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1. It's Monday + Weekend Round Up

I believe this Martin Luther King Jr. quote is as true for the inside of ourselves as it is for the outside to others. We must drive out the darkness within our minds, and love ourselves. Thank you Dr. King for so many inspiring words and faith.

This past weekend was a whirl wind of a time! We did so much, that by Sunday I was tired enough to sleep through Norah waking up from her nap. Who knows how long she was in her crib playing before she finally started to let me know she wasn't happy there. I find these are the times I learn the most about myself, because they are also when I'm my weakest, most vulnerable, and busiest. Do you ever have weekends like that?

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It's a new week though, with new thoughts, new perspectives, and new schedules! I have discovered that every week is different with my schedule, time to  E • M • B • R • A • C • E  it! 

I tried something new this morning, I tried some meditative prayer. Like most women, my mind is always moving. Surprisingly it stayed pretty clear, and I think I caught myself drifting to sleep a couple of times (sitting up in the studio). Since then I've been very calm, and I knew I needed to get it down on paper, so I began this drawing. I look forward to working on her throughout the week during these times of peace every morning.

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After that first nap I give Norah all of my attention. We played around and got to ride on the dragon in the studio. It's so special to have her in the studio with me, even if I'm not working. I remember spending many days and nights in my dad's studio, and I wish the same for her.

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I struggled with my daily sketches these last few days. To find the joy and the motivation to draw when so drained is like pulling teeth for me. I feel like Tinkerbell, only able to handle one emotion at a time, except it's more than just emotions, but actions too. I did it, and I'm proud of myself for getting them done. It's okay to not be elaborate, or detailed, or whatever else I think I HAVE to be. Sometimes, just a simple sketch is all there needs to be.

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2. Love thy Studio + The Daily Sketch

A sink full of dirty half rinsed dishes; toys and paper scattered waiting for a foot to stomp on them; cluttered dining room table ranging from a stuffed bunny to a lint roller; laundry decorating our couch and our bedroom dresser; and shoes beckoning to be tripped over at the front door.

This is my house, most every day. It makes me feel squished, with no room to move without knocking something over or stepping onto something. I'm clumsy and that always means I will stub my toe, ram my elbow, slam my hand, or bang my knee. It's crazy how many nicks and bruises I get.

Yet, I look to my right and I see sun light beaming in from the windows in my studio.
An immediate "ahhh" relaxes my mind and all is right again.

If this winter has taught me anything, it's that my studio truly is my place of solitude. 

I used to tell people it was because I think artists are supposed to say that. It's expected of us to love our studio, a place where the creation happens, a place filled with things that inspire. Mine has been in a constant state of change since I moved away from home to college back in 2000.

When we moved into this house I was so excited to have a space I could settle in and not worry for a long time. I didn't expect it to be so cumbersome.

My studio has poor insulation, so during the hot Iowa summers and freezing Iowa winters, it's very uncomfortable at different times of the day. I've had to continuously change my schedule to fit. I've had to move everything constantly so that Brian could get to the windows for more insulation, or to add carpet scraps, or or or. And I know more is coming.

But this week, with all of the sun, regardless of the temp, my studio has been bright, warm, inviting, and mine. No more moving clutter to work on the dining room table, no more stepping on stuff when I get up to grab something I need, none of that. I feel whole.

I will bundle up, buy another mini heater for my toes, I will put a fan on my face and wear ice cubes, whatever it takes. I love my studio!

The icing on the cake? My daughter being able to spend time in the studio with me. That's what I've envisioned for a long time, my hope, my joy today. She makes the studio brighter with her smile, her giggle, and her curiosity. Bringing out the crayola crayons doesn't hurt either.

There is one other place in my entire house that I find peaceful and full of light. The only other place in the house that is always filled with the light rays, and that is our bathroom. It's silly, but when we moved in it was our first project, and it set the tone for the whole house (what we dream). It's full of birds. :)

It's so easy for me to be distracted by all the chores, they pull me away from my work and drain my creativity. Yet, last night, I didn't let it get to me. Here are this week's Daily Sketches and joys, #10, #11, and #12.

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3. Taking Flight

For years I have felt clipped down. 

Every time I jump to fly I get cut down by my circumstances and emotions.
I have allowed them control of my life...ALL aspects of my life. As an artist this gives me a lot of substance to work with, but it also holds me back. Way back.

I prelude this post with that because I want you to understand where I'm coming from. As a wife to an amazing man (they're rare and I was blessed with one!); a mother to a baby girl who loves to make you laugh and smiles so bright; a homemaker with a solid, strong house we just can't believe is ours; a gift that I truly just adore, drawing truly is my soul; but I've been depressed, unhappy, at my ropes end over and over again, and I'm beyond tired.

I have talked about this before in past posts, it's not a secret that I keep, and I willingly share it because I know I AM NOT ALONE. Especially as a woman. We all suffer greatly with the multitude of responsibilities gifted to us. And I use the word gifted, because I now remind myself "I GET to be his wife, I GET to be her mom, I GET to do what I love for a living!". Wow, amen to that!

Back to what I'm saying...
my point is I'm done trying. I'm finished. Ta ta, bye bye, no more. It's over.

What better time to say that than the beginning of a new year! Here are some highlights of "wow" moments for me about this year:

15 years ago I graduated high school.
I am 33 this year, the same age Jesus was when he sacrificed his life for mine.
My daughter turns one January 28th.
My husband has been supporting us for 5 years.

I am at a place where I know now is the time to just stop. Stop trying to take control, stop making excuses, stop thinking so darn hard about what to do, and instead DO IT. Commit to my life.

Commit to my life.

I want to fly. I realized after years and years, the truth behind why I paint fairies, angels, and mermaids (thank you Kelly for helping me get there). It's because they are free, or at least symbolize freedom. For a mermaid there is no ground and sky, they roam all of it. For a fairy there is not ground or sky untouched, they grace all of it. Angels can transcend time and realms between earth and heaven. Freedom. Flight. I'm inspired and take a deep breath. Amazing.


