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26701. Illustrator Saturday – Susan Detwiler

detwilerRed Canoe book signing 410 008croppedSusan grew up in Maryland and was educated at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, where she and her husband and two sons now live. Besides books for children, her illustrations have been used for advertising, merchandise, and greeting cards. She is the Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI MD/DE/WV region.

We have a real treat this Saturday. Susan has offered to give a way her book BIG CAT, Little Kitty.  If you would like a chance to win, please leave a comment and tweet or add to your facebook page. Next Friday I will announce the winner. 

Here are some of Susan’s clients:

Baltimore Precision Instruments, The Baltimore Sun, Barton-Cotton, Bits & Pieces Puzzles, Catalpha Advertising & Design, Educational Press, Girl Scouts USA, Hallmark Cards, Highlights for Children, Humane Society US, Johns Hopkins Women’s Health, Ladybug Magazine, McDonogh School, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Prospect Hill Press, Real Creative Advertising, Stave Puzzles, Stemmer House Publishers, Success For All Foundation, Sunrise Greetings, Sylvan Dell Publishing, Tree-Free, US Can, Words & Numbers, World Wildlife Fund.

Here is Susan explaining her process:


For the panda book, as with all my picture books, I started by gathering reference photos.


Then I made thumbnail sketches of each spread on one sheet of paper so that I could plan the way it would flow.


I enlarged my thumbnail. 


Then made a more detailed sketch to submit to the editor for approval.


Once approved, that sketch was projected onto my drawing surface, which in this case was gray charcoal paper.


The final was done in soft pastels made by Derwent, Faber Castell and other brands.


I scanned the finals and Sylvan Dell added the text.


Book cover above and interior spreads below:





BIG CAT, Little Kitty written by Scotti Cohn - Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing; First Edition (March 10, 2011) ISBN: 978-1607181248

The First Teddy Bear by Helen Kay – Publisher: Stemmer House Publishers; 2nd edition (September 1, 2005) ISBN-13: 978-0880451536


One Wolf Howls by Scotti Cohn Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing (May 24, 2012) ISBN-13: 978-1607186090


On The Move Mass Migration by Scotti Cohn  Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing (March 5, 2013) ISBN-13: 978-1607186168


How long have you been illustrating?

In the early 1980s I worked as a staff illustrator for J. Walter Thompson Recruitment Advertising, a job that was a lucky break. I learned to draw line art depictions of all races of people and to work within short deadlines. I took freelance assignments whenever I got them, and after a few years decided to freelance exclusively.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I have always wanted to illustrate books for children, and when I read about Stemmer House, a small publisher near Baltimore, I contacted the editor and made an appointment to show my portfolio. Another lucky break! I was given a contract to illustrate The First Teddy Bear, published in 1985. I am happy to report that it is still in print; a second edition was released in 2005.


I see you graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

The Maryland Institute College of Art was such an exciting place for me to be in the mid-seventies when I was there! The school was just beginning its phenomenal growth that continues into the present – MICA is one of Baltimore’s premier cultural institutions, is recognized as one of the top art schools in the country, and is the center of Artscape, the largest free arts festival, held each July. I studied Graphic Design/ Illustration for three years and met my artist husband there. I have been back to participate in an illustration workshop, and have several friends on the faculty. However, I was unable to finish my degree back then; I hope to do so in the future.



What types of classes did you take?

I took Illustration classes with Cyril Satorsky and Richard Ireland, Graphic Design with Bob Wirth, and Screen Printing with Quentin Mosley.


Did you have a focus in on any area of art?

I knew that I wanted to be an illustrator, so I concentrated on sharpening my drawing and painting skills and the elements of graphic design that apply to illustration. I regret that I did not study sculpture, because I love to sculpt and spend time at the beach each summer making sculptures in sand.


What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

While I was in high school an amateur theater company hired me to design and screen print posters for their production of The Music Man. I was thrilled to get money for having so much fun!


Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

My work is regularly published in Highlights.



Do you have representation from an artist rep or an agents?

I have a licensing agent, but I am not represented in the children’s market.


Your website shows that you published four books with Sylvan Dell Publishing. Could you tell us how they found you?

Actually, I found them; I heard about this young company at a SCBWI conference and was attracted by the fact that they publish only picture books and take email submissions. I submitted a book dummy, which was rejected, but the editor asked if I’d be interested in illustrating a book for them. Of course I said yes!


Are they mainly an educational publisher?

