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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: illustrating, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 113
1. Happy Easter!


Ana Ochoa sent in this cute Happy Easter illustration to help me wish all of you a Happy Easter. Ana’s illustrations have been exhibited in many countries around the world. Her art is represented by Chris Tugeau and she was featured on January 11th 2014 on Illustrator Saturday. Click here to see her feature.

Easter Parade

This Easter Parade illustration was sent in by Joanne Friar. She has been creating art for children’s books for over 18 years, researching history and nature from ancient civilizations to the Great Depression, from wetlands conservation to endangered species. Her books have won awards such as the CBC Notable Social Studies Book, the CBC Outstanding Science Book, and John Burroughs Nature Books for Young Readers. Joanne is represented by Christina Tugeau and was featured on Illustrator Saturday on March 10th, 2012 - Click here for the link.


You never know what is in those Easter Eggs, but Lisa Falkenstern used her imagination to show us in this illustration. Lisa has been a professional illustrator for more than thirty years. She’s illustrated The Busy Tree, published by Marshall Cavendish, and My VeryOwn Pirate Story, published by I See Me, written and illustrated A Dragon Moves. You can read about her new book, “Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC”. Here is the link to Thursday’s Post about the book, which includes illustrations. Lisa was also featured on Illustrator Saturday on October 2, 2010. Here is the link to visit her feature.


easter bunny bird

This cute Bird in bunny pajamas was sent in by Jennifer Geldard from one of her series illustrations in watercolor, black fine-tip marker and white gel pen. She is a glass artist by trade, and new to the world of illustration. I’m still getting my bearings, and learning the business end of things, but she says, “painting is pure joy for me, and I’m enjoying every minute of my education.” Her website is www.glassgirl.com


Susan Detwiler is the Illustrator Coordinator MD/DE/WV SCBWI illustrator of several picture books including On The Move and One Wolf Howls. She is the author/illustrator of Fine Life For A Country Mouse, which will be published by Penguin in September. Susan was featured on Illustrator Saturday March 9, 2013. www.susandetwiler.com


Katia Bulbenko has been drawing ever since she can remember. After studying printmaking andpainting at Tyler School of Art, she pursued her interests in sculpture and silk painting, then worked as a freelance textile designer for many years, her specialty being “conversationals”—paintings of things like coffee cups and hats, mostly for pajamas ortable linens. In addition to spending her time teaching art to grades pre-k through 8 and creating beaded fiber pieces, Katia is an aspiring children’s book illustrator. Her favorite mediums are watercolor, colored pencil, and gouache. 

I want to thank everyone who sent in an illustration. I loved them all and will be using the rest with my posts in the next few weeks. Please keep sending me your illustrations. They add so much interest to this blog. 

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator Sites, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration Tagged: Ana Ochoa, Happy Easter, Joanne Friar, Lisa Falkenstern, Susan Detwiller

2 Comments on Happy Easter!, last added: 4/21/2014
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2. Illustrator Saturday – Dana Martin


Dana Martin is an illustrator and designer who was born in New Mexico and has been roaming ever since. A recent graduate of Montserrat College of Art, her work has appeared in several local shows and was recently featured in CMYK’s Top New 100 Creatives.

Her clients include the Peabody Essex Museum, Hendrickson Publishers, Chrysler, ABDO, ArtThrob Magazine, and Ploughshares. The Johnstown Flood, scheduled for release this fall, will be her first illustrated chapter book.

Here is Dana showing and discussing her process:


Once I’ve worked out my composition in thumbnails and sketches, I make a preliminary drawing.


Then I transfer it to watercolor paper.


I ink the drawing, but I keep it pretty light, sticking to a color I know will blend well with the paint and feathering my edges. Once it’s dry, I add masking fluid to any light areas I want to preserve.


I wet the paper and paint my first coat, adding a little ink wherever I need the color to be bolder.  Once that’s dry I add more masking fluid to the flower stems.


I do a second coat with darker red, and this time I really soak the paper to float the paint.


After that, it’s just about adding detail and building up a tonal range.


As a final step, I add a little splatter around the corners for texture.


Above: The Cover of Dana’s First Illustrated Book. Below: A few back and white interior illustrations. 

dana booksketchtumblr_inline_mpa7vdLUUT1qz4rgp

How long have you been illustrating?

3 years professionally.


How did you decide to attend Montserrat College of Art?

Because I knew so little then about how to choose an art school, I started my search with two lists. One was of all the schools in the AICAD (Association of Independent Schools of Art and Design) and the other was of those in the NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design). I wanted to go to a private college and I figured any school that made both the lists was probably pretty good (now that I know more about accreditation processes, this seems amazingly naïve). After that I just started investigating every school that was in both associations. Most of them didn’t offer illustration programs, so they were easy to cross off. Others I could tell just weren’t the right fit. I eventually applied to RISD, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and Montserrat, and was accepted into all three. At that point, the smart thing would have been to visit the campuses, but since I was in the middle of gen. ed. classes at a state university on the other side of the country, I couldn’t get away. I kept calling and emailing the admissions offices with more questions, and they all did their best to get me the info I needed. Montserrat was always the pleasantest to deal with, though, and I just started to get the sense that it was a place where I would really feel at home. This turned out to be true.


Can you tell us a bit about that school?

Montserrat is a quirky little school slightly north of Boston. They offer all the standard art school concentrations, but the illustration department is particularly strong. There’s an emphasis on building foundational skills rather than chasing the latest trends, and the learning atmosphere is great because the students and instructors are serious about their work, but not their self-image. It’s a down-to-earth and unpretentious community, something that’s not always easy to find in the art world.

dana artthrobtumblr_m871woCm1Y1qfkufk

What were you favorite classes?

That’s a hard choice, I had a lot of great ones. I really enjoyed the natural science illustration class, because we learned a lot about botany and insects, and there was a whole closet full of butterflies, dried flowers, stuffed birds, and other treasures that we were free to borrow for sketching. My thesis class was also amazing, because I got to plan my own assignments but was supported by everyone’s feedback. Even the classes I wasn’t enthusiastic about, though, such as typography and web design, have proven invaluable since graduation.


Did the school help you get work?

No, not directly. If there is one downside to a small college, it’s that the career department is also small and just doesn’t have the resources to place students in jobs right after they graduate. But the school did give me the skills I needed to get work for myself, as well as a wealth of friends and colleagues to help me on the way.


What did you do right after you graduated?

I continued with some of the things I’d already been doing in college – working at a library and helping with Montserrat’s summer program – but I did manage to get some small illustration jobs almost as soon as I graduated.


Do you feel that the classes you took in college have influenced your style?

One thing I appreciated about my instructors was that they didn’t steer students toward one style or another, but instead worked to help each of us sort out the voices we already had. I’ve always had an eye for detail, but when I started school, it was out of hand. My compositions were cramped and everything in the picture was competing for elbow room, so nothing could flow. The instructors helped me recognize the problem and find ways to open up the page.




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

I did some architectural illustrations for an organization that taught adults with developmental disabilities. They were planning to renovate a veterans memorial park, with the idea that their students would maintain it once it was finished and the whole community could enjoy it. But first they needed to raise the money, so my illustrations of the future park were designed for the fundraising brochures. It was the kind of obscure job that you only find through the friend of a friend; I heard about it because the assistant director of the organization was friends with a Montserrat alum, who kindly posted the job on one of the school’s social network pages.


What was the first illustration work you did for children?

It was for Clubhouse Magazine. I was nine years old. So actually, come to think of it, that was my first paid work. I got ten dollars.


How did that come about?

Clubhouse used to put out one issue a year that was exclusively written and illustrated by children. Amazingly, the process hardly varied from what I now do professionally. I sent them a sample of my work (a horse, because to my nine-year-old self, horses were the supreme challenge, so drawing one was proof that I was a master artist). Someone from Clubhouse wrote back to say they liked it and would I care to illustrate the story they’d enclosed? It was a mystery story written by another child about a ticking bomb and a school band (it wasn’t really a bomb, just a metronome, and this was before bombs in schools had become such a fraught issue). I did a top-notch job on the metronome, because I’d just started piano lessons and knew exactly what it looked like. I did a derivative job on the bomb, because the only ones I’d seen were in Bugs Bunny cartoons. They also wanted a drawing of a trumpet, and I did a really terrible job on that. I couldn’t figure out all the twists and turns in the brass tubing, let alone where the trumpet player’s hands were supposed to go. The big difference between this project and all the subsequent ones was that I had no contact with the art director and nobody looked at my sketches; I was just supposed to mail everything in when I was finished. I’m pretty sure, though, that the art director felt the same way about the pictures as I did, because the story, the metronome, and the bomb made the first page of the magazine and the trumpet picture disappeared quietly into the night. They never printed it and I never saw it again, thank God.


How did you get to be featured in CMYK’s Top New 100 Creatives?

I did have to submit work to be considered, but unlike most competitions, the judging was based on the whole portfolio rather than any one piece.


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

I expect from the moment I first saw a children’s book. Even before I could read them I never went anywhere without one. Come to think of it, I still don’t.


How did you get the contract to illustrate the chapter book titled The Johnstown Flood?

I had sent a black-and-white postcard to the publisher, ABDO, and one of their editors contacted me shortly after that because she had some black-and-white interior work. I’m thankful that she liked the card enough to comb through my blog, because the medium we went with was not at all what I’d sent her. She liked my preliminary drawings, which were all done in graphite. I’d never considered marketing them, because to me they seemed unfinished. I did push the drawings a bit for the book, using darker pencils and some Photoshop to get a wider tonal range, but the style was basically the same.


How long did it take you to illustrate that book?

I did the whole thing in a month. I could tell the editor was anxious to get it done; I think because it was part of a new line, the Up2U adventures, she needed some artwork to show the rest of her team.


I know Lisa Mullarkey, but I didn’t know that her husband was writing with her now. Have you met Lisa?

No, sadly I have not had the pleasure. It’s so cool that you know her, though! I hope she and Mr. Mullarkey like the illustrations.


Do you have any other work planned with ABDO Publishing?

At the moment, no. As far as I can tell, the majority of the work they use is digital. The editor I worked with also left shortly after that book was finished.


Do you plan on marketing your illustrations to other educational publishers?

I have, yes, and will continue to do so.


What was your first illustration success?

I did a t-shirt project for Ploughshares, and I was happy both with how the project turned out and how it was conducted, so I guess that was my first big success. Technically it was a design contest, but I and the other two artists were paid for our participation, and we all got to work with the wonderful editor Andrea Martucci to come up with designs that fit the magazine. The contest entries got so many online votes that Ploughshares decided to produce all three designs. So everybody won. Later that year I ran into Andrea at the Boston Book Festival, and she was just as nice in person as she’d been in her emails.


Do you think you will ever try to write and illustrate a picture book?

Oh yes, I already have and will continue to write more. I just haven’t gotten them published yet.


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, the main one has been Spellbound magazine. The editor and art director are both really great to work with and the magazine always has interesting, fantasy-related themes, so I always enjoy their assignments.


Do you have an artist rep or an agent? If so, could you tell us how the two of you connected? If not, would you like to get representation?

No, I don’t have one. I’ve heard some agent horror stories that made me wary of pursuing the matter. Obviously there are some amazing agents out there, but you are giving them a lot of power over the direction of your career. I can’t say I’d never be interested, but I would need to be confident that we were on the same page about where my work was going and how it would be represented.


What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I send out a lot of postcards and emails, meet people at conferences and events, and try to maintain a strong internet presence.


What is your favorite medium to use?



Has that changed over time?

No, but I’ve upgraded from the Crayola set. Now I use Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith watercolors.


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

A cup of tea.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I track the time I’m spending, but it’s usually not my goal to spend a specific number of hours. Instead, I review my time records now and then to help me evaluate things such as: how long did this project take and which part took longest, was the time well-spent, is there anything I’m repeatedly struggling over, when was I most productive, etc. This helps me figure out whether there’s anything I need to adjust in my routine.


Are you open to working with self-published authors?

Yes, cautiously open. Self-publishing has come a long way in the last decade, and there are some interesting projects out there that are too specialized for traditional publishing but can be successful as self-published books. I have worked with self-published authors in the past, and sometimes it was a great experience. Other times it was anything but.

Sometimes when authors pitch their projects to me, they say something along the lines of, “I have the whole book pictured in my head, and I know you’ll be able to paint it the way I see it.” But that is exactly what I cannot do, as I was born without mind-reading powers. I almost always turn these authors down, because I know they’re going to be disappointed once they figure out I’m not telepathic. (I wish I was joking about this, but it’s all too true.) Another problem I’ve run into is that authors may not realize just how massive an undertaking a book is. I’ve had authors offer me a few hundred dollars to do all the art and design work on a picture book, with no royalties, and they wanted me to sign away all rights into the bargain. They actually seemed to think it was a fair price.

Of course, there are also lots of brilliant authors who have done their research and have more realistic expectations. All in all, though, I am generally more willing to take on smaller self-publishing projects, such as novel and chapter-book covers, than I am self-published picture books. It’s simply less of a risk.


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

Yes, I do lots of research; in fact, I’m particularly drawn to projects where research is required. Investigating historic fashion, rare plants, and obscure legends is all part of the fun.



Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Without a doubt. My whole business is conducted online.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do use Photoshop, but just for minimal editing, such as adjusting for contrast or stitching a piece together if it was too large for the scanner bed.



Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I’ve used them, but so far I don’t need a tablet enough to invest in one.


Do you find exhibiting your artwork gets you jobs?

No, because most of the shows I’ve been in have not been the sort that would attract editors and art directors.

Rather, the shows are their own experience. They’re an opportunity to interact with my audience and hear their thoughts on my work. I never know what to expect, but people have actually been extraordinarily positive and encouraging, and I always come back from a show energized to make more art.


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

Yes, so many! Bringing out my own picture book is the one I’m focused on at the moment.


What are you working on now?

I have some small magazine assignments, but the projects I’m most excited about right now are actually personal ones. I’m working on a picture book manuscript set in Venice, and I’ve also started a new series of paintings. I’ve recently become fascinated with really limited palettes, so each of the paintings (which are based on some old stories) has a different dominant color. They’re also all set in different decades, because I wanted to explore some of the ways fashion has changed in the last hundred years.


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.