I purchased the abilities to have a shop on my website, and the whole site will be changing in the next couple of months. I am so excited to see the support from you, my followers, on Etsy, but to be honest the fees are starting to wear at the income I need to bring in for our family. Plus I will be able to offer so much more on my site, including my book, coloring book, and more. I can't wait!

I also purchased my first e-book, Flying Lessons, by Kelly Rae Roberts. I must say, I'm floored by how spot on she is as a teacher and coach. She's very airy, in depth, and in tuned with her creative spirit. I had mentioned her in the past ( read Life Inspired post here ), and how she inspires me....oh buddy does she inspire me. Her words, colors, textures, and how she shares being a seeker of Joy, filled with light, hope, and possibilities. As an artist I truly believe there are those of us who are called to be artisans of light. I KNOW I am one of them. I KNOW who I want to be, deep down inside, just waiting for the permission to FLY.

Her e-book not only helps the business end of things (which she lays it all down and hides no detail from you), she goes deep into facing your fears, finding your inspiration, your passion, your quiet whispering voice just waiting to come out. And then asks you to commit to your creative business. Merging both. Being both. Living with the joy it brings. Loving YOU.

Loving me as ME.

My spiritual path has started this year with a bang of AH HA, it's so much more than the e-book. We found a new church home we are so at peace with, the new messages being given, new tools handed to me, and renewed, meaningful relationships. It's all falling together amongst chaos, and I give all of the credit to Jesus. It's scary to say that in the open because I know what is attached to that in so many ways, on so many levels, but as a former practicing witch, spiritually seeking wanderer, and a highly curious person, it is by his grace I am where I am today. I have to squint to stay focused, but I'm committed. Committed to him and my life.

There is so much more for my business, and to share. Changes are coming visually for the blog (it will most likely be moving) and website, my approach, and you may even see just a tad bit of change in how I paint. Look for it, and let me know what you think. I hope you're just as excited as I am.
Happy New Year everyone!

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4. Holidazed

Yay! I finally received my copies of the January spread I did for Highlights Magazine! Love love LOVE how the colors came out on this one.

I hope you guys get to pick up a copy! 


So for those that don’t know yet, we’re expecting our first baby!! Yipee!!! I’m nearing my final trimester, there are two books in the pipeline with very tight back to back deadlines so I’m trying my best to beat the 3rd trimester fatigue and getting as much done as I can while I CAN!

I’ve been so wrapped up with work lately it’s been challenging to find the time to indulge in any holiday fun. But this weekend I put my foot on the breaks and was finally able to let myself indulge in some seasonal goodies. It was a nice and much needed break!


All the while I was working over the weekend on sketches for them, I received this little fun card from the team at ABDO. Thanks ABDO!


We finally found time to actually buy a tree (his name is “Monty”) and make some christmas cookies for the postman and a few of our dearest and nearest…I wrapped them fast this year, or else they’d all end up in my belly..hee hee. I tell yah, there’s nothing like taking in some holiday music and the smell of cookies and pine to get you caught right up in all this season cheer!!

Happy Holidays!!

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5. SAHM Artists Need Help

I have always been a free bird, doing something the hard way... a hundred times to get it done, impulse buyer and doer, and I love to organize but hate to follow organization/schedules. So when we had Norah on top of all this, I felt a bit topsy turvy. How do you stay full time mom, full time artist, and full time wife?

Help. Lots and lots of help.

I'm sitting here writing this post as my mom does my dishes. It's something she truly enjoys doing for us on a monthly basis (often times twice a month). And it's AH MA ZING! There are many Fridays where she leaves work early and comes to give Norah hugs and kisses (and books, and play, and animal sounds, and walks), that frees me up for an hour or two. Big help.

On Tuesdays my mother in law, Karen, watches Norah for several hours in the morning. A good chunk of time to get some painting done, and Norah gets a lot of snuggly hugs.

Wednesdays I have my dear friend Andi come and watch her for several hours in the morning with coffee and then we all do lunch.

On Thursdays my sister in law, Joni, watches her for a couple hours while I go sit at a coffee shop and breathe. When my niece and nephew get out of school the cousins hang out for a bit together. Great family time.

My sister, other friends, and our parents will help watch her in the evenings so Brian and I can have date nights.

And then there's my hubby. He does so much! After a long day at work he comes home, grabs Norah out of my hands, and he's on daddy duty for the rest of the night. I can get so much done because of his willingness to do the evenings. Same with the weekends, we alternate.

I am always curious as to how stay at home moms who are also artists get their work done with a baby/toddler around. Norah has gotten to a stage where I can get very little done while she is awake and I have to give in to that. I WANT to give in to that and watch her explore, learning about the world around her.

I would not be able to get what I get done without the help of others. I know some who do, and that just blows me away. I applaud them with a standing ovation because I know myself well enough I would overheat and give up. My discipline still has strides of work to go in the field of 'getting it done'. It takes a lot of practice!

I have messed up in my business because of the many, many tasks I do, I have allowed Norah to watch tv so I can get a task done, I have even let her stay in the crib wanting out after a nap just to finish up an Etsy listing (I am aware these are very normal events all of us parents do), I have mailed orders out later than intended because I simply got overwhelmed and forgot, and I have checks that have sat around waiting to be deposited from months ago.

I'm not ashamed, and won't be. I will be realistic that life happens, and stuff needs to get done. My daughter has me all of the time, and I give almost just as much into my marriage and business. I think we're good. I say it all the time, but it never seems like enough....

I am SO BLESSED to have the life, the people, the husband, and the time I have today.
Wow. So good!

How do you manage life?
My situation is we can't afford childcare or babysitters, and I understand everyones situation or circumstance is very different from the other. This is how we make it work. 

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6. a birthday celebration....

painting tiny dots...
©the enchanted easel 2014
almost done!