Sylvan Dell includes educational material in the back pages of each picture book, but their books have good stories and beautiful illustrations as the highest priority; their motto is Science and Math Through Literature. They market to bookstores as well as schools and libraries.


Which book was your first?

I illustrated One Wolf Howls by Scotti Cohn, published in 2009.



You also have another book published by Stemmer House. How did that contract come about?

That was my very first book illustration contract, and I was young and had little idea of how it all worked! The editor at Stemmer House gave me the manuscript for The First Teddy Bear and instructed me to divide it into pages and make a book dummy with sketched illustrations on each page. I worked on that book for a year… I don’t think my experience was typical. After that I joined the SCBWI and learned a lot.


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Oh, yes! My head is full of ideas, and I experiment with stories and drawings whenever I can.


As Illustrator Coordinator, what types of things have you done with the MD/DE/WV SCBWI chapter members?

Besides offering individual portfolio reviews by art directors, editors and agents visiting our conferences, once a year we have a “First Look” panel of visiting faculty comment on illustrators’ work (anonymous) in a slide show format. We also display members’ portfolios at conferences, and include at least one workshop or breakout session geared specifically to illustrators. This year, our region’s 20th anniversary, we held a logo contest.



Have you taken advantage of showing off your portfolio at one of national conferences?

Yes, I participated in the Portfolio Showcase at the NYC SCBWI Winter Conferences of 2012 and 2013.


Do you see yourself writing and illustrating your own book someday?

Yes, I’ve got a couple in the pipeline.


It looks like you have illustrated for a large variety of companies. What did you do to get that work?

While my kids were small I concentrated on greeting card and local advertising freelance assignments, which I got by word of mouth and a minimum of self-promotion. Those jobs were able to be completed quickly and I received payment quickly, too, which suited my situation as a parent working from home. The freelance market has changed since then, and self-marketing and promotion claim a much bigger part of my time. I am targeting the children’s publishing market more than before, but still accept assignments from businesses, when they come my way.



Not counting your paint and brushes, what is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

It was not true when I started my business, but today I could not function without my computer. The internet changed everything. It’s hard to imagine my work as a freelancer without email, Photoshop, scanning and printing.


Do you try and spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

When facing a deadline I am completely disciplined about work, but an average day is broken up with domestic chores and walks in the park with my dog, as well as art work.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Pencil, followed closely by watercolor.


Do you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?

My studio contains a four-drawer file cabinet full of picture clippings I’ve been gathering since I started this work, although I more frequently use the web for photo references. I sometimes sketch or take my own photos for reference, but I always do research at the start of a job.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Well, it has brought the world to my fingertips right here in my studio, and it enables me to communicate with clients or potential clients and allows far more people to see my work, so that’s a definite yes.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, I am digitally coloring drawings sometimes, and Photoshop has freed me from the fear of messing up when working in traditional media – I can always fix it on the scan.


Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

I do not own one, but have been curious.


Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your materials changed?

My commercial work requires me to be fluent in a number of styles, which is fun, like trying on costumes. I did my second book for Sylvan Dell entirely in soft pastel, then a completely new medium for me. But my natural inclination is a fairly detailed and painterly style which has changed only a little over the years. Animals have been my book subjects most often, but I also love to depict children in my illustrations, and use watercolor and pencil more than other media.


How do you market yourself?

I am always looking for new ways to get my work seen by people who could hire me. I have a website, a Facebook page, am registered on LinkedIn, send postcards to editors and art directors, and take every opportunity to hand out business cards. I regularly visit schools and give presentations of my work.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Okay, if you’re talking dreams… I’d like to win the Caldecott. But more realistically, I would like to be successful enough in the children’s publishing market that my work would be regularly pursued.


What are you working on now?

I am working on a retelling of an Aesop’s fable about mice.



Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

For the panda book, as with all my picture books, I started by gathering reference photos. Then I made thumbnail sketches of each spread on one sheet of paper so that I could plan the way it would flow. I enlarged my thumbnail and made a more detailed sketch to submit to the editor for approval. Once approved, that sketch was projected onto my drawing surface, which in this case was gray charcoal paper. The final was done in soft pastels made by Derwent, Faber Castell and other brands. I scanned the finals and Sylvan Dell added the text. For watercolor illustrations, I use Strathmore 500 series cold-press illustration board, which I buy from Utrecht in packs of 10 sheets. You can use both sides, and it’s 100% cotton rag. I love pan watercolors and Windsor Newton series 7 brushes. I transfer my rough drawings onto the board via an artist’s projector (mine is an ancient “Kopyrite”).



Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful illustrator?

Keep working to hone your craft, even if you have to give yourself assignments. Join the SCBWI. Keep listening and learning and studying the art that excites you. Take every opportunity to let your work be seen.

detwilersand_hound copy

Susan takes her artist talents even to the beach.

Thank you Susan for sharing your talent, journey, process, and one of your books with us.  Please let us know when you have a new success or a new piece of art you would like to show off.  You can visit Susan at www.susandetwiler.com

I always ask if you will leave a comment for Saturday’s Featured Illustrator, but this week you will put yourself in the running for one of Susan’s books, if you leave and comment and post something on Twitter or facebook about this post. Of course if you do not have a Twitter or facebook account, just let me know with the comment and you will be included in the drawing.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, opportunity, picture books, Process Tagged: A SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator, Maryland Institute College of Art, Susan Detwiler, Sylvan Dell Publishing

12 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Susan Detwiler, last added: 3/9/2013
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26702. Don't stay comfortable

...unless you're just, totally... just, DONE. 

(But there is NO WAY that you're totally done!!)

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26703. Surviving Your Colonoscopy 101


Yep!  I did it!  I made it through another colonoscopy with flying colors!  I will let you in on a little survival secret.  How to drink the yucky liquid without tossing your cookies.

Try this method.  This is all you need:

1.  9 – 8 oz paper cups with straws

2.  “The drink”

3.  A timer

4.  A computer and the Pinterest website

My colonoscopy required me to drink 9 glasses of “the drink”.  One glass every 10 minutes!   EEeeeek!

Simply pour the liquid into the 9 cups. Next, go to the Pinterest website. Most of you who know Pinterest, know, that it is a great sucker of time. That is what you want,  you want to be taken away to Pinterest Land and lose track of what you are doing until the timer goes off! Soon you will be ready for cup #2, then #3 and on to # 9!   Viola!  You are done!  Thank you Pinterest!!!! …. and yes,  everything came out just fine!  haha!

Filed under: Kicking Around Thoughts

2 Comments on Surviving Your Colonoscopy 101, last added: 3/12/2013
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26704. Briclot and Banyai on Exhibition

 There's an exhibition of the work of French fantasy artist Aleksi Briclot called "Genèse: des croquis à l’œuvre" ("Genesis: Sketches at Work,") at the Maison d' Ailleurs, in Yverdon, Switzerland through August 25. The show focuses on the growth and development of Briclot's images through various techniques.

And opening today at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts is "Istvan Banyai: Stranger in a Strange Land." Hungarian-born Banyai's illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, The New York Times,  and many other publications. The Banyai exhibition continues through May 5.

4 Comments on Briclot and Banyai on Exhibition, last added: 4/7/2013
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26705. Zodiac girls. 8)

Zodiac girls. 8) by dain
Zodiac girls. 8), a photo by dain on Flickr.

ink pen and color dye marker on spiral notebook paper
8 x 11 in.
©2013 DAiN8)

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26706. Repin's Cossacks, reenacted as a tableau vivant

Petro Choma and his pals re-enact Ilya Repin's painting "Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire" as a tableau vivant.

1 Comments on Repin's Cossacks, reenacted as a tableau vivant, last added: 3/9/2013
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26707. Two creatures in field are lost.

©2013 Dain Fagerholm
Two creatures in field are lost.
ink pen and color dye marker on paper
©2013 DAiN8)

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26708. Kai Margrander's Favorite Things

The print edition of Glamour magazine in Germany regularly asks its editors where they have been getting inspiration lately. This time it was fashion designer Kai Margrander's turn. 

He mentioned the book The Great Gatsby, the Café de Flore in Paris, his Morgan silk jacket....and Dinotopia. He says: "On a stroll through Tumblr, I discovered the whimsical fantasy paintings of the 54-year-old U.S. illustrator. One of his favorite subjects: dinosaurs."

Mr. Margrander's other favorite things include his garden in Lower Bavaria, the song "Nagh el Borda" by Oum Kalthoum, Star Wars, and the word "Absolutely!"
Thanks, Mr. Margrander! Kai Margrander's blog: "The Talented Mr. M"
Courtesy of the print edition of Glamour magazine, German edition, February 2013 issue.
The original painting of "Garden of Hope" is still on view through March 13 in New Hampshire.