My painting methods can be hard on the paper, so I need something sturdy. Arches cold press is the paper for me. It stands up to washes, doesn’t tear from tape or masking fluid, has enough texture to get interesting effects with the paint, but not so much that it interferes with pen work.


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

Everyone knows they have to work hard, but I don’t think everyone realizes how long they’ll be working hard. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to neglect everything else in the pursuit of your craft, but over time that undermines you. Art has to be about something. If you cut yourself off from your friends, your hobbies, and whatever else fuels you as a person, you eventually will have nothing to say artistically. In the words of Gore Vidal, the unfed mind devours itself.

So keep an eye out for all the wonderful and interesting things that are happening around you and cultivate an agile mind. That, rather than any technical skill, is an artist’s greatest asset.


Thank you Dana for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know of all your future successes. 

You can visit Dana at www.dana-martin.com or find out what’s new with her on her blog at http://danamartinillustration.tumblr.com/

Please take a minute to leave Dana a comment. I am sure she would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Book, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Process, Tips Tagged: ABDO Publishing, Dana Martin, Liza Mullarkey, Montserrat College of Art

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Dana Martin, last added: 4/20/2014
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3. Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise

Christopher Denise is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and visual development artist. His first book, a retelling of the Russian folktale The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, was pronounced “a stunning debut” by Publishers Weekly.

Since then, Chris has illustrated more than twenty books for children, including Alison McGhee’s upcoming Firefly Hollow, Rosemary Wells’ Following Grandfather, Phyllis Root’s Oliver Finds His Way, his wife Anika Denise’s Bella and Stella Come Home and some in Brian Jacques’ acclaimed Redwall series.

His books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and have been recognized by Bank Street College of Education, Parents’ Choice Foundation, and the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition.

Christopher Denise lives in Rhode Island with his family.

Christopher has two books coming out in the next few months. The first is SLEEPYTIME ME written by Edith Hope Fine coming out May 27th.

The second book, BAKING DAY at GRANDMA’S is written by his wife Anika and will be available in August.

christopherBaking Day_announcement500

Christopher gives us a sneak peek of some of the interior shots below, with his process pictures on how he did a double page spread for the book. (Please check back later today. Christopher and I got our wires crossed with the process text. He is at a book festival and will be sending it as soon as he can get to Wi-Fi)


Rough sketch


Adding more details


More details and first layer


Laying in some color


Refining details, inking in bark on tree, and deepening color of sky


Painting in color on clothes


Worked on background and more detail on clothes


Adding shadows and details on house


Continuing to deepen shadows and details


Adding highlights


Deepening colors



Adding color to tree.


Changed my mind about the color of the clothes and added for detail to the final illustration.


Above are the bears in this double page spread on their way to Grandma’s and below they are getting ready to bake.


When did you first get interested in art?

As a kid! All kids love art-I just never stopped. I never let anyone talk me out of it-it is too much fun.

christophersleepytime me jkt front

Why did your family move to Ireland from Massachusetts after you were born?

We moved to Ireland when I was six years old. My father had been working with General Electric and they offered him an opportunity to relocate and set up a headquarters in Shannon. He saw it not only as a great career opportunity but a chance to expose his kids to a very different way of life. This was in the early 70′s so Shannon was more like the States in the 50′s. It was an amazing place to spend some of my formative years.

christopherblog_site construction

What made you move back to the states?

He had completed much of what he set out to do and my oldest brother was preparing to enter high school and my parents thought it best to return to the states.


Do you feel Ireland influences your illustrations?

Absolutely. In Ireland we kids had an amazing amount of autonomy and unstructured time. Broadcast television began after 6pm and there was very little programing geared at children so we spent our days outside exploring the countryside and creating our own adventures. I look at the art I created for The Redwall picture books and I see so much of those childhood days.


Do you still have an Irish brogue?

Only after a very long dinner party with old friends!


How did you decide to go to Rhode Island School of Design to study art?

After high school I was studying Art History and Archeology at St. Lawrence University. I was also spending a lot of time in art studio classes. It was fantastic and I was doing very well but I felt I needed more direction. My brother was studying architecture at RISD and after my first visit I knew that I needed to be there. While RISD students were dancing on the tables listening to The Talking Heads (very appealing to me) they were also having serious conversations about art and their own work.

christopherbiddy cover

What was the first piece of art that you sold?

I started freelancing for the Providence Journal in my Junior year at RISD. I created a series of black and white illustrations for a re-printing of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.


I read that you started illustrating books for educational publishers while you were still attending RISD. How did you make those connections?

I did and internship at Silver Burdett and Ginn, an educational publisher just outside of Boston. I was in charge of opening the submissions from artists and filing their promotional materials. It was not long before I realized that I wanted to be on the mailing end of the equation. When the internship finished I created my own mailers, asked the art directors to look at the work and for recommendations about where I might send them.


Did you always want to illustrate children’s books?

I never had any intention of becoming a children’s book illustrator, I sort of fell into the career. I knew I liked making art, so I left St. Lawrence University and transferred to Rhode Island School of Design. I remember while at RISD I had an assignment to create this illustration using an animal of our choice doing something specific. I think my animal was racoons and the subject was things you do at camp. Honestly, I Bobbaton Questthought I was way too cool to do something like that. I had been painting these big abstract paintings and when making illustrations they were always very cool and smart. But animals with clothes on? Forget it. I never finished the assignment. Fortunately, the teacher stayed on me and gave me another assignment. This time she had me illustrating scenes from Wind and the Willows. Somehow the writing grabbed me and became something that I could sink my teeth into. I really thought about the characters and what they should look like, their clothes, their houses, how they would walk and stand, etc. Then I surprised myself by really enjoying the process of making the art and people loved it. I ended up using those images to start my professional career when I was still a Junior in college to get freelance jobs with educational publishers. The rest is history.



Were you continue doing freelance work when you graduated? Or did you take a job illustrating?

Since that day it has been all freelance work.



How did you connect with Philomel to illustrate your first picture book?

That was a friend of a friend situation. I heard that this person, whom I had met a few times socially, worked as an assistant editor at Philomel Books. She was incredibly generous and offered to look at my work. I don’t think she expected much but she actually liked my art and offered to take it down to the Art department. The Art Director promptly rejected it and told me to come back in a few years. Luckily she hung one of my mailers on her wall where it caught the attention of the esteemed editor Patti Gauch (Owl Moon, Lon Po Po). Patti called me up right there and asked when I could be in New York. I borrowed the cash for the train and within a week I was sitting in her office talking about books.



Your name is the only name for THE FOOL OF THE WORLD AND THE FLYING SHIP. Did you do the writing of the retold Russian tale?

Patti suggested that I consider illustrating the story of the fool and sent me on my way. The first edition I found was the Caldecott award winning version illustrated and retold by Uri Schulevitz. Lets not forget, that this is the guy who had literally written THE book on writing and illustrating picture books, Writing With Pictures. After being paralyzed with fear and then realizing there was no way out of this I started my research. I came across a wonderful version of the text by Petr Nikolaevich Polevoi published by St. Petersberg in 1874. Patti and I loved the language and just made a few minor edits. There is a note about the text on the last page of my edition.



What was the next book that you illustrated and how did you get that assignment?

My next book was The Great Redwall Feast by Brian Jaques. Patti was Brian’s stateside editor and had been hounding him to write a picture book. Brian saw The Fool and wrote The Feast for me to illustrate. We quickly became close friends and I had the pleasure of working with him for many years. He is missed and I think of him often.


christopherredwall convoy

Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.



Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.

christopherKnitty kitty cover


I see that your wife Anika is an author. How many books have you illustrated for her?

We have a really fun wintertime read-aloud book due out this August called Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel Books). That will be our third. Before that we collaborated on Pigs Love Potatoes (Philomel Books 2007) and Bella and Stella Come Home (Philomel, 2010). Both are still in print and seem to be popular!



Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

Desire-yes but I have not felt like I have had the chops to pull it off until recently. Writing a solid picture book, as many of your readers know, is incredibly difficult. I have a few things on my desk that are showing some promise and with the help of my incredible agent and friend, Emily vanBeek at Folio Jr., I am sure that a few of them will come to fruition at some point. Recently, I came up with the initial concept and art for a book that I tried writing but it was terrible! Thankfully, Alison McGhee (Someday, Bink & Gollie, Shadow Baby) came to my rescue and penned a gorgeous novel called Firefly Hollow that I am working on right now.



How and when did you get involved in visual development work for animated feature films?

A RISD alumni who knew my work called me to work on a project that was in development with Blue Sky Studios ( Ice age, Rio, Epic). I was part of a very small team of artists all outside the film studio creating images for what the film might look like. I ended up staying with the project for nearly a year. Its a beautiful story that I hope they make into a film someday!



christopherbella and stella

Which animated films did you work on?

Left Tern (Blue Sky studios), Beasts of Burden (ReelFx), a bit of work on Rio (Blue Sky studios) after it was already in production, and a few others that have not yet been made and I am not supposed to talk about!

christopherblog_bella copy


What is involved in visual development in animation?

Visual Development artists are called in to work with a director and/or production designer to help envision the look and feel of a film. You need to check your ego at the door, stay flexible, and work very, very quickly. I would turn out 20-30 paintings a week. Many loose, some more finished. Sometimes your paintings would be sent off to another artist to paint over and then sent back to you for work again. Often there is not a solid script and you are flying by the seat of your pants with a story summary and a few story beats (moments in a film) that you need to nail down. I love the collaborative aspect of the work and the idea that it is all about the story-not just making one or two pretty pictures.



I noticed that you used pastels on one of your illustrations. Is that your favorite medium?

I love pastel work but really I love whatever is working for that particular book. Its always about the book on my desk and what it needs from me. I do enjoy the flexibility and speed of photoshop. I am impatient with my work and want to get to the good stuff as soon as possible. I need to get in there and start painting and changing things. Acting and re-acting. Photoshop is a wonderful tool for that type of work.



Has your style changed over the years?

Sure, with every book and the demands of each manuscript. Writing is hard and I think it would be a great disservice to the author and the story for me to impose a particular style on a book.


How did you connect with the lovely agent, Emily van Beek?

How long have the two of you been together? Emily and I met when I signed on with Pippin about 5 years ago. I was thrilled to re-connect with her later on when she started Folio Junior.



What do you think has been your greatest career accomplishment?

Wow. Tough question. Ask me again in about twenty years! A Redwall Winters Tale and Oliver Finds His Way would both rank pretty high up there for different reasons but I always think that I am only as good as my last book. I feel pretty good about the last year. I completed two books that I am VERY proud of. Sleepytime Me by Edith Fine (Random House, May 2014) and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel, August 2014)



How many children books have you illustrated?

About twenty two I think. A few of the titles were created for educational publishers then re-published for the regular trade market.


How did you get involved in illustrating the Redwall series of books?

Patti Gauch was responsible for showing Brian Jacques my work. Thanks, Patti!


How many of those books have you illustrated?

I illustrated three books for the the Redwall picture-book series. The Great Redwall Feast (Philomel 1996), A Redwall Winters Tale (Philomel 2001), and The Redwall Cookbook (Philomel 2005)


It looks like you have done a lot of books with Philomel. How many books have you illustrated for them?

Nine books with Philomel so far.


OLIVER FINDS HIS WAY was published by Candlewick. How did that contract come about?

Chris Paul at Candlewick called me up out of the blue one day and said she had a project that she would like me to consider. They are just up in Somerville so I drove up for lunch and met with Chris and the wonderful Mary Lee Donovan. I knew right away that I wanted to work with them. Candlewick is a fantastic house, beautiful books, super nice people.


I think Jane Yolen lives near you. Did you know her before you illustrated THE SEA MAN? Was that the only Merman you have illustrated?

I did not know Jane before I illustrated The Sea Man, but of course I knew Jane’s work. We just saw each other at Kindling Words in January and since then have talked about the possibility of working together again. Yes-that was the very first Merman I was asked to illustrate.


Do they have a studio in your house?

My studio is about 15′ from my back door in a separate building that I re-built just three years ago. For years I had studios in Providence. Downtown is only about twelve miles away from the little beach-side community where we live but the drive home, late at night if I was working on deadline or a film project, was not fun. It was convenient when I was teaching at RISD but I was also missing my wife and the kids. I like to be able to quit at 4:00, spend some time with my family, have a glass of wine, dinner, read to the kids, and put them to bed. After that I walk back out to the studio for another session. Making books is hard work but my family life and walks on the beach keep me anchored and very happy.


I was able to see some of your wonderful black and white interior drawings that did you do for Rosemary Well’s book, FOLLOWING GRANDFATHER. How many did you do for the 64 page book?

Gosh, I don’t remember-quite a few! I loved working with Rosemary and since then we have become good friends.


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, I think I did work for Ladybug magazine. I may have done work for Cricket.

christopherbig view

Your new book coming out in May titled, SLEEPYTIME ME is beautiful. How did you get that contract with Random House?

I was working with Elena Mechlin at Pippin and she brought the manuscript to me. Edith’s (Fine) writing is so wonderful. That was another fantastic project. Random House gave me lots of support and complete freedom.



How long did you have to illustrate that whole book?

I created that suite of images in about six months. They were long days but I loved the work.



What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Not so many things personally. Emily, my agent, makes sure that I have plenty on my plate. I work closely with her making sure that we have a plan and chart out the production schedule. Our biggest challenge is leaving some blocks of time off-especially in the summer


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My sketchbook-no doubt.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I do try to take some time in the summer to go landscape painting. But in truth I work on my craft every single day. I try to start each session as a novice.



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

I do take some pictures. I browse books ( fine art, photography, other picture books) from my own shelves and the library-seeing what comes to me. The internet, of course, is amazing.



I notice that you are doing the illustrations for Betsy Devany’s debut picture book, SMELLY BABY. Both of you are represented by Emily van Beek. I can’t wait to see the illustrations. Great match-up! How was Emily able to get you two together?

This is one of the great things about Emily. We were talking about what I wanted to work on, scheduling and such and she was already thinking way ahead of me about what would serve us (because we are most definately a team) professionally but also allow me to stretch artistically. She called me up a few days later and asked how I felt about working on something funny and emailed Betsy’s manuscript for Smelly Baby. I read it through and forced my self to wait for ten minutes before I said YES!



Have you won any awards that you are particularly proud of?