...'cause every good cat costume needs a pretty red bow.
©the enchanted easel 2014

perhaps someone has tapped into my Mally Beauty stash...;)
©the enchanted easel 2014

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7. Illustrator & Printmaker Daniel Danger

daniel 2

I first stumbled across Daniel Danger’s work quite a while ago and it stuck with me ever since. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the chance to meet him, but if/when I do, I have a feeling it’ll be like seeing an old friend.

daniel 5

Daniel is a Boston-based illustrator, mediamaker and printmaker with a penchant for urban scenery, natural landscapes, vintage guitar effect pedals and creepy memories. His style is marked by confident black strokes and eerie uses of color, often looking to one solid shade to create haunting contrast. You might have seen instances of his work through gig posters for bands such as The Black Keys, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists and Flight of the Conchords. He’s also worked with clients like Universal Pictures, Dreamworks, Penguin Books, Polyvinyl Records and ABC Television.

daniel 4

daniel 3

His aesthetic strongly reminds me of Tugboat Printshop–the obsessive linework and powerful contrast work beautifully in a screenprinted format. I think art is especially successful when it looks good across a variety of formats (screen, print, phone, etc). He reflects the best and worst of reality, and most interestingly, his works reflect what’s neither here nor there–ghosts of forgotten cities, empty theaters, silent roads. Daniel demonstrates a sincere concern for the elements of life that continue to exist without inhabitation–an awareness that is rarely paralleled.

daniel 8

I feel an extreme bond to Daniel not only over our shared love of creepy abandoned houses, but also because he’s yet another illustrator-musician hybrid (currently on tour in Europe right now, as a matter of fact). In a lot of ways, I couldn’t imagine him not being a musician–if that makes any sense. These pieces would all go entirely too well with some Neko Case or Laura Veirs songs.

The detail of his works is nearly overwhelming to the point of obscurity–as, sometimes, the most realistic aspects of life are the ones that are the most difficult to understand.

Follow along with Daniel and his breathtaking work:





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8. Alexis Anne Mackenzie

Alexis Anne Mackenzie Alexis Anne Mackenzie Alexis Anne Mackenzie Alexis Anne Mackenzie Alexis Anne Mackenzie


Alexis Anne Mackenzie is a collage artist, who was born in Michigan and is now based in San-Francisco.  Her work has appeared in many publications including: Zeit Magazin, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The New York Times.  Alexis Anne Mackenzie’s work has been exhibited internationally including shows in L.A and Poland.  I’m personally a big fan of collage artists/ illustrators and I think these images have a really original and quirky feel to them, which are very inspiring.

To find out more visit her Facebook and website.

posted by Jessica Holden

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9. Guest Post; Martha Mans and Gordon

Hello March House Books readers. Let me introduce myself. My name is Martha Mans and I am a fine artist. I have been painting in watercolour and oil all my life.  And what does this have to do with children’s books you might ask.

Well, as a child I loved to read and I especially was fond of looking at the illustrations. Being a very visual child I loved the magic that the illustrator created with their drawings and paintings.

As a mother I loved to read to my children and watch them light up as I read the stories and point to the illustrations and talk to me about them. One of their greatest joys was to go to bookstores with me and choose books that I could read to them and eventually they could read for themselves.

As an artist I have been lucky to go to some wonderful places to paint.

Such is the case of the beautiful Medano/Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, where I have the privilege of being invited to paint each year. It is home of a herd of over 2500 American bison. Most of the time you can't get close to these magnificent American icons so when a little bison was found alone out on the range and needed to be rescued everyone on the ranch couldn't stay away and talked of nothing else. One of the ranch hands gave him the name Gordon. 

Pictures from Zapata Ranch

I was immediately intrigued. As I've said before, I'm an artist and I suppose that is why the book started taking shape with paintings of Gordon. Sometime later when I began thinking about a story for a little bison it came to me that this little bison didn't know what he was because he was not with a herd and there was no other bison around to teach him. He couldn't go back into the herd, it would be impossible to get them to accept him. So he had to go on a journey of self discovery and find a place where he fit in and could be happy. This is how “Gordon”, my first attempt at a children’s book, was born.

The Medano/Zapata Ranch is protected by the Nature Conservancy and dedicated to preserving the animals and their habitat. So, in developing the story it was great fun to discover animals that were indigenous to the land and have them meet Gordon. Through them he would learn about the ranch and find out eventually who he is.

I loved drawing and painting Gordon but I had to learn something about baby bison first. I soon discovered that baby bison are born sometime between April and June. A very young bison is reddish in color and is called a calf. They are also known as “red dogs”. It is easy to pick them out from the adult bison, who have dark brown coats. The baby bison stays close to its mother for about one year and she protects and teaches it many things to help it survive. Around September it’s coat begins to turn darker brown, it’s shoulder hump begins to appear and it’s horns begin to grow. It begins to eat grass and plants. The young bison continues to grow for three or four more years, until it becomes an adult. 

It’s scary to think how close we came to no longer having this awesome animal around today. The herds that once numbered in the millions were reduced to fewer than one thousand by the late 1800s. Due to many people who worked hard the herds have grown back to where the bison are no longer in danger of becoming extinct.

So if you do travel west during the summer months take the time to look for the red colored babies in a bison herd. Have fun watching them run, jump and play as all baby animals do and give thanks that this magnificent animal is still here and once again roams parts of the west.

Also remember you can visit the real Gordon at the Zapata Ranch like I did this earlier this year.

PS: I’d like to thank Barbara for letting me share this story on her blog. Hope you enjoyed it!

You can find out more about "Gordon" at: Gordon the bison

or buy the book at Gordonthebison.com

Thank you so much Martha your illustrations are beautiful.   I would love to visit Gordon and the other animals at the Zapata Ranch one day. Barbara

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10. On Being an Artist


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11. Interview with 16-Year-Old Artist Reyes Rosa

Today, Kid L it Reviews is pleased to bring you an interview with Reyes Rosa, a sixteen-year-old, up-and-coming illustrator. He is here to also showcase some of his work which I think you will enjoy.  (All art copyright © 2014 by Reyes Rosas.)


Hi, Reyes. Let’s start at the beginning. How old were you when you began seriously drawing?

I’m 16, now.   And I began seriously drawing last year.

The illustrations here, how old were, Reyes when you created them?HNI_0094

I drew most of them recently.

What is it about illustrating that you like so well?

I find it fun and exciting to give characters life.

 Is there anything you don’t like?

I love everything I do.

Reyes, who is your favorite artist and why?

I do not have a favorite artist. I don’t watch other illustrators.


Has a piece of art or character that influenced your art?