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26709. Spring!

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26710. Facebook Follow Free Print

Free print for March! Follow me on Facebook and get this print for free!!

2 Comments on Facebook Follow Free Print, last added: 3/10/2013
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26711. “Beavis and Butt-head” Turned 20 Years Old Today

I wanted to take a moment and acknowledge that the TV series Beavis and Butt-head premiered twenty years ago today—March 8, 1993—on MTV. The show’s crude production values and even cruder humor look quaint today in a South Park/Adult Swim/Webcartoon world, but it was a bold experiment in its time and cleared a path for much to follow.

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26712. yesterday’s talent

elephant dance 450

So, anywho, I was going to post this yesterday for the Illustration Friday theme “Talent” but missed it by THIS much. Soooo, since this week’s theme is “Yesterday”…

10 Comments on yesterday’s talent, last added: 3/9/2013
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26713. Facebook Fan Page

I set up a facebook page for my books where I'll be posting updates about new publications, workshops and events. It's here.
I don't have a personal Facebook page because it annoys the heck out of me, but my books are more sociable than I am!

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26714. learning school's limitations

The more I travel the more I learn about schools lesson plans, librarians' likes and dislikes, and what schools won't accept.

When I was in Georgia last week I was surprised when the librarian explained that she'd ordered a series of nonfiction books on animals... and pointed to one on seahorses. She explained that the seahorse book was going back to the publisher.


Because of the page on mating.

It had a very similar photo to the one below:

The text for the book series was VERY simple. I didn't read the one on seahorses because it was put on the "return" cart and sent away. But I read the rest in the series. It was for very young kids, with one sentence per page... so the sentence with the seahorses probably said something like, "And seahorses mate." 

The librarian's assistant told me she couldn't believe that the library couldn't have the book. Moreover, she said that the book couldn't be at the high schools! What? I said, "But don't they have sex education?" She said yes, but that the kids need to bring in permission slips, etc. etc. Then I commented that what is on TV on a daily basis is FAR worse than seahorses leaning into one another. She agreed whole heartedly. 

So for us authors writing nonfiction it becomes a debate: do we risk some school systems not carrying our books or do we play it safe and not include certain subjects?

3 Comments on learning school's limitations, last added: 4/7/2013
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26715. Sugarplum and Snowball illustrated by Idelette Bordigoni

Idelette Bordigoni's delicate illustrations in Sugarplum and Snowball have me dreaming of Spring...

Sugarplum and Snowball
By Johanna Johnston
Illustrated by Idelette Bordigoni
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1968

2 Comments on Sugarplum and Snowball illustrated by Idelette Bordigoni, last added: 3/9/2013
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26716. IF~Yesterday

For Illustration Friday I felt like playing around with type this week. The background was created for another piece I did for IF which still seems to be one of my most popular posts according to my stats. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out. (IF~Proverb)


Art: watercolor pencils
type and layout in photoshop

Thanks for stopping by :)

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26717. Running and Bunhuggers: All part of sensing it’s GO time

Runners, when the bunhuggers come out it’s GO time.

People not in the sport of track and field, or non-runners, have asked, “Why in the world would you want to run in those?!” I’ve heard little kids giggle and balk, “She’s running in her underwear!” Even body conscious women have sneered, “Oh, look at her, who does she think she is?”
running in bunhuggers
Let me explain…bunhuggers are not

* worn in an attempt to steal your boyfriend.
* meant as some kind of ‘in your face, runners are HOT and we know it!’ statement.
* stupid.

Think of running in bunhuggers like running in your spikes.

You know the second you slip your feet into those spikes, lace them up, and head to the line it’s RACE TIME.

I’m sure there is the element of wind resistance, and yes, bunhuggers are comfortable. Trust me, there is nothing worse than racing with a wedgie…or running with shorts that bunch up in the front. My friend used to have a term for ‘those’ kinds of shorts, “My thighs eat them.”

A large part of racing is mental. Part of distinguishing a RACE from any other run is making it FEEL different. The energy, the electric buzz of the spectators, the nerves, the excitement, the competition, all of the feed into the race atmosphere.

Running your warm-up is just as much physically preparing your body as it is MENTALLY prepping you, getting into the zone.

When you kick off those bulky training shoes and slip on the spikes, you FEEL the race coming. As you strip off those sweats to the bunhuggers underneath you SENSE it…it’s almost here.