Yes but it has nothing to do with publishing! I was nominated for the Frazier award in teaching at RISD. That nomination was particularly meaningful to me because it is the students who vote for the few nominees that make the cut. That was such an honor because I loved working with such wonderfully talented young artists and I put my heart in soul into teaching those classes. Of course I am grateful and honored when any of my books receive recognition.



Out of all the books you have illustrated, do you have a favorite?

Another tough question. The books are like my girls, they are all my favorites for different reasons. If I had to choose I would choose four. Pigs Love Potatoes (Anika Denise) Oliver Finds His Way (Phyllis Root), Sleepytime Me (Edith Fine), and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Anika Denise).


Do you use Photoshop or a graphic tablet when illustrating?

I paint and draw in Photoshop using a medium size wacom intuos tablet and pen.


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

I am in the process of doing just that! I spend my days drawing pictures and coming up with stories. How great is that?!


What are you working on now?

Firefly Holly ( Simon & Schuster) an illustrated novel by Alison McGhee, and Betsy Devany’s picture book Smelly Baby (Henry Holt & Company)


Do you have any material type tips or software type tips you can share with us? Example: A new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I think my breakthrough with digital tools came when I stopped trying to “learn” the software and started to think of using photoshop to replicate my traditional process. To use the program in the same way as I used my traditional tools. Same layering process, same ways of applying color. Make the digital tools work for you-mistakes and all. In the end you have more flexibility and can change things. Also-be brave and create your own brushes to get the effects that you want.


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

Trust your instincts. Do what you need to do to get by but after that point do not be afraid to say no to something if your heart is not in it.


Thank you Christopher for sharing your talent, process, expertise, and journey with us. Please keep in touch and let us know all of your future successes. We would love to hear about them.

You can visit Christopher at: http://www.christopherdenise.com You can link over to his blog and his Etsy shop where he sell original artwork.

facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Denise-Illustrator

I really appreciate it when you leave a comment, so please take a minute to leave Christopher a comment. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Tips Tagged: Anika Denise, Baking Day at Grandma's, Christopher Denise, Patty Gauch, Sleepytime Me

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise, last added: 4/12/2014
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4. Strategies for Pricing Your Illustrating Work



You may know Joann Miller over at the Directory of Illustration. Well, she asked Friend + Johnson (illustration representation agency) if she could share the best advice they had about pricing that they would give an illustrator. I thought I would share the part about how to come up with a price for a potential client. It is quite good.

Here is a list of questions to ask your potential client to help create an accurate estimate that fulfills both their expectations and your needs.


1. How did you find out about me? Is there something in your portfolio that inspired them to think of you for this project? Make sure you understand exactly what they’re referencing so you can make sure you’re comfortable executing it, and are clear on what they’re hiring you to do. This will also help you determine the level of complexity of the illustration they’re looking for.

Project Description

2. Do you have a layout? How complex are the illustrations? Are they single-spot illustrations or more complex scenarios? Are they providing any references for you to use? Are they looking for you to concept illustration ideas with the creatives, or are you working from a pre-approved layout that will not allow for much change? Is this black-and-white or a four-color piece? Are you working in layers?

3. What is the timing for the initial pencils and the final illustration? Usually, you should have three to four days for the initial pencils, and after client approval, another five to seven days to deliver the final. Two rounds of pencils are standard; anything more should have an additional charge.

Usage, Licensing and Copyright

4. Usage is very important in helping you price your project. Note that consumer advertising will be priced much higher than illustrations for a children’s book or direct mail.

Does the client want national, regional, international, web or worldwide uses? How long is the usage? What is the media use: consumer ad, trade ad, packaging, direct mail, billboards, brochures?

5. If clients say they want unlimited use, you should explore if this is really what they need and offer alternative licensing to match their budget. Often times, clients are not “educated” in this area of rights-based pricing; they will be much more understanding if you take the time to outline that they will ultimately save money by purchasing just the usage they need. For example, if they see the difference in cost for a two-, three- or five-year use, this may be more in-line with what they really need vs. unlimited use/time. 

Most clients aren’t planning on a consumer magazine campaign or any out of home use, they may just want unlimited collateral (direct mail and consumer or trade brochures and inserts) use. Find out specifically what they’ll use the artwork for and tailor your pricing to match.

6. If at all possible, never do “work for hire,” give buyouts or sell your copyright. You’re essentially giving away all of your rights as the creator of the artwork and giving ownership to your client. They in turn can reuse and resell the artwork in any way they want.

You can still retain your copyright even if it’s unlimited use, worldwide for an unlimited time and exclusive to them. If they feel they may need the artwork for other uses down the road or for a longer period of time, these extended uses can be renegotiated or factored into the original contract as well.

Remember, they want to use you and you want to work with them. This is a negotiation to give them what they need and pay you fairly for the creation and use of the work. You’re working together to create a fair contract for both parties.

7. Will this image have resale potential in stock or other markets? Does your licensing give you this option?

Keep Budgets & Other Paperwork in Mind

8. Editorial and book clients usually have a predetermined budget. Sometimes you can renegotiate if you feel it’s too low for the amount of work they’re requesting. You should always get a credit line for editorial or pro-bono work.

9. Do they have an allotted budget already in mind? If not, when do they need numbers?

10. Is there a contract? You should have your own contract in addition to anything they supply.

Hang Up

11. Never give an estimate while you’re on the phone with your client. It’s best to hang up and think about what you’re comfortable with.

12. Review your estimate before submitting it. A great source for guidelines for estimating various projects is the “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook” at www.graphicartistsguild.org/handbook/.


13. After you have submitted your estimate and it’s approved, make sure to have it signed and sent back to you.

14. After the project is confirmed, you should bill 50% of the job. This is important for cash flow since illustration projects can stretch over a number of weeks with the back-and-forth for approvals. This is also important with a new client that you don’t have a payment history with.

15. In addition to billing upon confirmation AND having a new client sign your contract, you may want to get a purchase order from you client as it is a contract to purchase your services from your buyer.

To read all the other helpful information use this link: http://joannsartadvice.blogspot.com/2014/03/take-charge-of-pricing-your.html

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Agent, article, authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, list, Tips Tagged: Directory of Illustration, Freelance Pricing, Friend + Johnson, Joann Miller

2 Comments on Strategies for Pricing Your Illustrating Work, last added: 4/1/2014
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5. Illustrator Saturday – Lyn Stone

lynMe @ HobbledownsmallLyn Stone has worked in a variety of jobs, including a Curator at the Tower of London. Being rather small she was the only member of staff who could climb into the display cabinets to clean Henry VIII’s Codpiece, whilst Japanese tourists happily took photographs! She can also boast accidentally shocking an Amerian tourist who mistook two flintlock dueling pistols for gun with real amo! She has also worked as a freelance model-maker for television, working on a variety of shows, for the BBC and ITV. As a model-maker she found herself working with puppets, actors as well TV crew. On one memorable occasion Lyn made a model so big, it had to be built in her garage. Much to the amusement of all her neighbours when a large lorry, bearing the slogan ‘British Broadcasting Corporation’ turned up to collect it and struggled up a very narrow lane! 

Her main line of work, however, has been that of an artist and illustrator. Her amusing drawings have enlivened the pages of many children’s books, from history books to children’s play scripts, and pop-up books. Some of her regular clients have included Oxford University Press, Templar Publishing and Armadillo Childrens books. 

She has lived all her life in south-east London, and when not at her lightbox she enjoys forays from the suburbs to the bright lights, theatres and cinemas of the West End. However soon she’ll be packing her bags and moving to the seaside in Kent, and is hoping that the Kent countryside and beaches will inspire her work!

Here is Lyn showing and discussing her process:


Step 1 – I place the sketch or enlarged thumbnail onto a lightbox. The watercolour paper is placed on top and using an acrylic-based ink I begin inking the drawing, without following the sketch too carefully.

Step 2

Step 2 – Here is the finished inked artwork. I then stretch the paper using traditional methods.

Step 03

Step 3 – Once dry. I flood the paper with clear water and begin adding the first colour, which spreads and pools in the water in nice unpredictable ways. Start building the colours up a little. Again I am using the wet-in-wet technique.

Step 4revised

Step 4 – While everything is still very wet, I like to ‘push’ the colours around a little so they merge.

Step 5

Step 5 – Now I begin adding colours in a more controlled way with the paper dry but mixing the watercolour over the paper by adding clear water to it.

Step 6

Step 6 – With this particular picture I added the background colours at a later stage.

Step 7

Step 7 – Now I can start adding some texture and pattern by flicking the paintbrush, loaded with paint across the picture – this is great fun!


Step 8 – Once dry I then scan the artwork and this instance dropped it into a template for an iPAD skin using Photoshop.


How long have you been illustrating?

Over 20 years

lyn tractor

Did you go to college for art? If so, where I attended.

Southwark College off the Old Kent road in London, where I completed a B/Tec diploma. I then went onto to do a BA Hons at Middlesex University in 3D design. I originally worked in television and am self taught as an illustrator.


lyngizmo&scatz3How did you decide to attend that school?

Well the first college had a really good reputation at the time and a very good tutor for drawing, even though we did call him Hitler, because he worked us so hard! My second choice probably wasn’t a good one, as I should have done an illustration course, maybe at Brighton, but I learned a range of skills from doing it.


Can you tell us a little bit about the school and the type of degree you received?

Well it was 3-dimensional work, so ceramics, jewellery making, glass blowing, silversmithing, furniture making, etc., we also studied the history of art.


lynexploringwideWhat were you favorite classes?

History of art and probably ceramics


Did the School help you get work?

No. It’s the one bad thing they do not do. You never get to hear about what it’s really like out there in the real world. Universities could do with introducing a few lectures on this subject alone. I am very self-motivated. A year before I was due to graduate I approached the head of design at ITV television. He interviewed me with my portfolio and said to contact him when I graduated. I did and he gave me my first job!


What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

I worked on many different British TV shows for both ITV and the BBC.


Do you feel that the classes you took in college have influenced your style?

No. I have been influenced by other artists and illustrators. I love the artists Turner and Kandinksy, the illustrators Peter Woodroft, Chris Riddell and my favourite by far is Heath Robinson!


What was the first art related work that you did for money?

I guess for TV. I built a 25th scale model of The Bill set, and for 10 years it was on display in the MOMI, The Museum Of Moving Image in Central London.


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

I sort fell into it really. A friend of mine wrote travel books and wrote a children’s play that he wanted illustrated. I was known by that time as being very good at creating leaving cards for people, and he suggested I illustrate his book. The publisher then proceeded to use me for more projects, and it very gradually snowballed.



What was the first book you illustrated?

My friend’s play, entitled The Looking-glass Alchemist


How did that contract come about?

My friend really put my name forward to the publisher. In those days you could get away with that, lol.


What do you consider is your first big success?

My first commission with Oxford University Press.


How did that opportunity come about?

I sent them samples of my work and they asked me to produce a single illustration. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was competing with three other illustrators for the commission! I got it – hurrah! I had to do over 150 illustrations – a huge project.


How many picture books have you illustrated?

A true 25-page illustrated picture-book is something I am yet to be commissioned to do – come on publishers, give me that commission! However I have illustrated over 43 books!


I see you were a model-maker for television. What does a model maker do?

Well a range of interesting things. I used to make mini models of sets, so cameramen could work out where to film, models that were props on set, and models for exhibition purpose.


How did you get involved in creating pop-up books?

To some publishers my style seems to lend itself to the pop-up genre. The first one I did was a dummy book for the Bologna book fair for Templar Publishing.


Do you work with the physical creation and working parts of the pop-up books?

A paper engineer will send me a mock up that actually works and the designer on paper will send me templates, so I know the space my artwork must fill.


What is the children’s publishing industry like in London?

Well the recent recession hit it a bit and it is picking up again, but you cannot get the same fees that were available ten years ago, but that is an international problem. I still love what I do very much, it is just a shame that the profession has been somehow diminished a little by the industry.


How did you find your agent and how long have you had them?

I have been with Peter now for four years, but tried two others before that. I simply emailed samples of my work and a little of my history and client list (very important if you want to be considered). They receive hundreds of requests weekly, and so I was very lucky.


Do you always use watercolor to paint your color illustrations?

No, sometimes inks and I have experimented with mix media too!


What do you use to create your black and white drawings?

An old fashioned dip nib and an acrylic based sepia or black ink. Sometimes however they are created digitally, using illustrator. My greyscale illustrations are created using a propelling pencil with a nice soft led. They’re great because you never need to stop to sharpen them.


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

No, but I recently completed working on a two-year project for the Agatha Christie book collection. I illustrated all the villains! Great fun.


How did you get involved with painting for stage and theatre?

I have never worked in the theatre or on stage as a painter. Only television. However I have produced an illustration for a pantomime, Cinderella for a theatre in Scarborough. It was used on their posters and promotional material.


Have done any artwork for educational publishers?

Yes. Lots and lots.


Do illustrators do school visits in the UK?

Yes, and museums and libraries. I have certainly run childrens workshops in both libraries and at a museum – the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.


What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I find the internet is becoming more and more important. I am on several websites, including the AOI, Association of Illustrators. I also blog regularly, tweet and have a Facebook page.


Do you ever exhibit your artwork?

Not yet, no. But what a good idea!


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without, other than your paints?

My light box!!!


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

It varies, if you have a tight deadline then a twelve hour day is quite normal!


Do you have any desire to write and illustrated your own books?

Yes. I have just written three picture books, which are currently being looked at by Macmillan Books. Hopefully they will buy my project – fingers crossed.



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

Often, yes. Especially for a reference book.

lyncat,dog&christmas pudding-emailjpg

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Most definitely.


Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

These days publishers very rarely want original artwork, and of course some of my clients are half way round the world. So I tend to scan my illustrations and digitally prepare them to upload to a client, using Photoshop.


Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes own and used! I had to do a series of vector illustrations using illustrator. They were all silhouetted characters and animals.


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

Yes. To write and illustrate my own books. I have always enjoyed writing too.



What are you working on now?

Have just completed working on peek-o-boo book. They are quite hard to work on, because you have to think in three dimensions all the time, and there are many layout  restrictions. Each page of the book opens up into what I can only describe as a theatre set, and you can peek through to various layers, which together tell a story. Very complex work indeed.


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.

I particularly like using Fabriano heat sealed, hand made watercolour paper. It has no knot at all, and takes a bit of knocking about too. Very good quality paper indeed. All artists are different. I prefer to stretch my paper first, the old fashioned way. You can throw as much water and paint at it as you like and it always dry completely flat, which makes scanning less of a headache. My father taught me how to stretch paper as a child.