This is Kirby and he was my inspiration to start drawing when I was younger.

Kirby is your muse. How does Kirby influence you? 

At the time, he seemed so fun and lively. And he could become anything he wanted, simply by inhaling it!


How old were you at the time?

I really don’t remember, but I think I was about 11

Until Kirby came along, how much did you draw?

Before that I really didn’t draw at all.

I love the interesting character study you did of a Kirby. I really like all the expressions and positions you included.



I love your art I have seen. The digital illustrations are fantastic an on the level of much I see today in picture books. How did you learn to make digital art?

I am a self taught artist and the program I mostly use is Colors 3D for digital art.

Did you have any help? Maybe a book on drawing?

I didn’t use any outside sources, I just started drawing.

Some of those art programs have a large learning-curve. No one helped you learn any of it?

No. I have done everything on my own, thru trial and error.


Color 3D is a new one for me. What are the advantages/disadvantages of using Color 3D?

Some of the advantages are that it is a very comfortable, easy to use program. It isn’t cluttered by any unnecessary options. And some of the disadvantages are that the program is a little limited in terms of image resolution and tools.

Was Color 3D difficult to learn?

The program itself did not take long to get comfortable with, but acquiring  the skills took quite some time.

HNI_0008_JPGHave you tried using any of the usual programs illustrators like? (Illustrator, Photoshop, Manga 5, Corel Draw, or the open source Gimp)

I have not used any others because this one is the most comfortable for me to use. I have tried Gimp, but found that it is a little overcomplicated. And the others, I just don’t have the funds for.

Do you use a graphic pad?

I do not have a graphic pad, but I have wanted to try one. I use a stylus.


What is your normal process when creating illustrations?  Do you sketch and then scan, paint and then scan to finish other areas? How do you get such great looking illustrations?

I usually just sketch within the program and then build the drawing from there.

Which part of the process do you enjoy most – sketching, painting, or digital illustration?

I love sketching and digital illustration. I don’t like the initial starting process of getting a rough sketch down, but I love the process of coloring and shading.


I know you would like to illustrate children’s books. Have you any experience? 

I have worked with my mother on her kids cookbook doing the illustrations for it.

What you interests you about a career illustrating children’s books?

I like working in the children’s market because it’s more creative and less limited and lets me have more freedom in what I create.


Reyes you are a young man with lots of time ahead of you. Have you decided the life path you will take? Will it include art?

Yes, it will definitely include art and I would like to do 3D rendered animation in the future.

Have you thought about college and the art programs they have?

I have not thought about it yet, because I am only 16. But, my mom has thought about sending me to the Art Institute Of Chicago.

HNI_0009You’ve got to love moms. They are always one step ahead.

What do you do to relax?

I like to play video games.HNI_0011






What would be the most important advice you would give to young artist following you?

Never give up on any drawing, it might look bad at the start, but that’s only part of the process.

 What would you like to get out of this interview?

 I would like for you to share my art with others.

What is the next step for you and your art?

 I want to take my art to where I can do this professionally and have someone represent me.


Thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Reviews. In kids lit, an up and coming new artist interested in creating children’s books is exciting. Your innate talent is inspiring. I hope you become and accomplish all you wish to achieve.



Reyes is a self-taught digital artist and
pencil illustrator with a focus on character
art for video gaming and children’s literature.
He has been drawing since he was old enough
to hold a crayon. Reyes is a passionate guy who is
ready to take the next leap by pursuing art as a career.
Reyes is off the grid, but as been encouraged to build a blog so others may find him and his art.
Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: Children's Books, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Illustrator Spotlight, Interviews Tagged: artist, children's books, digital medium, illustration, kidlit, Reyes Rosas

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12. Summer Vacation – lllustration by Bob Ostrom Studio

summer vacation, beach, sun tan, illustration, bob ostromSummer Vacation!

Hope everyone is having a great summer! Last week I headed down to the beach here in North Carolina for a short little summer vacation. Unfortunately it rained harder than I’ve ever seen it rain. It was one of those rains where you think it can’t possibly rain any harder but then it does….all day. Just as we checked into the hotel it started let up. The sun popped out for about an hour and half so the kids and I grabbed our boogie boards and headed down to the ocean. Right about the time we decided to to get out of the water the rain came back. And so it went the following day. Two hours of sun at the beach in the morning (with the darkest storm cloud I’ve ever seen on the horizon) followed by a torrential down pour. Since we don’t live too far we decided enough was enough, jumped in the car and headed back home. All in all everyone had a pretty great time. I think maybe we’ll head down another time before the summer is done and see if we can’t get a little better weather.

The post Summer Vacation – lllustration by Bob Ostrom Studio appeared first on Illustration.

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13. Drawing Super Heroes – Wonder Woman


ostrom-wonderwomanFrom the Blue Sky Folder – Wonder Woman in Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 by Bob Ostrom Studio

The post Drawing Super Heroes – Wonder Woman appeared first on Illustration.

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14. Illustrator Submission :: Jack Hudson

Post by Chloe

GB App3

Mental Floss Magazine


Jack Hudson is an illustrator from East London whose retro style has attracted a lot of big clients such as Google, Channel 4, Toyota and many press publications. He is inspired by fashion, photography, mid-century design and adventure. His illustrations are textural which really makes them pop and feel warmer rather than flat vector images. The colours used are usually bold and work beautifully together.

Want to explore more of Jack Hudson’s world? Visit his portfolio here.

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15. Julia

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16. the maker makes

A bit of retro here. This is an oldie. It's actually six years old - where did that go?
Anyway, I'm having a clear out of all my old cassettes, so, this too is up for sale.
You can get your hands on it HERE.

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17. The Blue Sky Folder

childrens book illustration, blue sky folder, ostrom, mouse, bicycle, crass, illustration, photoshop, illustrator

The Blue Sky Folder

Deep in the archives of my computer there is a small beacon of light that shines brightly through the darkness. It’s called the Blue Sky Folder. Inside is a collection of sketches, experiments, new styles, new techniques, story concepts and a bunch of projects in various stages of completion. This folder is basically a resting place for all the ideas that rattle around inside my head long enough for me to get them down on paper or into various stages of digital completion. Like many other artists I’m always restless to try new things and this is my outlet. 

