet is bringing people closer together. There’s no substitute for meeting someone face-to-face and shaking their hand but since that’s not always readily possible, making acquaintances online is the next best thing. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting some great people lately – people who have been generously willing to help me out. And by helping me they’re helping others.

April Vokey is one such person whom I’ve yet to actually meet in person, but through the internet and Facebook we’ve shared some online correspondence. April owns and operates Flygal Ventures, a British Columbia-based fly fishing guide service. April is also a casting instructor and offers many different casting workshops. She’s a busy gal, and recently returned from Victor, Idaho where she participated in the Casting 4 A Cure event on August 27-29. For those who don’t know, Casting 4 A Cure is a group of like-minded compadres who use fly fishing as a means of having a lot of fun while at the same time raising money for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. It’s a tremendous group of people fighting to find a cure for a horrible childhood disease.  Since my series of children’s fly fishing books have a little something to do with kids and fly fishing, I pledged Olive’s support for Casting 4 A Cure and will do what I can to raise a little money for the group. One of the projects I’ve started is selling Olive the Woolly Bugger stickers, with proceeds going to Casting 4 A Cure.

My friend Sharon Butterfield is another key person who has helped me out. Sharon owns Myflies.com, which is a rapidly growing online collection of fly fishing talent, from fly tiers to artists, photographers to authors, rod builders to guides and adventures and lodging.  It’s an impressive assortment of folks that Sharon has assembled, and fly anglers looking for the best of many offerings need look no further than Myflies.com. A while back Sharon generously offered to sell the stickers through her site, saving me from having to set up a sales venue. Stickers sell for $3.00 and of that $1.50 is sent directly to Bill Farnum, Executive Director for Casting 4 A Cure.  The other half covers the printing cost of the stickers and postage. If you do the math you’ll see that nothing goes into my pockets.

I recently asked Apri Vokey if she wouldn’t mind posting an Olive sticker link on her Facebook page. She’s much more popular than I am, and by doing so she has helped put the word out to several thousand people. Upon posting the link, one of April’s friends stepped up and offered a free pair of Optic Nerve sunglasses (valued at $100) to the person who places the largest order of Olive stickers by October 4th.  K.C. Lund is a fly angler and former professional snowboarder now working as a steel fabricator and is the BC/Alta rep for Optic Nerve. This generous act has left me humbled- thank you, K.C. If you would like to reach K.C. to inquire about Optic Nerve sunglasses you can do so by sending email to E.kc.opticnerve (at) telus.net

I want to thank April for spreading the word and for having such great friends, and to also thank Sharon for all the support in selling the stickers.  I couldn’t do it without your help.

So to those who read this blog, and I’m not sure that there are many of you yet, please consider purchasing an Olive the Woolly Bugger sticker and by doing so helping Casting 4 A Cure. Click on the sticker graphic below and it’ll take you right over to Myflies.com.

Olive is about more than just fly fishing.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Now there’s an expression we’ve all heard before, and we all know that it has a dual meaning that goes beyond the literal translation. In the case of a certain series of childrens fly fishing books, the average person may not need to look beyond the cover to find the books worthy of purchase for the kids in their lives.  Afterall, if you like fly fishing, you likely want to share that passion with your children. But what if you’re a discerning parent looking for more than just a book about fly fishing – a book with some substance?  Or perhaps you’re not an angler yourself and the thought of a book about fly fishing has no interest to you and therefore no interest to your child? You really can’t know what truly lies beneath the surface without having read the book.

A childrens book has to be about something – there has to be some substance/message or no publisher worth their salt would choose to acquire the title.  So what is Olive all about?  Simply looking at the titles of the books, that answer may seem obvious: they’re books about fly fishing, right? True, and if that weren’t obvious then I would have failed miserably! Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride are books clearly having something to do with fly fishing.  But open the cover and read the stories within and you’ll find that just as there’s more to fishing than catching fish, there’s more to Olive than just fly fishing.

In Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, our central character goes off to Camp Tightloops to learn to become a fishing fly.  There she learns the basics of fly casting and presentation and the need for barbless hooks. She also learns basic fly fishing terminology and how different flies are used in different situations. Pretty straightforward fly fishing stuff.  But she also learns about perseverance and unfortunately what it’s like to be an outcast: life lessons that go beyond the river bank or lake shore.

Through her adventure in the next book, Olive and The Big Stream, Olive puts what she has learned to the test and goes fishing for the very first time.  She obviously learns of the importance of catch and release fishing as she successfully hooks and lands her first wild trout, but again, there’s more.  She has learned compassion and the need to accept others who may be different, and when her friends fail on their first attempts at fishing she knows better than to tease and taunt. She knows firsthand what it’s like to be the recipient of such harmful behavior, and displays kindness to all others. She also learns to respect the very thing that makes fishing what it is: fish.

In the third book, Olive Goes for a Wild Ride, Olive becomes separated from her friends and faces the fears that all kids would should they become lost.  She soon hooks up with a stranger who befriends her and the two set off on a wild adventure where Olive, who up to this point has always been the student, becomes the teacher.  Together she and her friend explore a wild river and learn about each other and all that is important in the great circle of life.

The obvious point of the books is to introduce younger children to fly fishing – to plant a seed of interest in hopes of getting kids outside and participating in a wonderful experience.  Who knows, if Olive is a child’s introduction into the world of fly fishing, maybe they’ll become future stewards of our resources. Along the way hopefully they’ll learn to be accepting of others who are different from themselves.  Compassion goes a long way in creating people of strong character. To that end we can all learn from Olive.

So yes, Olive is all about fly fishing.  But she is about so much more as well.

And just as Olive is about more than just fly fishing, profit from sales of the books is about much more than just making a few bucks.  A percentage of proceeds from the sale of all books is donated to two groups that use fly fishing as a means of raising money to help fund research for childhood diseases:

Hooked On a Cure, hosts an annual fly fishing event to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Casting 4 A Cure, uses fly fishing events to raise money for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation to help fund research for Rett Syndrome and support for families dealing with special needs kids.

Both groups are led by fabulous, compassionate people that happen to love fly fishing. When I learned of these groups it became obvious that Olive needed to do what she could to help. What better than a series of books for kids about fly fishing, helping groups of people who use fly fishing to help kids?

So if you’re heard of the Olive series of fly fishing books for kids, consider taking a closer look. If you’ve never heard of them until now, I also ask that you look beneath the surface to see what the books have to offer.

You truly cannot accurately judge a book by the cover, and exploring beneath the surface may yield some pleasant surprises.  Fishing dries on the surface is fun, but an astute angler knows that fish take the majority of their meals under water.  Exploring the depths is what makes the woolly bugger such an effective and popular pattern.  Take a closer look- I think you’ll get hooked on Olive the Woolly Bugger, and by doing so you’ll be helping kids in more ways than one.