My favourite art shops are Corneillison & Sons, in Great Russell Street, London, and Chromos in Canterbury. Both hold extremely good stock.


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

You need a will of iron, determination, patience. Unless you are extremely lucky, it can take years to become truly established. Grow a thick skin too. Publishers can be quite harsh about your work when it gets to editing roughs stage. Join an illustration association, as they can provide you with advice on fees and legal advice. They can often provide standard contracts too that you can give to potential clients, and so well worth joining. Above enjoy what you do!

lynn horns and feathers

Lyn thank you for sharing your wonderful illustrations, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please keep in touch and let us know of all your future successes. We would love to hear about them.

You can visit Lyn at her website:  http://www.lynstone.com or stop by the agency that represents her: The Illustrator Agency

Please take a minute and leave Lyn a comment. It is always appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process, Tips Tagged: Armadillo Childrens books., Lyn Stone, Templar Publishing

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Lyn Stone, last added: 4/1/2014
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6. Drawing: The body language of children, people and animals - Joan Rankin

On 9-10 May 2013, we had a fantastic workshop facilitated by Joan Rankin. We each received a file containing a number of exercises. On day 1 we drew with pencil. We shared and discussed the work. And worked some more! Joan inspired us with her "Hat story".       To be continued ....    

0 Comments on Drawing: The body language of children, people and animals - Joan Rankin as of 5/23/2013 9:35:00 AM
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7. Illustrator Saturday – John Manders

johnphoto240John Manders was educated at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and later took courses at the School of Visual Arts and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where he studied children’s illustration, animation, and life drawing. His interests include puppetry (he studied that at Syracuse University College) and trying to speak Italian.

John’s  work is featured in over 30 children’s books and gazillions of children’s magazines. He’s a member of the Society of Illustrators, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and is a founding member of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators. John was also their first president.

A pet lover, John organized the successful Bow Wow Meow art auction that benefited the Animal Rescue League of Western PA, and the PSI scholarship fund. He also curated Illustration:  The Process, an educational exhibit of fourteen illustrators and their working methods.

John’s incredible work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh gallery, the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, and he was honored in the 25-year retrospective of Cricket magazine covers, held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999. That year, he was also a participant at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy. In May, 2006 he was named Outstanding Illustrator/Author by the Pennsylvania School Librarian’s Association.

john finnigan

This John’s latest book. You can see his process in the following interior spreads in the book.

This is a glimpse of John’s work-in-progress shots from Finnegan and Fox: The Ten-Foot Cop. This scene shows a crowded sidewalk next to a construction site. The lady next to Finnegan is upset because a mouse ran over her foot!

This is thumbnail sketch (very small).,and final painting. With crowd scenes, I’m always looking for people to include in the scene. It’s hard to make up all those characters.

This is the rough sketch.


Tight sketch (half-size of the painting). Using 2B pencils on layout bond paper, he transfers the drawings onto Arches 300 lb hot press watercolor paper.


Next is an ‘underpainting’ in neutral tones with Winsor & Newton Designers gouache.


The color is painted on top of that.  Starting to lay in gouache layers.


Painting in progress. More details added.


Continuing to add layers of detail. Prismacolor pencils are used for highlights and    accents.


Getting a closer look below.


Final below.

johnfinn-1617croppedThe next scene shows New York’s Finest organizing a search for a lost little girl. My cousin’s son is a NYC cop, so naturally I had to put him in this picture or be kicked out of the family. You can see him at the bottom of the page. And here is a photo that includes his loving parents. As always: thumbnail sketch, tight pencil sketch, work-in-progress and final painting. Sorry the final looks so washed out. It looks much better in the book!


Thumbnail Sketch.


Refined larger sketch.


John always does research. You can see photos of New York City police cars taped to the side for reference.



The policeman in the picture is John’s cousin’s son. Family comes in handy sometimes.





Final spread.

Cover Sketch.


Final cover art.


Cover Art above – Interior Art below.

Video below.


Masking fluid (or liquid frisket) is a pretty handy item to have around. Many of the scenes in Jack and the Giant Barbecue have characters in front of the big, wild & woolly American West. I like to spread out and paint that kind of backdrop with equally wild brush strokes. That’s a whole lot easier if you don’t have to carefully paint around the characters.

Masking fluid is kind of a rubbery syrup that you paint on your paper wherever you don’t want watercolor. It dries to a water-repellant film. As you see in the pictures, I masked out Jack and his faithful pony (also using bits of masking tape) so I could slather on the paint with abandon. When I finished painting the background, I peeled away the mask using a rubber cement pickup.

Use the link below to see John’s technique.



Due to a mix up, I will be posting John’s interview questions later and will announce it when I post it, so you don’t miss anything.

john perfect nest500


johnchicken pirate480

john let's have a party

john senor Don500





John’s picture book Jack and the Giant Barbecue has been dominated by National Cartoonist Society for the Reuben Award. The winners will be announced Saturday, May 25th at the Reuben Awards dinner in Pittsburgh, PA.


Check back to find out if John wins? Is he in the poster? We’ll find out when John sends me the answers to the interview questions.

















Hope you enjoyed getting to see John’s illustrations. I will post the interview questions as soon as I receive them from John.

You can visit John at www.johnmanders.com And as always I love when you leave a comment. Hope  you still will even with the glitch with the interview questions.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, picture books, Process Tagged: Children's Book Illustrator, Finnegan and Fox The Ten-Foot Cop, Jack and the Giant Barbecue, John Manders

1 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – John Manders, last added: 5/25/2013
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8. Illustrator Saturday – Susan Eaddy

eaddypicWhen her Mom framed the rooster she drew in kindergarten, Susan Eaddy decided that she wanted to be an artist. She has been building on those basic skills learned at age 5 and never lost her love for “ClayThings”.

When she grew up, she worked as an Art Director in educational book publishing for 8 years. She illustrated over 80 educational books and covers in many different media, and won awards for her paper sculpture. She became the Art Director at RCA Records Nashville, receiving a Grammy Award Nomination for the art direction of the “Los Super Seven” CD package.

Susan Eaddy After 7 years she left RCA to open ClayThings Illustration. Today, she works entirely in polymer and modeling clay, and has appropriated every kitchen tool in the house for her art.Her ClayThings appear in magazines, books, catalogs, advertising, greeting cards, wallpaper, kitchen textiles & other licensed products. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband & Mr. FuzzBoy the fat cat. She is a long-standing member of the SCBWI and is the Illustrator Coordinator for the Midsouth Region.

Here is Susan explaining her process:

I usually use plasticine or modeling clay, which never hardens. It is oil based and melty in the summer, hard as a rock in the winter, so I use ice in the summer and a heating pad in the winter.

I use needle tools, knives, onion bags, buttons, screen, rubber stamps, canvas and plastic texture sheets or ANYTHING for texture, garlic press and /or a clay extruder for hair and grass, pasta roller to roll flat sheets of clay, and food processor for mixing large quantities of a particular color.

Here are the steps:

1. Create a tight sketch.
2. Begin to fill in my background first, using the smush method with thumbs and fingers.
3. Build individual critters or leaves or people, one at a time and layer them into place.
4. Photograph the finished artwork in my studio with a professional camera.
5. Put the raw digital file into my computer, import to photoshop for final clean up. tweaking and preparation to final size for my clients.
6. Upload to an FTP site for clients.

Here are a few videos that show the illustrations coming to life.







Here’s the video:

eaddyTide Pool sketch


Some of Susan’s Book Covers:





Have you always lived in Tennesse?

No, I grew up in FL, but have been in TN now most of my life.


Did you ever take any art lessons?

Yes, My parents always encouraged me, and I took art lessons in 6th grade one night a week. When I was in high school, I wrangled my schedule so that I had 4 hours of art every day in my senior year.


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

I won a contest sponsored by Phillip Pickens Realty in the 7th grade. Their office was in an old house across the street from the school and they wanted students to paint their office/house. I won $25 and they got to keep the painting.


How did you did the job as art director at an educational publishing house? Which one was it?

When I found that I was moving to Nashville after college, I researched the publishers there and discovered Incentive Publications. Their artwork and covers had a beautiful trade book look to them, so I made a general pest of myself until they hired me first for free lance, then as in- house illustrator and finally as AD.


When and what happened to make you decide you wanted to add children’s book illustrator to your resume?

When I was in fifth grade, my mother gave me a workbook of poetry with space for illustration. I LOVED that book and decided that I wanted to combine my 2 favorite things, art and reading, and hoped that one day I could be an illustrator.


Did you take any classes on doing clay illustration?

No, when I was AD at incentive, I was able to illustrate the projects that interested me and free- lance out the rest. So during that time I experimented with every sort of medium, including clay. I had found my love.


What types of things do you do think helped develop your clay work?

My interest in layering, and cut paper, plus I like getting my hands dirty. And probably the biggest thing is that I like NOT knowing what I am doing, so the process is constant discovery. I am driven by my curiosity in how the piece will turn out, as I figure out how to solve each problem as it comes along.


Have the materials you use changed over the years?

Well, I used to use plasticine exclusively, but now I do use some Sculpey as well.


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

Yes! I have a drawer full!


I see that you have done a lot of clay illustration for Ladybug Magazine. How did that happen?

I had sent postcards to them for years. Once I even got a postcard back saying thanks but no thanks, my style was not a good fit. Wah! I was crushed, but I continued to send them postcards. Then one day, Sue Beck called and gave me a chance. ( she was not the one who had turned me down) Yay! And now I have done quite a few for Carus with LadyBug, Spider, Click and Babybug.


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

I send promotional postcards, maintain a presence on childrensillustrators.com and go to SCBWI conferences.


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

I have been working with Karen Grencik from Red Fox Literary since Fall of 2012. She just sold Poppy’s Best Paper to Charlesbridge, my first PB as author! The clay was not a good fit for this ms, and the fabulous french illustrator Rosalinde Bonnet will be doing the illustrations.


I would love to have a real 3-D sculpture like what you do hanging on my wall. Have you ever thought about using a permanent clay material to create lasting 3-D pictures to sell?

Yes, I do use Sculpey from time to time and it works as a wall hanging in a shadow box, since it can be baked. It has a different look and feel from the plasticine & I usually paint the clay instead of mixing colors. My Sculpey pieces are smaller, and it is a bit trickier to work with, I think.


Do you ever do any paintings?

No, not anymore…I used too, when I was AD at both Incentive and RCA. I did paintings for book covers and magazine ads. I love to draw and I went through a period of time a couple of years ago where I revisited using watercolor. But I found that I missed the clay too much! and I felt I was spreading myself too thin.


How many picture books have you published?

Papa Fish’s Lullaby, First look at Trucks, First Look at Aircraft, and First Look at Rescue vehicles.


I see that Papa’s Fish’s Lullaby was published by Cooper Square Publishing. Could you tell us a little bit about this publisher and how you landed the contract to illustrate the book?

Actually Papa Fish was published by Northwords Books for Young Readers, but about 6 months after its release, the company was sold to Cooper Square. Again, I had been sending out postcards to my list for years… and I was contacted by the AD who was working with Northwords. She said,” I have had your postcard on my bulletin Board for the last year and a half, just waiting for the right project!”


Is the illustration of the mouse holding the monkey’s hand coming out of the library an illustration from a book?

That was an illustration for Babybug Magazine. Quiet Mouse. And I was thrilled to find out that it won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Honor award for 2012.


First Look at Aircraft is a board book published by Soundprints. How many illustrations do you have to do for a board book?

These books are unusual because they are published in conjunction with the Smithsonian and they wanted a realistic component in addition to the clay artwork. So in each there are 5 clay pictures and 5 photographs. It was so interesting, because I had to have all of my clay aircraft, trucks and rescue vehicles approved by a museum curator at the Smithsonian!


How did you get hired by Soundprints to do those books?

I had exhibited my work at a licensing show in NYC called Surtex. Someone from the Smithsonian stopped by my booth and was especially attracted to my clay trucks. She told me that they partner with Soundprints for some of their children’s books and that she would mention my work to the Publisher. So in May, I sent follow-up emails to both Smithsonian and Soundprints, (never getting a response) and in August I sent a mock- up of a truck board book to Sound Prints. I heard nothing. But then in February I received an email saying that they wanted to do a series of books with me. Yay!


Why is the Smithsonian (Smithsonian First Looks) on one of the books. Did they buy the publisher? You have illustrated a few book with Studio Mouse. How did you find each other?

I am not sure exactly how it works. It is a dual copyright between the Publisher (Trudy Corporation) and the Smithsonian on all 3 books.  Soundprints, and Studio Mouse are imprints of the Trudy Corporation. However, I think the Trudy Corp has now been bought and is operating as Palm Kids!


When you add a new layer of clay to an illustration, do you have to do anything to help adhere it in place?

With plasticine the smush method works every time. When I am using Sculpey, I use Sculpey Bake & Bond, before I bake.


Have you gotten any work through networking?

I met Karen Grencik of Red Fox literary through SCBWI at the LA conference.


Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

No, since my work cannot be hung, I don’t do galleries. But I did have a booth at Surtex for 5 years where I displayed large prints of my work.


How long does it take to do an illustration?

It is a three-part process. The first part is research. I want to make sure that my animals and/or characters and settings are accurate. I go to the library and search the Internet, gathering materials to educate myself about whatever I am illustrating. For Papa Fish’s Lullaby it took me six weeks of solid research before I even put pencil to paper.

Next I do rough sketches and then tight drawings of the pages. It takes anywhere from one to three days to get the drawing and composition to my satisfaction. Then it takes me another day or so to work out the color scheme.

By the time I start working in clay, most of the hardest work is over! The actual clay work on Papa Fish took as little as three days for some spreads and as much as six days for others. The final size of each original is 11×17 inches.


Do you ever use Photoshop?

Yes. I could not do my job without it.


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

Yes. A Wacom. I am just more comfortable with a pen than a mouse and I use it exclusively when doing Photoshop work.

eaddyapp This is cool. It is a kid’s activity (app) on Ladybug Magazine’s Website for fun. Check it out. http://www.ladybugmagkids.com/activities/artscrafts/make-your-own-starry-night

How much time do you spend working on your clay illustrations?