This is a Blue Sky piece I began almost 3 years ago. I wasn’t quite sure where I was headed with it at the time so I put it in hold to work on other things. I had totally forgotten about it until I was leafing through the the folder recently and it caught my eye. One of the main reasons I had put this one on hold was that the techniques I’d used to create it were very time consuming and a bit unrefined. Looking at the piece again I realized that the solution was sitting right in front of me. I didn’t have my Cintiq tablet when I started so any digital freehand drawing was pretty much out of the question? As I popped the file up on my screen I realized that was no longer an obstacle. It only took me a few hours to finish the piece and I’m psyched because now I finally have a great way to save time and paint right on the computer.

The post The Blue Sky Folder appeared first on Illustration.

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18. The Artist and the King by Julie Fortenberry

The Artist and the King
by Julie Fortenberry
Alazar Press, due out April 7, 2014
review copy provided by the author

Daphne is an artist, but her art -- an honest portrait of His Crabbiness -- does not please the king. Daphne's punishment is to wear the picture, rolled up, as a dunce cap, instead of her beloved red artist's beret.

Almost immediately upon donning the dunce cap, Daphne's Art kicks in. She begins to add decorations to customize the cap. "Soon she was getting compliments." And she began to sell the hats. They became all the rage.

Which enraged the king.

He banished all dunce cap wearers to the wilderness. Even his own daughter, who threw the extra cap she was carrying at his feet and walked with the others into the woods.

Daphne goes back to rescue the flung cap and discovers the king crying. They share a moment of apology and self-realization, then discover that the cap was intended as a gift to the king from his daughter. Together they bring all the villagers back from the woods, and Daphne is given back her beret.

In the current (March/April 2014) issue of The HornBook, the final essay (Cadenza) is "Reading Picture Books 101" by Robin L. Smith. I'll walk you though her seven steps with The Artist and the King.

1. Look at the cover. The cover illustration of The Artist and the King lets us know it's a windy day. This is absolutely necessary for the plot development.

2. Take the paper jacket off and see whether the board cover is different. Nope.

3. Now examine the endpapers. Plain blue.

4. Peruse the title page. The story actually starts here (I love books that do this)! Daphne is painting a picture of His Crabbiness, and the villagers who are her audience are appreciating her art.

5. Read the book all the way through without reading the words. Pay attention to page turns, white space, and pacing. This is a fascinating way to read a picture book -- thinking about the design process, movement in the illustrations, artistic decisions made by the illustrator. The story absolutely is told coherently through the pictures in this book!

6. Read the book with the words. Think about how the words and pictures work together. There are two places where the words in the illustrations interact with the words in the story. I might not have noticed that if not for this list of steps! When read on its own, the text has a nice flow, with long and short sentences and accessible vocabulary peppered with words perfectly chosen for the story: regal, mockery, banished.

7. Go back and check every gutter. Now that's something I'm SURE I've never done, but how smart to make sure that the art matches up across the gutter and that nothing important gets lost there where the left page turns into the right. In The Artist and the King, when the gutter is not used to divide the pages into separate scenes, there is very intentional movement from one page to the other across the gutter. Fascinating!

These seven simple steps make me want to dive into a study of picture books with my students! One savvy reader noted recently that hardly anyone reads from the picture book shelf in my classroom. This may be a way to get some buy-in from fifth graders who are "too cool" for picture books!

The Artist and the King will definitely have a place in my classroom library, as well as in a study of picture books, and in our discussions about theme. Three cheers for a character who stays true to her passion, her art, and who helps the unfair and crabby king to soften up and be more accepting!

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19. What's Your Worth?

Story Four of the 2013 One series is now available.

You Are a Million $ Baby
by Sudè Khanian

My friend Sudè returns to the One series with a touching story of how we define ourselves and how we view others in our life. What we get is a tapestry of ideas flowing together with her unique way with words. If you have ever seen her paintings, the way she writes is an extension of that energy. It is easy to identify with the narrator of her story. However, as a father, I saw the conclusion a little differently. A lot of this piece is about inner strength and how we react to people in our life. Do we run away screaming or do we embrace our differences?

100% of the author’s proceeds will be donated to Bridge to Ability Specialized Learning Center, a not-for-profit organization serving the educational and therapeutic needs of fragile children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. www.BridgeToAbility.org. The authors, creator and publisher are in no other way affiliated with this organization.

Mark Miller’s One 2013 is a spiritual anthology examining True-Life experiences of Authors and their Faith. As the series evolves expect to discover what it means to have faith, no matter what that faith is and no matter where they live. Remember that we are all part of this One World.

Story Four is a touching look at us all. This story could take place at any time and to any person. It is a story of love lost and life abandoned. The author asks us if our imperfections can be seen as beauty. She also explores where we find strength and hope?

Get Story Four on Kindle: http://amzn.to/YoOvEI
Also available on Nook and Kobo

Please visit the Authors of One on Facebook

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20. Illustrator Saturday – Kirsten Carlson

kirstenscbwi scrawlcrawl in paris 2013Kirsten’s career combines what she loves best about science, art & design. She is dedicated to creating illustrations, graphics, logos and stories that inspire connections between people & nature.

After volunteering and working  for over 10 years with Monterey Bay Aquarium, Kirsten now works out of her own studio. She is a children’s book illustrator & writer, as well as a visual science communications consultant. Kirsten collaborates on projects with scientists, educators, educational institutions, private companies and publishers to tell people stories about nature and science.

Kirsten illustrations style ranges from whimsical watercolor paintings to scientifically accurate pen & ink illustrations. The project’s audience dictates the style and medium. Her illustration work appears in scientific journals, greeting cards, posters, books, aquariums and brochures. Her design communication projects include logos, print and online collateral.

Kirsten brings her enthusiasm and skills as artist, scientist, and designer to every project she works on. She finds inspiration in nature and knowledge and strives to communicate that in her work.