Run that final stride, poised and set at the line, it’s ON!

“Look good, feel good.”

1) Female runners, what do you prefer to race in? Do you run in bunhuggers, or have you?

2) On the other side, have you made fun of the bunhuggers? Do you find them silly, and not understand why people would run in them?

3) Guys, men get teased for the shorty running shorts in general. What style shorts do you prefer? What do you say to the dorks who make fun of running shorts?

4) What is a part of your ‘process’ in amping up for a race? What is something that makes you FEEL like it’s race time?

best running shirts

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26718. Watch Bill Plympton’s New Film Noir-Inspired “Simpsons” Couch Gag

Bill Plympton made a new Simpsons couch gag, titled “Film Noir,” that will premiere on this Sunday’s episode of the perennial TV series. The whole thing is posted online and can be seen below. Plympton also made a Simpsons couch gag last year.

Bill also just released the trailer to his new short Drunker Than a Skunk adapted from a poem by Walt Curtis:

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26719. Black Sheep

Nobody had the heart to tell Ned that he was adopted.

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26720. Escape Pods

WOW! It's been a long-time since I posted anything here... all I can say is that the demands of being a full-time dad and a comic artist leaves very little time for frivolities like blogs and social media...

Anyway, before I digress any further!

Here's a page from part two of the upcoming "Banned Across the Universe" that I've been working on with John Freeman for ROK comics.

As per usual, I got carried away and spent some time in sketchup building escape pods...

As per usual, you can hardly see the effort I went to!

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26721. My Tucson Festival of Books Schedule

Schedule: Saturday, March 9

1:00 – 2:00 College of Education Room 353   Panel Discussion: No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of this Picture(book)  Adam Rex, Peter Brown, Lester Laminack

2:00 – 2:30 Autographing right outside the south entrance of the COE and to the east. 

4:00 Autographing at the Tucson Weekly booth

Schedule, Sunday, March 10
 1:00 – 2:00 – College of Education Kiva.  Fear, Intrigue and Humor:  Engaging Kids as Readers. Stephan Pastis, R.L. Stine, Adam Rex. Jennifer J. Stewart is the moderator -Jennifer@jenniferjstewart.com

2:00 – 2:30 Autographing out the south doors of the COE and directly east.

3:00-3:30 – Storyblanket (Chu’s Day)

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26722. Awesome Book Light

This is an awesome cool light that's folds up like a book. When fully charged, it can stay lit up for 8 hours. It's called the Lumio designed by architect Max Gunawan and is currently a Kickstarter project (already 240% funded)!
Thanks to Colossal for the heads up.

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26723. Wrap-up: Evenings with Authors with Nathan Englander

Nathan Englander joined the list of illustrious authors to visit Thurber House last night. He gave a fascinating talk about his books of short stories – which deal with some heavy topics, like faith and guilt – but showed that he also has a sense of humor and knows how to connect with his fans. We hope everyone who attended enjoyed hearing Nathan speak – and if you haven’t picked up his latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, take a look at it and prepare for a thought-provoking read.


Attendees enter the drawing to win a copy of Nathan Englander’s new book.


Nathan talked about how when he writes, it’s not his voice in his stories, but he puts himself aside and has found his writer’s voice when he goes to work.


Nathan chatted with his fans and signed their books after his talk.

Thanks to everyone who came out last night! Our next event will be with Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs novels, on Tuesday, April 2.

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26724. COMPETITION - design a pair of socks

today i have another lovely competition lined up for you with this years sock design contest of which i will be one of the judges. time is running out as being away last week i am a little late in posting. entries need to be in by friday 15th march. winners will have their design go into production, recieve 15 pairs of socks and $1000. full details of all the great runners up prizes and entry 

3 Comments on COMPETITION - design a pair of socks, last added: 4/7/2013
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26725. Babybug Magazine- March 2013

Art © 2013 by Alicia Padrón

I was happy to illustrate a poem for this month's issue of Babybug magazine!

I haven't received my copies yet (one of the perks of living far, far away from houses.. hehe ) but my lovely agent was kind and sent me some images of the magazine so I thought I would share one of them with you. I'll share the rest when my copies arrive.

Art © 2013 by Alicia Padrón
And this is a little detail from the spread.

Really enjoyed painting this Indonesian family. And of course every fishing family should have a kitty! :o)

3 Comments on Babybug Magazine- March 2013, last added: 3/8/2013
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