I spend as much time, actually MORE time, researching, drawing, figuring out composition and palette as I spend doing the clay. By the time I get to the clay, most of the problem solving is done and I can PLAY!


I noticed that you have a studio set up in your attic. Do you try to work in a cooler place in the summer?

No, it’s a small house and I’m lucky to have a dedicated space. And the clay is not very transportable. I have all of my tools and mountains of clay at my fingertips in my studio. It’s easier to bring in ice than it is to take over another part of the house. (much to my husband’s relief)


What is the most important tool that you use?

Oooohhh do I have to choose only one? If that is the case it would be an exacto knife, but if I get more it would be the needle tools, knife, garlic press and a tiny flat blade for scooping.

eaddy babybug59239

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

 Oh yes, I lOVE to research!! I have to watch myself, because I can so easily get carried away in the fascination of learning new stuff! I do take photos and I love using the iPad as an easy way to access my research photos.


As Illustrator Coordinator, what types of things have you done with the Mid-South SCBWI chapter members?

We have a monthly Illustrator Meeting in Nashville. We sometimes pay a model, sometimes we just bring in work on which we want feedback. If someone has been to a distant conference (LA, NY) they bring back notes to share. We trade tips and moral support and I am ALWAYS enriched by our gatherings. Sometimes, in addition, we gather to sketch in a graveyard or hear a lecture at the Frist Art Museum. We currently have an SCBWI Illustrator Showcase in the Main Library in Nashville, we’ve had an Illustrator Day with the fabulous Laurent Linn. I maintain a public Midsouth Illustrator’s Blog and encourage members to post their works in progress. We also have a private PictureBook critique blog. We’ve just created a video guide to Putting Together Your Portfolio. I serve on the Midsouth Fall Conference Committeee & oversee all Illustration related matters such as our Illustrator Intensive, Portfolio Showcase, Illustrator Contest, and all Illustrator breakouts ( as well as other fun tasks).


I see that you attend the Bolgna Children’s Book Fair in 2012. Since most of us only dream about attending, could you tell us a little bit about it. Did it help to promote your work?

I had ALWAYS wanted to see what the Bologna Book Fair was about. When I discovered that my work had been chosen to be part of an SCBWI Portfolio I decided that now was as good a time as any. And by staying in monasteries, I was able to travel on a shoestring. While I did not get any direct foreign rights deals there, I met fabulous, fascinating people of great talent, and attended seminars on cutting edge issues in childrens’ publishing. One of the BEST parts for me, was meeting and getting to know the International Team. My contact with them led to school visits in Hong Kong earlier this year. There is a project in the works with Julie Hedlund, whom I also met in Bologna. In 2014 three of us Southern ICs plan to travel to Bologna.( Elizabeth Dulemba and Bonnie Adamson) I’m not sure what to expect, but one NEVER knows where things will lead.

You can see Susan’s sketch book journal at: http://claythings-susaneaddy.blogspot.com/


Any exciting projects on the horizon?

We’re still working out all the details so I can’t reveal specifics, but if all goes forward I will be illustrating one of Julie Hedlund’s delightful picture books.


What are your career goals?

To write and illustrate and have my books published and in the hands of kids!


What are you working on now?

I’m writing a PB right now. The Midnight Brownie  is in at least its 500th draft ;o) and I am doing clay sketches for it as I write. I’m also finishing up my journal from a recent trip to China and working on a new iMovie short with my clay critters.


Are there any clay 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?

Well, I do stalk the Micheal’s website for coupons and buy quantities of both Plasticine(modeling clay)and Sculpey and fun looking texture sheets or rubber stamps when they have 40 % off. If using Sculpey with a texture sheet lightly dust it with powder first so it doesn’t stick. They have some great books on working with Polymer clay  too. Go there and browse!


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

I know that you hear this a lot, but perseverance is key. In these days of American Idol and instant celebrity stories you may expect quick success and allow yourself to become discouraged. Quick success IS the exception, wonderful if it happens, but it isn’t the norm. If you love children’s books just keep at it, and surround yourself with other people who love it as much as you do. And try to surround yourself with people who are better than you and LEARN from them. And I know this is going to sound like an ad, but truly, the SCBWI conferences are invaluable for career development, networking and inspiration. Being surrounded by hundreds of people who are passionate about what YOU love??? It doesn’t get much better than that.


If you would like to visit Susan, you can find her at: www.susaneaddy.com. If you have a few minutes, please take the time to leave a comment for Susan. Thanks!

Thank you Susan. I loved seeing your process videos. You make me want to try my hand at clay. Looks like a bunch of fun. Please remember to keep us informed of all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: SCBWI Mid-South Illustrator Coordinator, Susan Eaddy

14 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Susan Eaddy, last added: 6/1/2013
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9. Illustrator Saturday – Jason Kirschner


jasonIMG_6399Jason’s name might sound familiar, since I showed off his winning illustration from the NJSCBWI June Conference the other week. If you read Jason resume above, you will see how successful he has been in his career already. I am sure it is exciting to work around other creative people like he does on the David Letterman Show, but Jason is expanding into the children’s book market and I am sure he will be just as successful with that endeavor. Below you will see Jason’s process, but we start with his answers to my question about how he paints and what materials he uses.  Here’s Jason:

I color everything digitally now and have done so for about a year and a half. I used to use watercolors, colored pencil and prismacolor markers but I’ve eliminated all of that. Digital is quicker and soooooo much easier to revise. You never have to wait for the paint to dry and its all free (after you’ve finished paying for Photoshop, of course).

As for Pencils… Right now I’m in love with Prismacolors. They’re nice and dark when you want a strong line. I also like the fact the line has a little bit of breakup in it. As stupid as it sounds–It keeps my drawing looking hand drawn. Beyond that, I’m also really happy with a nice #2 pencil.

As for paper I will really use anything. I probably should be more particular. I do like Strathmore or Canson sketch or watercolor paper. Honestly though 95% of the time I end up using cheap photocopy paper– 11″x 17″ if its around. The lack of texture is an advantage when I’m using the Photoshop magic wand to isolate different elements  drawn on the paper. Truthfully I add whatever textures I want later in the process anyway.

jasonbrigade step1

Step 1:  After I figured out my idea and did a few rough sketches, I drew finished versions of each character with pencil and scanned each in separately. With each character on a separate layer I played around until I got a composition I  liked.

jasonbrigade step2

Step 2:  If I’m going to use a texture or paper I lay it in right at the beginning.  That way I can choose colors accordingly.  Here I was going for a classic sort of feeling so I chose an old paper from my texture library and placed it on its own multiply layer above all the pencil sketches.

jasonbrigade step3

Step 3: Next I lay in the color, also on a multiply layer.  For the most part I use solid blocks of color.  In some places I start to indicate highlight and shadow but I do most of that in the next step.

Jasonbrigade step4

Step 4: Finally, I add a layer for shade and shadows , and one for highlights.  This is also the time I’d use any sort of photoshop filters but I mostly avoid them.


What made you decide to go to Emory University to get a BA in Theatre Arts?

One day someone from the Theater Dept. came in to my  high school art class and asked if anyone could paint a giant sunset for South Pacific.  I raised my hand and was drafted into service.  I loved working on sets in High School.

At Emory I designed and directed theater on the side. I was actually a math/computer science major for most of my time there. I used to go the the computer lab after rehearsals and work until late in the night. One night I was in the computer lab at 3:30am looking for a missing semicolon in 4000 lines of code while sitting between two guys arguing over which Star Trek captain was better – Kirk or Picard.  I quit the next morning and declared a theater major.


Tell us about how you decided to go for you Master’s in Stage Design at Brandeis University?

I had been designing sets for a few years and I really enjoyed it.  It seemed to be a career where I can draw for a living but not be a starving artist.  I really liked the program at Brandeis (which is now sadly defunct)  and after four years in Atlanta, I missed winters.  It was great to have three years to really concentrate on nothing but Theater and sketching and painting.


Were you working in the theatre business while getting your master’s? 

I did take a few outside design jobs but mostly I designed shows for Brandeis.


Did any of the contacts you made in college help you get you work?

My grad school contacts not only got me work — they got me my career.  A Brandeis alum was working at the Late Show at the time and through him I started a brief internship there while they were designing a new set.  That experience was invaluable to me. That credit on my resume helped me get an interview at Late Night with Conan O’Brien right out of grad school. When there was an opening a year later they offered me the job. I really loved my four years there.


Did that lead to working with the David Letterman Show?

While I was working at Late Night,  I would occasionally fill in over at the Late Show. When a position opened up I interviewed and got the job.



Did you ever take any illustration class?

I’ve honestly never taken an illustration class.  I did take figure drawing once in grad school. I’ve always loved drawing but I’m mostly self taught.   I’ve got sketchbooks from when I was three or four years old.  I started copying Sunday comics and comic books as a little kid and I’ve never stopped.   I try to draw every day.


When did you decide that you wanted to try your hand with children’s books?

It’s always something I wanted to try.   When my wife and I had our twins and started reading picture books I really wanted to make my own.  I started putting together an illustration portfolio which is decidedly different from a scenic design portfolio.  I’ve been at if for three years now and I feel I’m growing as an illustrator every day.


Do you think working in stage and theatre has influenced your children’s style?

The skits we do at the Late Show are usually very short so you only get a few seconds of screen time to set the scene.  You have to pick your details wisely to convey setting.  I think its a useful skill I draw upon when illustrating.   Just like in TV or movies I try to start with a wide establishing shot to set the scene before I go in for close-ups.  Lastly, set sketches are always very conscious of the lighting and mood of the scene.  I try to bring that into my illustrations as well.


Do you think your style has changed since when you first started?

Definitely. I am always trying to evolve my style while trying to keep my illustrations looking like they’re mine.   I find when I stray too far, people say the work doesn’t look like my own.  I also really love line work so I am always trying new ways to keep things looking hand drawn.


What is your favorite medium to use? 

Pencils.  Prismacolor Pencils and Photoshop seem to be my preferred method these days.  One day I’d love to get back to more conventional mediums like watercolors or colored pencils.   Time becomes a huge factor and digital is just quicker.  You can revise indefinitely without starting over.  Any medium I can walk away from for a while and pick back up whenever is best for me lately.

The way I work now is to hand draw everything –pencil on paper.  I try to draw all the elements separately. I scan them in and compose and edit in Photoshop.  Then I color it all digitally.


What was the first piece of art that you sold?

I’ve never actually sold anything.  Anyone want to buy something?


Have you made a picture book dummy to show art directors and editors?

I have! I’ve spent the last ten or eleven months working on a picture book I wrote and illustrated called Monster Nanny. I’m constantly revising and rewriting and redrawing.  I actually brought it to the NJ SCBWI conference earlier this month. I got lots of great feedback.


Are you represented by an artist rep.? If so, who? If not, would you like to find one?

No.  Not yet.  I would love to find some representation. I love the drawing and the writing but I’m new to the business end of it all.


Do you think you will ever write and illustrate your own book?

I really hope so.


Have you thought of submitting your illustrations to children’s magazines to help get you noticed?

I honestly haven’t but I’m open to any venue that will help me get my work out there.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

YES. All the time.  I’ve been using Photoshop for years at my day job and I am constantly finding new ways to speed my process up by using Photoshop.  I’ve also started coloring all my illustrations in Photoshop.  I’ve also started using 3D modeling programs like Sketchup in the early stages of a drawing to help me figure out composition and perspective.  I am also trying to make Corel Painter a part of my process but I’m not there yet.


Do you own a graphic tablet? 

Yes. Love them. At home I use an Wacom Intuos tablet. At work I recently got a Cintiq which is so cool. In the few months I’ve had it I’ve already starting skipping some of the pencil drawing and doing it directly in Photoshop. Using different virtual brushes, I’m getting better at imitating a pencil line digitally. I can see doing more and more of that in the future.


Do you have a studio in your at home?

I do. It’s a recent addition for me and it makes me so happy. I go up there most nights after dinner and draw. I’ve got a drafting table and a computer station. The only problem is that the office is across the hall from my kids’ bedrooms so no TV or music without earphones.


When do you find time to work on the children’s illustration when you are doing The Late Show With David Letterman?

Nights and weekends. I’m always a little sleepy.


Other than the award you just won at the NJSCBWI Conference for the above illustration, has your artwork won any awards?

Sadly, no.


What types of things are you doing to get your work in front of publishers?

Not enough. I’m admittedly not good at selling myself. I’ve sent out a few postcards here and there.  I’m working on a new illustration for a bigger postcard mailing in the next few weeks.


What are your career goals?

I’m pretty happy being the Production Designer for the Late Show.

I love working on the picture books as well. I’d ideally like to write and illustrate my own stuff but I’d be happy drawing someone else’s manuscript too. Maybe I could one day down the road transition to being a full time illustrator. Who knows?


Are there any painting tips (materials,paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I am always reading blogs for these answers!  I’m so terrible at knowing what to use.  Once in a while I get up the energy to try a different kid of paper or marker or pencil but honesty I’ll draw on anything.  More often that not, I draw with prismacolor pencils on cheap photocopy paper.  Mostly because I’m lazy. I’m experimenting with drawing in browns and purples instead of black.  Its a softer line but it isn’t appropriate for every illustration.

On the digital side, I keep trying to develop techniques that don’t look digital. I’ve been collecting a folder full of older papers and textures that I layer into my illustrations to give them a classic feel.   I try to use layers to my advantage. I leave things separated until the end so I can keep playing with composition. I also try to use old school techniques of shadow and highlight, also on separate layers.


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

At this point in my illustration career, I am probably someone who should be taking  career wisdom rather than doling it out.

Here’s what I can offer: First — draw every day.  I do. I think it takes a while to get into “the zone” where you feel your drawings are worth keeping.

Secondly – I am not a spiritual person at all but I do believe that opportunities find you.  You have to do the work and put yourself out there.  Opportunity might open a door for you but you do need courage to jump on those opportunities and the skill to back it up.



Thank you Jason letting us get to know you and sharing your process. Make sure you keep us updated on all your future successes. If you would like to visit Jason, here is the link to his website: www.jasonkirschner.com

Please take a minute to leave Jason some encouraging comments – Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, Process, Tips Tagged: Art Director, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, Jason Kirschner

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Jason Kirschner, last added: 6/24/2013
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10. Illustrator Saturday – Matthew Vimislik


So you don’t have to strain your eyes, here is what the above text says:
In addition to illustrating children’s books, magazines, and packaging, Matthew dabbles in books for the iPad, several completed for Vivabooks by Mythos Machine. He is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently represented by Nicole Tugeau of Tugeau2 www.tugeau2.com.