Kirsten is the SCBWI Regional Advisor in Germany+Austria. She started out on AdCom in WA for 2 years (designing newsletter and conferece materials and the traveling booth use at different events in the USA like ALA). After she moved to Germany, she took over as Illustrator Coordinator for 1.5 yrs before taking over the RA position there. She just became an SCBWI board member and the International Illustrator Coordinator last fall, but has to retire when her family moves to hawaii (IIC must live on international soil).

She and her husband Dave, along with their two cats and two dogs, currently live near the Black Forest in Southern Germany.

kirstenbologna 2010

Here is Kirsten:

I worked directly with the author, Joni Sensel, to create the design for the cover. Because it was going to be the 3rd in a series we wanted to incorporate some elements so it echoed the previous covers, I knew I wouldn’t be able to copy the illustration style of the previous covers so I suggested scratchboard because I know well from my scientific illustration work and I wanted to create in image with strong contrast.

Special tools needed to do scratchboard:
  1. clay-coated board
  2. scratching tool(s)
  3. permanent ink (ie. india ink)
  4. permanent ink pens (for adding lines)
The clay-coated board is available in white and black (black means it is already coated with ink). I prefer to apply my own ink because I don’t want to spend a lot of time scratching away ‘white’ areas, I’d rather leave them white from the beginning.
I learned on Essdee Scraperboard (from the UK: www.essdee.co ) but I now prefer Ampersand (www.ampersandart.com) because they put the clay coating on masonite and it’s better protected from cracking. If you use Essdee, you just have to make sure that you put it on a backer board.
You can use just about any sharp tool to scratch the clay surface, it just need to be sharp or you get a ‘fuzzy’ line on the clay. I go through a lot of blades on an illustration, and change them often. My favorite tools are an X-Acto blade #16 and a Scratch-Art flat blade and a Speedball Round Knife. But they make a ton of different types of scratch-tools.
Here are some places you can find the supplies:

kirsten4- preliminary sketches

I did some very loose thumbnails and we quickly chose three compositions that I sketched in more detail. We ended up combining two of the sketches into one composition, and I did a preliminary sketch.

kirsten5 separate pieces

I kept the background, people and knife elements separately.


My assistant (aka husband) made a knife specifically for me based partly on Joni’s description of the knife in the story. Then all I had to do, was draw it from the real-thing.


I uploaded a video showing the process but it didn’t turn out well (learning curve. newbie mistake stuff) but maybe it will help visualize the following.  https://vimeo.com/67728895

1.transfer art to clay-coated board (usually using Saral graphite paper in blue)
2.ink the areas that will be ‘mostly’ black
3.wait for it to dry (blow dryer speeds up the process)
4.scratch and blow off the dust (it is better to use a brush to wipe the scraped powder into a pile, but I either blow or tap the art on the table)
5.the more you scratch the better it gets. I am a messy-scratcher, some ppl are very precise.
6.repairing problem spots is easy—scrape away excess ink or add ink with pens or brush.
7.two tips: make sure you let the ink dry completely before scraping, if the clay is damp from the ink you won’t get a nice clear line; it’s better to apply ink to thinly and have to do multiple layers than add it too thick and get a thick-spot on the illustration (if you buy pre-inked clay board you skip this problem)
kirsten7 skeletons knife final cover

The final cover is a Black and white illustration in scratchboard with digital color, using the same font as the first book (and edition) in the series.


The Giraffe Who was Afraid of Heights was done by hand in watercolor and gouache.
After I said I would illustrate the story, I filled up a sketch book researching Africa, giraffes, monkeys, hippos and crocodiles. My file folder is full of stuff, even after several purges of material. I even went to a zoo where I could hide in a special blind to observe giraffes and I went to a reptile zoo to study crocodiles up close.

I used gouache  to paint the cover and the publisher added the background from another spread to go behind the giraffe head) and added the text and border.

I use almost exclusively Winsor & Newton with some from Daniel Smith paint. I also love Waterford papers the best, Arches smells like wet-dog to me when I start laying down washes (and I get plenty of that smell with my real-life wet dogs). I’ve recently fallen in love with a bamboo watercolor paper from Hahnemühle. I have oodles of brushes, and go through phases where I have favorites, usually varies project by project. I seem to have a lot of DaVinci brand.

How did you end up moving to Germany. How long have you been there? Do you plan to go back to the states in the future?

I fell in love with a military man while living in Monterey, California. We arrived in Germany five years ago (Sept 08) for his job and were supposed to stay in Europe until 2015. However, the military made some unexpected changes and we are moving to Hawai’i this summer. I wasn’t ready to leave but I’m super excited about being near the ocean again.
I see that you have a BS in Biology.


How and when did you get involved in art?

I’ve have been artistic since childhood, but I didn’t start pursuing it professionally until I was in graduate school for marine science. For two months, I spent many hours diving underwater doing research in Antarctica with icebergs, amphipods, penguins and seals. That experience changed my life forever. I was blown away by the unbelievable and unfathomable things I saw and it inspired me to reach beyond science in search of a way to communicate what I experienced to other people.

I found a graduate program that combined science and art—graduated with a Science Illustration Certificate from the University of California, Santa Cruz (the program is now located at California State University, Monterey Bay) and have been illustrating professionally ever since.

Did you ever take any art lessons?

Absolutely…and I still take art lessons whenever possible. I’m definitely addicted to learning. I took one art class as an undergraduate, but much of my illustration training is from the Science Illustration program and the amazing instructors that are still teaching there. I’ve pondered whether I should go back to school for a degree in Children’s Book illustration.


What was the first art related thing you got paid for?

This Kelp Forest illustration for a brochure on diving in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It was a work-for-hire project. Graphite, but printed in one-color (blue).

kirstenphoto 2

How did you get your first picture book assignment? Which book was it?

My first picture book assignment was a story called “You Can’t Untie a Knot of Toads.” It’s a concept book about what groups of animals are called. A friend wrote it and wanted me to illustrate it, so we could submit it to publishers (we didn’t know about keeping writing & illustrating submissions separate). We got rejection letters from Chronicle and Houghton Mifflin and I have since lost touch with the author.

kirstenphoto 3
kirstenphoto 4

You have quite a resume with books, posters, greeting cards and magazines. Which one got you started?

I started with t-shirt designs and logo designs while still in high school. In my 20s, I did an internship with a group called Friends of the Sea Otter and they put my artwork on boxer shorts and sold tons of them. I think that officially nudged me in the direction of wanting to do more illustration.

kirstenphoto 5

Do you think you will start submitting to the Children’s Magazines out there?

Yes. There are so many amazing magazines for kids and I think a few of them might find my illustration style appropriate. I submitted my work to Ranger Rick in the 90s but was rejected.

What types of things helped you develop your illustrations and style?

Going to graduate school for scientific illustration was a huge catalyst, and taking classes from people who inspire me through SCBWI and other informal educational groups. But, listening to feedback from fellow illustrators and sketching as often as possible have been the most valuable resources in developing my style. I’ve been consciously working on developing a more narrative style, like the character for Sleepy Seal.

kirstenphoto 6
Have the materials you use changed over the years?

Most definitely. I’ve migrated from doing everything by hand to integrating the computer more and more. I still use pencil (and think it is integral to my style) as my primary drawing tool but I’ve expanded coloring my works digitally.

Have you ever tried to write and illustrate a children’s book?

Yes. I’ve actually been taking a break from illustrating to work on my own stories and strengthen my writing. I am currently working on three picture books and one middle grade illustrated novel. One of the picture books is called Pool Shark.

kirstenphoto 7

It looks like your first children’s book was “The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights” by David Ufer and published by Sylvan Dell. How did you land that contract?

I was contacted by the publisher after attending the SCBWI NY conference in February 2005. The publisher saw my illustration of a polar bear and sent me the text for a story about a giraffe. I said, “Yes, please!” and I signed a contract two months later. I had six months to complete the artwork.

kirstenphoto 8
What types of things do you do to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

I have primarily attended SCBWI events and conferences—participating in portfolio and/or illustration showcases, and signing up for critiques. At the SCBWI LA conference, I won 1st place for Realistic Portfolio, two years in a row.


Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have the represented you? If not, would you like one?

I do not have an agent and am definitely seeking someone to represent me.


How many books have you illustrated?

I’ve illustrated three picture books and one activity book.

Did you self-publish your new activity book, “Where the Land and Sea Meet”? How do people order it if they want a copy?

No, but I am the illustrator, author and art director. The activity book is an education outreach project that a team of scientists published through their universities. It is currently available in English from University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska Sea Grant: http://seagrant.uaf.edu/bookstore/pubs/SG-ED-74.html
And is available in Italian from Pisa University Press:
It’s also been translated into Spanish but it’s not yet published.


Talk about doing research and your homework. Kirsten takes it to the next level.

kirsten3b-croc study

What types of research do you do for your illustrations? It looks like you snorkel. Do you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?

I love to do research, sketch and photograph extensively for projects. I enjoy learning as much as I love drawing. I will sketch in the cold & snow and even underwater to research my subjects.

Who is Taylor Trade Publishing and how did you end up illustrating Sea Secrets: Tiny Clues to a Big Mystery for them?

They are the parent company for the imprint, Moonlight Publishing. They are printing and distributing all the educational picture books for a scientific group called The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. I was contacted by the Education and Outreach Coordinator for one of the LTER research groups because she like my illustrations for Ocean Seasons. I designed and illustrated the book for a flat fee, and worked with Beth Simmons, the Education and Outreach Coordinator on several more really fun education projects (but not kids books).

kirstenphoto 11a
kirstenphoto 11b

kirstenphoto 11c

I see Ocean Seasons just came out in paperback. Was it previously printed as a hardcover?

It was published as a hardcover in 2007. Sylvan Dell also offers it as an eBook in Spanish & English.

kirstenphoto 12 a

How do you keep your illustrating talent on the minds of your clients?

Ideally, I would be sending out postcards a few times a year, but I have a lot of opportunity to grow in this area. I’m becoming more active in social media as a way to stay connected to clients that are also using social media.

kirstenphoto 12 c
Have you gotten any work through networking?

Most definitely. Meeting people in person and showcasing my illustrations at conferences are the primary ways I’ve gotten work. Specifically, at conferences involving the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, National Marine Educators Association, and Western Society of Naturalists.

kirstenphoto 12b

Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

I’ve done one every few years, they are a great motivator to produce work and it’s a great way to reach out to the local community.

kirstenphoto 14

Do you ever use Photoshop?

Almost every day. I haven’t decided if I will continue to use them since they are going to be subscription-only, but for now I use Adobe CS5 for 99% of my digital work.

kirstenphoto 15

Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?

I have and adore my Wacom Cintiq display and Bamboo tablet. They are fantastic tools for working digitally. I use them primarly for touching up work.


How much time do you spend working on your illustrating?

In an ideal week, I spend 20-30 hours on illustrating. However, I’ve invested a lot of time in the last two years to writing and networking. The last year has been less than ideal creatively because my husband was deployed to Afganistan, and I had to juggle several things solo. But now he’s back and things are getting back to normal. As soon as we’re settled in Hawai’i, I look forward to getting back to my ideal week.

kirstenphoto 16

Do you still do your greeting cards?

Yes! I did a greeting card as a promotional mailer for Valentine’s Day this year. The company that originally distributed my cards went out of business and the copyright has reverted to me, and I’d like to continue doing greeting cards as part of my income stream. They are fun and enjoyable short-term projects.

kirstenphoto 13
What is the most important tool or material that you use?

I love my sketchbook bag with my beat-up watercolor set, waterbrush, pen and sketchbook. All my art supplies and the computer are tied for a very close second place.

kirstenphoto 17
Any exciting projects on the horizon?

No contracts at the moment, but I’m working on several self-motivated projects.


What are your career goals?

My goals are to work on creative projects daily — to do a combination of authoring and/or illustrating children’s stories, creating illustrations for licensing and selling ocean wildlife art in a gallery setting. I have an income goal to make between $10,000 and $1,000,000 annually, dependent on production. I fell far short of that this year.

What are you working on now?