Clinets include Carus Publishing, Stories for Children Magazine, “VivaBooks” by Mythos Machine, Playmoolah.com, and Honorbound.

Here is Matthew discussing his process:

Step 1: First, I start out with a sketch.  I used to start out with pencil sketches, but since then, I’ve moved onto doing them digitally – I can move stuff around much more easily, and it keeps the images from looking static, and make changes to the image without worrying about losing the original sketch.  For instance, the expressions here look alright, but after messing around a bit… vimAStep2Step 2:  …I got some goofier expressions like this that look more like something I’d like to draw.


Step 3:  I take the sketch, and apply colors.  I don’t necessarily have to keep to this color palette exactly (the absence of the blackline will change the image a LOT), but it sets the mood, and gives me a sense of color and light that I can try to keep the image to throughout the painting process.


Step 4:  I take two copies of the color comp; one that I keep at 100% opacity so I can refer to it frequently while I illustrate, and another copy I keep at about 10% opacity that I will leave on a lot to work on the painting underneath.  I block out sections of the image with a pen tool, and using a layer mask, I’ll paint inside those shapes.  The layer mask makes it easy for me to apply a quick backlight if need be, without a lot of finesse.  I’ll work on it in chunks like you see here, otherwise I get CRAZY bored.


Step 5:  After I paint everything and make a few color tweaks, the final image looks like this!


How long have you been illustrating?

I had my first serious gig in October 2009.


I see you graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology. Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

It had a good illustration program – they really encouraged personal style and development, and the staff made sure they were available when you needed them.  When I went, the class size was pretty small, so I got to know everyone in the program.

I also lucked out, and managed to live in a dorm floor with mostly art students, so I was surrounded by other artists 24/7, which in a tech school is a rare treat.


What types of classes did you take?

A pretty standard assortment of art classes, and then lots of courses in postmodernism and film theory.  Ironically, I ended up dropping my Children’s Book Art class, because I am a DARING REBEL that REFUSES TO PLAY BY THE RULES.  *guitar solo here*


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

LOTS of digital illustration courses. 


Did you study cartoon drawing?



What type of things help you develop your graphic style?

I used to do my final illustrations fairly realistically, but my sketches were always goofy and cartoony.  One of my art professors told me, “I like your sketches better than your final work, they have a lot of energy to them.”  So I spent a couple years “unlearning” a lot of my realistic tendencies.  My characters have been looking pretty static lately though, so I’ve been sifting and doing some sketches of work from Tony Millionaire, Tim Schafer, Thurop Van Orman, really any sort of artist that tickles my fancy.


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

When I was 10, Pokemon was ALL THE RAGE, so I started drawing in my medium of choice, Microsoft Paint.  I made a series of Pokemon pictures, nine to a page on thick card stock that fit nicely inside collectible card carrying cases.  I sold them for a quarter a piece and signed them, so a lot of the kids in my neighborhood had a picture or two they kept to show off.


Have you done any work for children’s magazines? 

I do a lot of work for the various Cobblestone Magazines: Appleseeds, Calliope, Odyssey, Spider, etc.  


How long have you been represented by Nicole Tugeau? How did you and Nicole connect with each other?

I was listening to an art and illustration podcast with Dani Jones, and she spoke very highly of Nicole, so I sent off my portfolio, thinking I would at the most get a very polite “no”.  Instead, I got an agent.


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

I used to show my portfolio around all the time at various functions, thinking my work had the off-beat and weird stylings of stuff I’d seen in “Hi-Fructose” or “Juxtapoz”.  Heck, my portfolio included an image of Paul McCartney’s intestines  being devoured by a giant Heather Mills Spider with a fake leg.  All the art directors would assume I was a children’s book artist though, so I rolled with it. 


I noticed that you have four digital books for children on Amazon. All published in 2012. All published by Amazon Digital. How did that deal come about?

I realized I needed a lot more practice with pen and brushwork, so over about 3 weeks, I wrote and illustrated four books that are criminally dumb, but they made me giggle while I came up with the concepts.


Have you illustrated any print books?

I’m finishing up a book series now for StoneArch Publishing, which should have some advance copies coming out in a couple months.  I’m not sure if I can tell you much more!


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

Right now I’m working on some comic books – I’ve built up a portfolio of 50 some-odd pages of comics, but they’re all in various states of development, and a lot of them SCREAM for color.  I’ve been getting them done between client gigs, but it’s slow work.  I’m going to have a pitch ready in October for the New York Comic-Con.

As far as a kids chapter book or something, I have some ideas I’m knocking around, but they are still primordial soup in the virgin molten world that is my noodlespace.


Did you design your own website?

Haha, yeah, I did all the coding too!

This is actually the 4th iteration of the website – my first portfolio site had a monster eating a 3-layered ice cream cone, with each of the ice cream flavors being a link to a different part of my portfolio (that website was the sole reason I got an internship at Cartoon Network).  The next one was a website where a painting of me sleeping in the corner led to a thought bubble where my portfolio was.  The next version had a robot destroying the city with all of the portfolio pieces in a screen on it’s belly.  I did this one in early 2011, adding a rocket kid, and changing the design of the robot, and it is an absolute PAIN to update.  I’ll be uploading a much more vanilla design sometime in the next few months.  


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

Once, at the 2010 Winter Conference in NYC.  Granted, I was BRUTALLY under prepared – I just had a portfolio of about 20 images, all color, no examples of how it would be used for a final product, no book dummy, and honestly no idea about what sort of market I could appeal to.


Do you do all your digital work in Photoshop?

Yup!  Years of pirating Photoshop innoculated me against the desire to learn how to use something cheaper.


Do you use a Graphic tablet to draw?

I picked up a Wacom Intuos 4 last January to replace my old tablet; I’m hoping it lasts me long enough until I can afford a Cintiq, or until technology advances enough that neural implants can make my strange imaginings come to life on the screen.


Have you studied animation?

No, which I’m sort of regretting right now.  I’ve done a lot of New Media work that’s called for simple animations, so I’ve been sort of learning it on the fly, especially any shortcuts that can limit the frames of animation.  I’ve watched a lot of Hanna-Barbara cartoons to figure out some of the basics.


Do you think your art was influenced by any other illustrators?

I grew up when Klasky-Csupo was one of the dominant animation studios, so you can see some influence from there, especially my color palettes.  I was also CRAZY obsessed with indie comics, anime, and SNES-era games.  I can’t think of a specific artist that was a huge influence, I just sort of pick up elements from artists that I like.  Specific names of artists that come to mind: Amadeo Modigliani, Jhonen Vasquez, Akira Toriyama, George Herriman, Edward Gorey and Peter Chung.


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

I have more of a tendency to binge draw; I’ll spend a couple weeks where I’m drawing and drawing like CRAZY, and then a week where I might just do a few sketches, and spend a lot of time reading, or getting some non-art work done.  For the last six months though, I’ve had a LOT of client work, so I’ve been working nearly constantly; maybe after all the hullabaloo I’ll try to keep a schedule going. 


Do you ever do any artwork using traditional materials?

All of my black and white work starts with brush and ink on paper, and I’ll color it later on the computer.  At the last New York Comic Con I was at, I ended up meeting a comic artist from my hometown who informed me my inking was TERRIBLE, so I’ve been hard at work redoing a lot of old comic pages, finding new, better materials to work with, and practicing a BUNCH to give myself a sure hand. 


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

Haha, I did some work for the Australian/New Zealand division of Oxford University Press, and I had to do a LOT of research just to understand what I was drawing.  I had to look up local flora and fauna to find plants that looked “Australian”, I had to look up local cars, and even just what certain words meant in Australia (example:  “torch” means “flashlight”, not “burning stick”).


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

My first professional clients were from Singapore, who I found from a random freelance site, a lot of my clients come through online directories that I pay to be on, and maybe 60% of what I have made total from freelancing has come from projects that hinge on the internet to work, so yeah, the internet has been pretty important for me professionally.

On the downside, cute cat videos reduce my work productivity immensely.


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

The figures have been steadily getting more stylized: larger, buggier eyes, thinner limbs, arms that curve and bend more, and they have a lot more energy to their stances.

My physical tools haven’t changed much (I’m using a drawing tablet on a desktop in photoshop), but my digital tools have!  I used to use just the pen tool, fill, and airbrush, but now I use more textured brushes, and harder brushes with a slightly soft edge to them.  There was a period of time that I used hard brushes on a light opacity, thinking it would give my pieces a more traditional look, but instead it made them look UGLY.


How do you market yourself?

At the suggestion of fellow Tugeau 2 artist Courtney Martin, I started putting myself on childrensillustrators.com, which has been working out REALLY well for me, and has been paying for itself every year.  Otherwise, I let Nicole do a lot of the marketing for me.


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

-Get my own comic book series or graphic novel published

-Write and illustrate a book a semi-popular book that becomes a major hit and a cultural touchstone  after I pass away, and gets adapted into two movies, both of middling quality and success

-Have an animation studio hire me to write and do character designs and concepts for a cartoon pilot, which no network picks it up, but the pilot becomes such a hit on youtube, that Netflix picks it up as a mini-series, so I write a great one-season storyline, and it gets picked up for two more seasons before I gracefully leave, and the show continues for another two seasons without me.


What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up some covers for a new book series, and getting a comic pitch ready for the New York City Comic-Con, and coloring some old black and white comics I finished up last year.


Do you have any digital creative tips you can share with us?

The UNDO button is the greatest tool in my digital arsenal, and I will use it often and with reckless abandon.  If I’m not using the UNDO button a lot in a piece, it means I didn’t explore as many visual possibilities as I could have.


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

I would love some please, thank you!

Thank you Matthew for sharing you dynamic illustrations and process with us. I only see success in your future, so please let us know as they come your way.

You can find Matthew on his website: www.vimislikart.com/ Please take a minute to leave a comment for Matthew. It is much appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Carus Publishing, Matthew Vimislik, Nicole Tugeau, Tugeau2, Viva Books

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Matthew Vimislik, last added: 7/7/2013
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11. SCBWI SA turns 10

Join in the celebrations from 1 -5 November 2013. These will be held in the Cape Town area. For more information, visit: http://scbwi-sa-10-years.blogspot.com/

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12. An Evening with Patricia Polacco

I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to the amazing author/illustrator PATRICIA POLACCO on Monday evening. She discussed a few of her books--in particular THE KEEPING QUILT and THE BLESSING CUP. Both of these heartwarming stories are based on her own true family stories.

Ms. Polacco said that she came from a family of "amazing storytellers." Every evening her grandmother would share a story, embellishing them more and more as the years went by. "Of course it's a true story," her grandmother would say when asked. "But it may not have happened."

The author went on to explain that "the truth is the journey one takes through the story." She also shared her feelings on her illustrations. "Art is like breathing," she said. "I can't imagine life without it."

I encourage you to share the journey through one or many of Patricia Polacco's endearing picture book stories. You'll be so glad that you did.

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13. Illustrator Saturday – Hazel Mitchell – Book Give-a-Way

hazelbooksigningOne Word Pearl280Back on February 2011, I featured Hazel on this blog. In that short time she has illustrated 14 books, attended conferences all over the world, conducted school visits, and maintains a strong social media presence. I’m really impressed. Thought you would be interested in seeing some of her work and sharing more of her journey. She has also agreed to send a lucky visitor a copy of her latest book ONE WORD PEARL.

Here is Hazel:

Drawing and horses were my great escapes as a youngster. I attended art college in my home country of England. When I left art college I ran away to sea and joined the Royal Navy – they taught me to be a graphic designer.

Now I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of – illustrating and writing children’s books.

Originally I’m from Scarborough in Yorkshire, UK. I came America in 2000 and now I live and work in Maine.  I still miss fish and chips and mushy peas, (but I’m learning to love lobster). I have two dogs, two horses, a cat and several snow shovels.

Some of my books have won awards and my publishers include Charlesbridge/Makinac Island Press, Highlights, ABDO/Magic Wagon, Kane and Miller, Freespirit, Beacon Publishing, Reading A-Z and SCBWI.

hazelOne Word Pearl Cover

And I have Great News for all of you. Hazel has agreed to give away a signed copy of ONE WORD PEARL. Anyone that leaves a comment will get their name put in the hat one time. If you would like to collect more entries into the hat you can do the following:

1 entry everything you tweet this link (One a day).

1 entry for putting this link on facebook

1 entry for putting up this post on your blog.

2 entries if you reblog this post.

5 entries if you talk about the book on your facebook page or blog.

Please come back to leave an update on what you did by next Friday in the comment section, so I know how many times to put your name in the hat for the drawing. I will announce the winner on Sunday September 22nd.

hazelProcess 1

First rough draft with basic text placement.

hazelProcess 2

Transfer to light box and trace off.

hazelProcess 3

Pencil the background and some light and shade and scan into photoshop.

hazelProcess  4

I add the characters as a separate layer.

hazelProcess 5

Colour the background digitally and adding some texture. The marble floor is a watercolour wash I created on yupo and scanned.

hazelProcess  6

The characters get their colour. I use multiple on layer to reveal the pencil lines beneath.

hazelProcess  7

Window glass is another layer of salted texture watercolour, again scanned.

hazelProcess 8The wall texture is scanned rice paper that had a great texture. I change the colour with an overlay tool and the shadows are added in another multiple layer on top of that!

hazelProcess 9Lastly I add in the ‘letters’ around the door. Each is on a layer of it’s own so I can jiggle it around and set them to different opacity to give the effect that they are floating. This spread had 35 layers.

hazelProcess 9

The final spread with text.

hazelProcess 10

Title page below:

hazelOne Word Pearl Title page

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating trade books for children since 2010, but I’ve always worked in graphic/commercial illustration.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 1

I see you grew up in England and attended Art College in the UK. Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

Well, here’s the thing, I didn’t enjoy Art College a great deal. The college I went to was very fine arts directed and apart from graphics, illustration courses were never mentioned. In fact, how to get into children’s illustration was the red headed stepchild. I didn’t have a great time and in my second year I found myself on a glass blowing course, of all things. So I am afraid I drifted rather (I hated glass blowing!) and finally left college altogether in my second year.
I WAS very lucky though. In my years from 16 -18 I had an excellent art teacher who was an artist himself and his classes gave me an excellent grounding in the basics, as did my first year at art college. So I always felt like I had 4 years of study. We don’t all have a perfect journey, but it is the journey that matters.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 2

What classes were your favorites?