I’m focused mostly on the writing-illustrating projects I mentioned earlier.

kirstenphoto 19

Are there any tips.(Example: Something you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, materials etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I’d recommend trying out a medium you’ve never used, because I did that and it affected me in an unexpected way. I recently took an abstract-art class, created something that was completely outside my style and it helped me loosen up so that I could create a more spontaneous whimsical piece of work (a triptych on wood) that is one of my favorites.

kirstenphoto 18
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Stay committed. No matter what.
Keep creating and surround yourself with supportive friends and colleagues, reach out and mentor folks that can learn from you and ask for help from folks you would like to have as mentors.

kirsten1-first farwalker books in series

kirstenesealbigThank you Kirsten for sharing your process and journey with us. Boy, you really do go the extra mile holding alligators, swimming to the bottom or the ocean, and weathering the cold and snow to get close to nature and your subjects. I enjoyed doing this post and wish you much additional success. For those of you who would like to visit Kirsten you can find her at: www.kirstencarlson.net and www.artsyfishy.com   Her twitter name is: kirstencarlson

Hope you will take minute to leave Kirsten a comment. It is appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Artist, Illustrator Saturday, Kirsten Carlson, Montery Bay Aquarium, scientist

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21. Re-inventing Oneself

Funny words. It suggests that there was something wrong with the first invention something that needs fixing. I suppose that is true. When something isn’t working you should look for another way. You should fix the thing.

I began working on a new set of children’s books. I was hammering away at a story, trying to get something good down in order to illustrate it. Everything was flat. Nothing was working, nothing felt right. My characters were looking at me like I was crazy. They were all yawning! Try writing when your characters are shaking their heads!

It was then that I realized I was going about it all wrong. As an artist, I need to star with the art!!!! …the story would follow.

I sat with sketchbook in hand and began drawing little cartoons. One thing led to another and star was born! I will share more. This is a discovery for me. I will let you know how I make out in the days to follow!

For now, I’ll just keep sketching!


Filed under: how to write, Kicking Around Thoughts

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22. A Sketching Day!

Oh what fun it is to sit and sketch. I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, even if it’s only for me. When you were born to create, nothing else satisfies. In the old days, artists were reveered. They were sometimes supported financially so that they might go on creating. What a leap we have made to this century where artists are often misunderstood to be lazy and dreamy-eyed. Who would not be dreamy-eyed with all the ideas we have rolling through our heads!
All of that to say, if someone wants to support me while I sketch, step on up to the plate! Haha! back to.sketching!

via PicsArt Photo Studio

Filed under: Art is FUN!, dream, Work is Play....?

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23. A Splash of Red, The Life and Art of Horace Pippin – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: A Splash of Red, The Life and Art of Horace Pippin Written by Jen Bryant Illustrated by Melissa Sweet Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013 Ages: 5-8 Themes: biography, Horace Pippin, artist Awards: A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book Winner of … Continue reading

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24. Virtual Animators with James Lopez

Last fall I took a class with Virtual Animators (http://www.virtualanimators.com/)  taught by James Lopez. I’ve had quite a few questions from the internets about what I thought, so I thought I’d write a note about my experience.

About the class: Character Design with Disney Artist & Animator James Lopez is a 12 week course taught online. See his IMDB here or amazing work here. The class is viewed through Adobe connect once per week for 12 (12!) weeks. You log in and the VA team, James and your classmates are online. You can ask questions via a chat box, and the VA team does a great job keeping track of the chat and bringing questions to James. The class is not structured, giving James the freedom to teach the class to the group’s skill level. You are also invited to send it work weekly to have it reviewed by James online.

What I thought: 

1. The cost: usually where I’d start when considering a class. I didn’t have to consider the class cost here, since I won this class in a contest, but even if I hadn’t it would be a great deal. (As a note: this is not an endorsed post, haha). All of these courses are so affordable- This one was $250, which is really a couple of trips to the grocery store. For 12 weeks, that breaks down to $20/ class- for an experienced teacher at James, who teaches at Cal Arts… it’s beyond a bargain.

2. The class size: SMALL. There were under ten people in our class, which allows for everyone to ask questions and see James visually explain the answer. You can send emails with questions and receive individual attention.

3. The talent & experience of the instructors: I’ve only taken one class with VA (I am planning on another class this spring/ summer) and the instructors are so experienced and knowledgeable it’s unreal to have this sort of individualized attention. James is a friendly and giving individual who really cares about paying it forward and working with artists of all skill levels. He’s got so much knowledge and information it’s a thrill to see him visually work out problems and review your work. 

4. The Virtual Animators team: Usually I wouldn’t touch on the “customer service” aspect in this sort of thing, but it was so amazing it needs to be mentioned. The small group who runs this online class system are probably the most genuine and friendly team ever. They’re focused around making a good experience for everyone involved, and keep up with their students. If I had a question or concern I would have an email back super quick. Also, as I mentioned above, they are in the classes with you running the sessions and keep on top of questions for the instructor. 

5. Work Review: You send in your work, it gets a review online that week or the next. James was thorough and incredibly professional when reviewing work- it sort of felt like I was working with him at a studio! I learned a lot in such a small amount of time. 

6. Recorded Classes: Classes are recored and posted on vimeo so you can watch later, or if you miss a class you can catch up. This was really helpful to me, watching in the midwest where the class time was late. Also, if you miss something, you can re-watch the class too!

7. A Personal Connection to the industry: As I mentioned above, I’m located in the midwest. It’s sort of like being on my own island, far away from the sunshine and talent network of California. Being involved in this class allowed me to connect at CTNX to the VA team, including founder Bill Recinos (who has an impressive IMDB himself), meet James Lopez and be involved in the community.

Ok, so, that’s a lot of writing. I guess you can see that I really loved the class. Negatives include the regular things of online classes- difficult to connect to classmates, really late live class times because of the time difference- but the benefits far outweigh these small points. I’m going to be completely honest, if you’ve ever thought of taking an online class, don’t think twice about this one, or any with these guys. This class is definitely the best online class I’ve taken based on the personal attention, small class size and the amount of information I learned in a short period of time.

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25. Cartoon Illustration – Bob Ostrom Studio

Illustration Work in Progress

Every once and a while it’s fun to post a little illustration work in progress. Here’s quick sneak peak at my latest:

cartoon, bob ostromtyping, cartoon, business, ostrombusiness cartoon, bob ostrombusiness cartoon, ostrom


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