Looking back I can see that my favorite classes were those that let my imagination run free. I enjoyed life drawing and learning techniques and all that, but what I really loved was exploring story … only I didn’t know it then, and my tutors did not pick up on it.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 3

Did the School help you get work?

Alas, as I did not finish the course I didn’t have chance to know if they would or not. But I have been in touch with several people I went to college with, who finished and got good degrees. How many are working in an art based field today? … not many.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 4

Do you feel that the classes you took there have influenced you style?

I really feel like my style was influenced by my teacher from 16-18. He loved classic illustrations, Victorian and Edwardian artists, the pre-raphaelites and William Morris. Those are the kind of images that formed my basic drawing technique.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 5

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

Ha! The same art teacher got me a commission in a cafeteria right on the oceanside in the  town I grew up in. It was a mural of seaside life, right above the counter. I had to paint the whole thing up stepladders at the weekends in the winter. Looking back it was quite a thing to do for a 17 yr. old girl. I think I got a couple of hundred pounds for it. Last time I went back to my hometown they’d knocked down the café and built a sewage filtration plant there! Great!

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 6

You say in your bio that you learned graphic art in the Royal Navy. I know you like to kid around. Is this the truth? If so, what made you sign up for that?

And that, Kathy, IS the honest truth! After I drifted out of college I worked with horses for a while (my second love after art), but it was going nowhere. My brother, who was serving in the Royal Navy, suggested I go to a recruitment office and see if they’d anything I would be good for. I never expected to end up as a graphic designer! They looked at my past experience and I was placed in a trade working with civil servant graphic officers. I learned from some excellent artists and did all kinds of things from technical drawings of helicopters to exhibition work and all kinds of general stationery and manuals. Also I got to paint portraits of senior officers for their leaving gifts – I even got to do a painting for Princess Anne which I presented to her when she visited the Naval Base. So, I was extremely lucky and I enjoyed every minute of my 6 year’s service.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 7

What was the first illustration work you did for children?

The first book I was commissioned to work on was ‘How to talk to an Autistic Kid’ by Daniel Stefanski from Freespirit Publishing.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 8

How did that come about?

Simple answer … from a postcard I mailed out that hit the Art Director on the day he was looking for an artist.

hazelOne Word Pearl End Page

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

I think I always wanted to do it from being a child. I made up my own stories and drew the pictures. I made comics for my class mates later. But I began to take it seriously in about 2002.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea cover

What made you move to the United States?

My husband is American, originally from NJ, a couple of years after we met, we married and I moved to America.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 1

It seems you have had a very success last two years with having six books published.  Two were published by Kane Miller. How did those contracts come your way?

I just counted up and that’s about right, plus I did several educational jobs. No wonder I feel like a holiday! It’s been quite a roll. They came in several ways … postcard mailouts to editors and art directors (which is how Kane Miller found me for the 4 book chapter series ‘All Star Cheerleaders’ by Anastasia Suen). Also from my work being seen on social networks and blogs, and also from conference contacts.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 2

Three of your books have been published with Charlesbridge. Your first being Hidden New Jersey by Linda Barth. Can you tell us the story behind you getting this job?

This book came to me after being spotted on Facebook by Anne Margaret Lewis, the developer for Charlesbridge’s imprint Mackinac Island Press. She saw my regular sketch posts and was looking for an illustrator who liked detail!

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 3

Did you do anything specific to influence Charlesbridge into asking you to illustrate One Word Pearl?

I was asked after they published Hidden New Jersey if I would be interested in Pearl and I jumped at it!

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 4

Same question as above, but for you next book with them – Imani’s Moon coming out next year.

Again, I was offered the m/s and I love it! I am really looking forward to illustrating Imani’s Moon .. it’s something totally new for me, and I am looking forward to doing something different (again!)

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 5

How did you get the contract to do Double Crossed at Cactus Flats by Rich Williams with ABDO?

This came from a postcard I gave to a marketing person on ABDO’s booth at ALA midsummer. They needed someone to illustrate a cowboy book and I happened to give them a postcard with horses on it! You never know when Karma is working for you!!

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 6

Have you worked for educational publishers?

I have done several online pdf educational books.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 7

Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

Yes, I recently did a ‘What’s Wrong’ spread for Highlights.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 8

What was your first book?

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid by Daniel Stefanski from Free Spirit Publishing.

hazelAutistic Kid Cover

Do you have an artist rep or an agent? Could you tell us how they found you? If you don’t have a rep. would you like to find one?

I have been working under my own steam for the last four years. I have been looking for an agent on and off, but haven’t clicked with anyone yet. (It’s SO like dating!) I am writing my own books now and I have been holding out for a literary agent, rather than a rep. But my projects keep getting pushed aside while I work on commissioned books. Not that I am complaining, it’s a jolly nice problem to have!

hazelAutistic Kid in Japanese

Would you ever like to write and illustrate your own book?

Yes, definitely. I have a ton of ideas and just need to get on with finishing some of them! I love writing. Doing the 2 things together seems the natural progression for me.

hazelAutistic Kid Interior 1

Are you open to illustrating for self-published authors?

I have illustrated several self-published books in the past, but now I am concentrating on trade books and, in the future, I hope my own author/illustrator projects. However I am not ruling out a great project, I just finished a MG book this year for a book developer that’s a lot of fun, but it’s not strictly ‘self-published’.

hazelAutistic Kid Interior 2

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Mostly mail outs of postcards and tear sheets. Plus social networking and attending conferences and trade shows.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Covers

What is your favorite medium to use?

I have mostly been working in pencil and digital colour, but I love mixed media and it’s turning up in my work more and more. I also love ink brush/pen.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 1

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

My Wacom tablet.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 2

I have watched you since you were featured on Illustrator Saturday http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/illustrator-saturday-hazel-mitchell/ and wonder how you can do so much. It looks like you are always flying all over the world, doing conferences and workshops, communicating with your friends and fans on many social media sites, and doing school visits, all while you are illustrating children’s books. How do you find the time to do everything you do?

This is a good question. The thing is, I never feel like I am doing enough! I guess I have always been a workaholic, since I was in the Navy and then running a print and design business. I love what I do now and wish I’d had the courage to begin much sooner – so I am making up lost time. I also have no children at home, so that maybe frees me up. I HAVE learned that I need to get away and have time out, though, else the work suffers and so do I!

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 3

Have you ever won an award for your writing or illustrating?

To date ‘How to Talk to an Autistic Kid’ has garnered the most awards of my books including a ForeWord Review’s Gold Medal, Learning Magazine’s Award and was a finalist in ‘Books for a Better Life’. I have also been awarded places in SCBWI illustration contests in New England.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 4

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

I take pictures if I can or do research online/library. I make mood boards and for ‘Imani’s Moon’ I am using Pinterest to make reference boards.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 5

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?



Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes I do … most of my work is put together from hand drawn elements scanned into photoshop. For One Word Pearl I used a lot of collage and textures and photoshop was indispensable. I have used it since the 1980’s in all sorts of design work. Now it is integral to my illustration.

hazelDouble Crossed Interior 1cropped

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

I use a Wacom Intuos tablet.

hazelDouble Crossed Interior 2cropped

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

Yes it has, even in the last four years. In some ways I find I am going back to how I drew when I was in my formative years, with freedom and before all that graphic design tightened me up. A lot of knowledge on craft has come to me from attending conferences and workshops, reading and looking at illustration. Naturally you change. I tend not to have just one style, and I can’t help but feel one style is a bore … producing the same thing time and again. (Maybe that is why I am not repped ;-) I don’t like pigeonholes). Every manuscript is different. So therefore it seems essential that the voice in the illustrations matches the writer’s voice.

hazelDouble Crossed Interior 3cropped

How do you market yourself?

I try to be consistent and keep at it! I mailout postcards, keep my social networks and portfolio ticking over and updated. I mail schools and I invest in myself and my career by going to conferences/retreats as well as being asked to be on faculty these days (which is wonderful and amazing!).

hazelHidden NJ Cover

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

To see something I have written and illustrated on the bookshelf. That will do for now. Oh and I would like a theme park about one of my books, please ;-) .

hazelHidden NJ Interior 1

What are you working on now?

Right now I am beginning the initial character and layout on ‘Imani’s Moon’. My personal WIP’s include a graphic novel and a MG adventure/mystery. Oh, and several PB’s at various stages of un-finished-ness.

hazelHidden NJ Interior 2

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.

Hmmm …

1 – If for some reason you are drawing with a mouse – get a tablet! Do you want carpal tunnel??
2 – Use the best materials you can. It makes a difference. From pencils to paper.
3 – Keep EVERY little sketch and reference and take photos of how you are working on a book or project. You never know when it will come in handy for promotion/school visits etc.
4 – Try YUPO paper for interesting watercolour techniques.
5 – Try something new … a new paper, an alternative to paper (ie anything at  all!), if you have never used oils, give them a go. If you always draw with pencil, try a big crayon. Keep experimenting, keep fresh.

hazelHidden NJ Interior 3

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

It’s about the journey. Even the rejections, the late nights, the tears, the failures. Pick yourself up and keep on drawing or writing and of all the highs and lows the steadiness of the work will move you along and give you the greatest enjoyment. Oh, and don’t forget to show people your work!

hazelHidden NJ Interior 4

Hope you enjoyed meeting Hazel Mitchell (aka The Wacky Brit).  You can see more of her work at www.hazelmitchell.com . If you’d like to talk to Hazel about an illustration project, a visit to your school or library, buy a book, or just say ‘hi’ you can email Hazel at hazel-mitchell@hotmail.com

Hazel, thank you for sharing your journey, books, and process with us.

Don’t miss out on winning an autographed copy of ONE WORD PEARL. Leave a comment for Hazel and you automatically are entered.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Book, children writing, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books Tagged: book give-a-way, Hazel Mitchell, One Word Pearl

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14. Illustrator Saturday – Mark Meyers

markbioportraitMark was born and raised in Northern Utah under the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains. He spent many childhood days climbing, exploring, and causing general mayhem on the mountainside. Running around with his brothers he learned early on the finer things in life like the sound of breaking glass, the freedom of running around in your underwear, and the feel of rushing wind on your face as you’re falling out of a tree.

Mark has always loved to doodle whatever silly thing popped into his head. He never took too seriously but always liked to make people laugh with his drawings. By a strange series of events he found himself in foggy San Francisco studying illustration at the Academy of Art University, where he earned a Bachelor degree in Illustration. Now his days are spent drawing and painting pictures filled with kids, escaping circus monkeys, and everything in between.

Here is Mark talking about his process:

Generally I start out with thumbnails to get an idea how I’m going to break up the space.


Once I get something I like I will blow it up and start working right over the top. I will do this either on paper or in Photoshop, for this one I did all the initial drawing in Photoshop (it was more of a matter of time frame than anything).  I will then scan it in if it was done on paper, and then start to flesh things out and figure some of the detail.  Once I am happy with that I will print it out very lightly and do a pencil drawing over it further working out the detail.


Once I am happy with the finished line drawing I will scan it back into Photoshop, and clean it up if it needs to be. Generally at this point I will also give the line work a little bit of color just so it’s not black.


Once in photoshop I will do what I would call an underpainting.  I will layout the basic color scheme and do some shadow lay in.  This stage gives me a chance to set my basic value pattern and color scheme, but everything
will have a least a layer of acrylic over the top of it.  Sometimes the colors will change quite a bit by the final if something isn’t working. Also this is a good stage to add a light overall layer of color.  For example if this is going to be a cool image a semi transparent layer of blue would work good.  On this painting it has a slightly warm tone over it.  Basically at this point all of the space is filled even though somewhat rough.


I print this out on epson watercolor paper. Then I spray it with a coat of Krylon workable fixative to help keep the ink on the paper. Next I get  the paper wet and stretch it like you would any watercolor paper. I highly doubt that epson suggests this but with a little trial and error it  works quite well. When wet you do have to be somewhat careful because the paper is a bit fragile. While it is still somewhat damp I coat the entire image in a layer of matte medium. This seals it all down and gives a nice tooth for painting. Then I let it dry completely. For the most part I paint with acrylic but will use watercolor, colored, pencil, and just about anything I think will work. When painting I generally work from furthest away to the front. That way you don’t have to worry about the
edges of stuff that has already been painted. I’ve also found doing the background first makes it easier to keep your values working. It also gives you a clear plan of attack of how to finish your painting. So working from back to front I go along adding details and finishing it off.


First, I sketch and once I’m happy I scan it into Photoshop. I adjust the color of the line to either a warm or cool color depending on the painting.  I basically do a quick color study under the line drawing in Photoshop.  I set the basic values and colors at this step.  For this painting everything has kind of purple cast to keep that cool feeling.  You could go a lot further at this point than I did, but I prefer to do most of the work in paint.


After I’m done in Photoshop I printed it out on some 13×19 Epson water color paper.  I gave a few quick coats of workable fixatif.  The ink in my printer is very waterproof or else you have to really coat it with workable fixatif.  Then I stretch it like you would any other type of watercolor paper.


In the end pretty much all of the digital painting won’t be visible, but it helps to speed up the process, and gives you some direction.  I use acrylics and usually start from the furthest point and work my way forward.  For me it helps me keep control of values, and you don’t have to worry about painting around things as much.  Also if I paint the funnest things first then I run out of motivation to paint everything else.


Here’s a detail where you can see that I’m not very concerned about over painting things in the foreground.


I keep moving forward.  The buildings are a good example of how in paint I refine things but the digital color still peeks through here and there.  Basically the same concept as toning a canvas.


The values are off in this picture, but at this point I’m starting to refine the main characters.


A few detailed shots


Once everything is painted I spend a little more time making all the small adjustments.  I could do this forever and would more than likely eventually end up ruining the painting.  So after a bit I usually stop myself and call it finished.


How long have you been illustrating?

I believe this year will be my fifth year of illustrating. I’m still learning, growing, and loving it.



I see you live in Utah and attended Academy of Art University. How did you decide to attend AAU?

I had been playing around with 3d animation programs and making little movies at a local college.  I thought maybe I would be interested in that. My sister that lived in San Francisco at the time suggested I come and tour the school.  Luckily for me they had a pretty open enrollment program because I did not have much of portfolio.  I had always loved to draw and make stuff but hadn’t taken it very seriously up to that point.  When I actually got to AAU they start all students in fundamental drawing classes.  I was honestly terrible at it but I loved it.  In that first semester I made up mind do go into illustration and never even took a single 3d animation class.


Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

For me it was a great school.  They put a huge focus on learning to be a good craftsman, a very classical approach to art.  As I mentioned above I didn’t have much training so it was good to start on the bottom.  I can’t really speak for the rest of the school but the Illustration department and its faculty were incredible.  Most of the teachers were very skilled illustrators and very willing to share their knowledge.  Another great thing about being there was the huge amount of artwork that I was exposed to.


What types of things did you study there?

Kind of hard to narrow it down but lots of live drawing and painting.  Then as I got further along the classes became more specific to what you wanted to do.  That way you are building a portfolio of the type of work you want to do.


What classes were your favorites?

There were probably three classes that were my favorite.  The first ones were the base illustration classes that were taught by the talented Robert Revels and Stephen Player.  Craig Nelson really taught me a lot about telling a story with pictures in narrative storytelling.  I had Leuyen Pham, who is a fantastic children’s book illustrator, as a teacher in a children’s illustration class which really pushed me in the direction that I have gone.


Did the School help you get work?

I don’t know that the school directly got me work.  However they do have good programs to help their students get work.  I just tend to be the type that goes out on there own.

marktake me out 1

marktake me out 2

Do you feel that the classes you took there have influenced you style?

Of course the classes I took influenced my style.  I think everything you see and draw does.  In fact I was so influenced by them that eventually I had to step away a bit and start pushing my own style.


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

I think the first time I ever got paid for artwork was in the sixth grade when a drawing I did won as the cover for our yearbook.  I was pretty excited when they gave me a crisp twenty dollar bill.


Did you move back to Utah after you graduated?

We stayed in the bay area for a couple years after I graduated, and then moved back here in I believe about 2010 or so.


What was the first illustration work you did for children?

The first illustration work I did for children was an educational book that I did for Houghton Mifflin.


How did that come about?

I had just gotten an artist rep and that was the first job that they sent my way.  I believe it was in my last semester of college.


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

It was probably about half way through college that I really started pushing towards children’s books.  I was classically trained but my natural style tended to lean a bit to the cartoony side.  I really started reading a lot of picture books and loving how the words and artwork went together.  It’s still fascinating to me how the words and the pictures can simultaneously tell two stories at the same time.  I also realized I was a kid who never grew up and that children’s books very much matched my sense of humor.


What was your first picture book? Who was the publisher?

My first picture book was Victricia Malicia and published by Flashlight Press.  It’s the story of a little girl who is a book hound but is born into a pirate family.


Can you tell us the story behind you getting this job?

I had an art rep but I also like to be able to send out some of my own promotional material.  I had found their contact info and sent them my promo.  After a little while they contact me and said they had a book that they thought would match my style, and as they say the rest is history.


Did you do anything specific to get the contract to illustrate The Ballpark Mysteries published by Random House?

I don’t know that it was anything special.  It was from promotional material that either me or my rep sent out.



How did you get the opportunity to illustrate Take Me Out to the Ball Game?

Take me out to the Ball Game was a fun one to do and I had already illustrated a book for the publisher (read next question).


Is this the first book that you did with Ideal’s Candy Cane Press?

The first book that I did for Ideals was Counting Cows by Michelle Medlock Adams.  It’s a counting book about a boy who is tired of counting sheep and decides to give cows a try.  Though there are still a few sheep thrown in for fun.


How did that contract come about?

I can’t remember exactly on this one but I believe they had seen my artwork on my artist rep’s website.


Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

I have worked with Spider, Cricket, Houghton Mifflin, and Highlights for Children.  Probably my favorite of those was doing the Halloween cover for Spider Magazine.


Have you worked for educational publishers?

I have done a fair amount of work for educational publishers.


Do you have an artist rep or an agent? Could you tell us how the two of you connected?

I am represented by Wendy Lynn & Co.  I was still in college but I felt like I had a fairly strong and consistent portfolio.  So I started sending it out to various agents that I thought I would be a good fit with.  As most new illustrators will find the sticking point was my lack of actual published work.  After talking with WendyLynn for a while we decided to give it a try and I have been working with them ever since.


Would you ever like to write and illustrate your own book?

Absolutely! I have stories that I want to tell in both words and pictures.  In the last little while I have really been pushing myself on a couple of book ideas I have to get them ready for submission to publishers.  I’m still better a drawing than writing but I keep working away at it.



Are you open to illustrating for self-published authors?

I am, and have done several different project with self-publishers. I recently finished ‘Stories to Make you Dream’, by John Roozen.


24. What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

My rep has my art featured on their site (http://www.wendylynn.com/artist.php?name=markmeyers) and on childrensillustrations.com. I also try to keep my website and blog updated (www.markmeyersart.com).  I haven’t been real great at that part but I just revamped my website.  In addition to WendyLynn sending out promotional material I try to get postcards sent out a couple times a year at least.


25. What is your favorite medium to use?

By far my favorite medium is acrylic. Though I like watercolors and oil too, but rarely use them for finished work.


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

Well anymore it would be hard to get by without the computer.  Also I recently picked up a 100 year old drafting table that I am in love with.


27. Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I usually spend a full work day in my studio working on art.  I guess that can range anywhere from 8-12 hours depending on deadlines and projects.  Most of the time is consumed by current projects, but if I’m lucky to have some spare time then I try working on my back log of personal projects.


28. Have you ever won an award for your writing or illustrating?

In my last year at school I was honored to have two pieces of mine in the Society of Illustrators student competition.


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

It kind of depends on the project but I usually do a fair amount of research.  For me personally I try not to use much direct reference.  I will study the reference and then put it away while I’m drawing and painting.  That way it forces me to make it my own.


30. Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I think so.  The internet broadens the amount of people you can reach, and can get your work in front of a lot of people.



31. Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do a lot of my preliminary drawings and color studies in photoshop.  If time is short sometimes I will finish a piece in photoshop but still prefer the look of my painted work.


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

Yes, I am currently using a Wacom Intuos 5.  I think I would be lost working digitally without one.


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

It is hard for me to say if my style has changed.  I think it gets refined with every illustration that I do so I guess it does.  I would say the same thing happens with the materials too.  You find new stuff that works and get rid of old stuff you no longer need.


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

I sure do.  If I had done everything I had wanted to do then it would be time to find a new career.


35. What are you working on now?

At this moment I am continuing to work on the Ballpark Mysteries series, book #2 in a series for a self-publisher, and a poster for a zoo.


36. 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.

I am a big fan of Epson water color paper.  It handles being stretched and is nice to paint back over.  Lascaux makes an acrylic paint called tint white that I have found to be very useful.  Though it’s not new I’ve been toying around with clear gesso and I’m really starting to like it.


markpenguinchristmas50037. Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Don’t stop trying!!! From my experience in the illustration world there will be lots of ups and downs.  You need to have passion for what you do and be always ready to learn.  A sketchbook should be your best friend.


Thank you Mark for sharing your eye-catching illustrating and process with us. Please keep us up-to-date with all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them. Here is the link to Mark’s website: http://markmeyersart.com/

If you have a minute, please leave Mark a comment. We love to hear from you.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Highlights for Children, Mark Meyers, Spider Magazine, Take Me Out to the Ball Game

2 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Mark Meyers, last added: 10/5/2013
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15. Illustrator Saturday – Elisabeth Alba


Elisabeth Alba live and work in New York City after moving here in 2006 in order to complete my MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay at the School of Visual Arts. Before then, I had received my dual degree BA in English (with a focus on children’s literature) and visual art studies at the University of Florida. I’ve traveled a lot, which has led to an obsession with history and an interest in other cultures throughout the ages. I’ve always loved children’s literature and film, especially fantasy and historical fiction.

Clients include Scholastic, Simon + Schuster, Oxford University Press, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Small Beer Press, AAA Traveler magazine, and MTV Books. I’m the illustrator of Diamond and Fancy, both published by Cartwheel Books, an imprint of Scholastic, and part of the Breyer Stablemates easy-to-read series. Recently illustrated I am Martin Luther King Jr. I am George Lucas, and I Am Cleopatra, all written by Grace Norwich and published by Scholastic; and I contributed illustrations for The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster.

Here is Elisabeth discussing her process:

I had just read Richard Burton’s translation of One Thousand and One Nights and was inspired to do an illustration of Scheherazade. I decided to make it a scene, with the Sultan in the background.

I used my usual, watercolor and acryla gouache. It’s fairly large for me at 12.5×17.5. Trying to work bigger… but it’s hard with the small space I have to work in.


After working on a few thumbnails I knew right away what I kind of wanted, so I took some
photo reference of myself! (and my fiance, but he’d prefer I not share him in lady slippers)


This is a quick sketch using the reference working it all out.


After doing a real pencil drawing and scanning it I began working on it digitally, getting the tones and lighting right, working out the pose a little more.


The final sketch with color test. You can see I moved the hand and gave her more of a tilt. I usually bring my color compositions to an almost finished state (if they were digital paintings), just to make sure I’ve figured it all out before painting.


I print out the digital drawing. It was too big for my printer to print directly on the watercolor paper. I then traced the image using graphite paper to transfer it to the watercolor paper. Then I started blocking in a base color.


More blocking in of base colors.


Don’t have progress photos from after that, but I continue to layer watercolor and get darker and darker, then I seal it with matte medium before continuing to add color with acryla gouache. I then varnish and scan and do any digital touch-ups.


Final image. It’s darker than the actual painting, because it just looks better that way on a computer screen.


Above and Below: Where an assignment during my mentorship with the art director for the Harry Potter books (he was a guest). We had a different art director critique us each month and he assigned us the first book!

How long have you been illustrating?

I’d say since 2006, when I moved to NYC. I had done some small work before but it wasn’t very interesting to me. I didn’t consider myself a professional until 2006 at the earliest. Though I was also in grad school at the time so couldn’t take too much on.


I see you attended the University of Florida to study both children’s literature and visual art. That makes me think that in high school you had an interest in writing and illustrating for children. How did that idea of a career develop with you?

I loved writing and reading but also loved art, so I wasn’t sure which to pick as a major. I started as a BFA art student, but because I was mostly doing fine arts as a student, and wanted more illustration experience, I decided to switch to a less work intensive BA so that I could double major in English as well (and I concentrated in children’s literature).


How did you decide to attend the University of Florida?

I went to high school in Florida. There was a great scholarship for Florida students called the Bright Futures Scholarship. If you got a certain GPA and SAT or ACT score, and you completed a certain amount of community service hours, you received 100% tuition to a Florida college. My sister and brother were both at UF already, so I wanted to join them. I wasn’t ready to go too far away to an art school, and I knew UF was considered a very good school.


What type of things did you learn in college that you still use today?

I had a chance to experiment with a lot of art materials, so that helped me to settle on what I liked best. I think the best stuff I got was writing skills though. I had to write sooo many critical papers in my English classes (as well as art classes, actually), I read hundreds of children’s books, and I wrote a lot of short stories. And I had fantastic English professors. I have a wonderful day job in communications at a private school that I wouldn’t have gotten without my writing skills, and it has helped support my burgeoning illustration career.


Did you immediately decide you want to get your MFA or did you get a job right out of college and then decide to continue your education in illustration?

I moved to NYC to start my MFA program right out of undergrad. I had no idea how to go about finding illustration work, since, as I mentioned, my art classes at UF were all fine arts, and I needed to be in an art school environment.


What made you decide to attend the School of Visual Arts in NYC?

At the time there were only three grad programs in illustration. SCAD, SVA, and AAU. I applied to and was accepted to all three. I only had a chance to visit SCAD and SVA. I planned to visit AAU, but as soon as I visited SVA and met the chairman, Marshall Arisman, I knew I found the school for me!


Did you have any favorite classes?

So hard to choose! They were all different. We had a location drawing class that was super fun. We got to visit the circus, a boxing gym, the botanical gardens, the zoo, and many other cool places, so it was great for someone who had just moved to NYC. Sightseeing while at school!


What specifically does an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay teach you that just an MFA in Illustration doesn’t?

I don’t think there’s a difference. It’s still an MFA. Illustration as Visual Essay is just the name of the program. The ‘visual essay’ portion had to do with finding your own voice, and there was a lot of writing involved – we had a creative writing class, and we also had to write papers about gallery shows in a fine arts class and comics in a comic history class.


Did the School help you get work?

They certainly helped, but it’s not the school that gets you work, it’s the amount of time you put into bettering yourself and actively keeping up with contacts as well. Work’s not just going to drop in your lap (sometimes it might… but don’t count on it)! I worked on some concept work  while I was still student for SpotCo after meeting the art director on a visit to the offices and having one of my teachers recommend me. I also interned with illustrator Brian Pinkney since he contacted the program for help (he was an alumnus). My thesis advisor, Brett Helquist, also hired me after I graduated for various  projects. And I made a lot of connections through classmates (which resulted in my working with Scholastic). SVA also has a career services department that seemed pretty great but I never needed to use it.


Do you feel the classes you took in college have influenced your style?

Not really, actually. I always just did my own thing. My professors at UF let me do my own thing, thankfully, because they knew I wanted to be an illustrator not a fine artist, and they were open to me making children’s book work. SVA was more of the same, just concentrating on working out what I wanted to do, and my style. I guess my classes also helped me to see what I didn’t want to do, in terms of style and genre.


What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

I graduated in 2008. I continued doing concept work for SpotCo – I was helping ‘storyboard’ musical theater posters for Broadway, so they would tell me what actors I had to portray and what was going on, and I’d come up with some ideas. They would then show my ideas to the clients and take the final photos based on our ideas. I also taught kids that summer after graduating at an after school art program. And I got my day job at the private school, which I’ve had since.


Above: Final mentorship project with Rebecca Guay. The assigned by Irene Gallo, art director at Tor Books to create an illustration for a short story.

What was the first art related work that you were paid?

I’d been paid for drawing since my freshman year as an undergrad, when I would draw fanart commissions. I also had a few small local assignments in Florida. I’d say my first real paycheck came when I was in grad school and did some work for author Rick Yancey (my favorite english professor at UF, Dr. Cech, knew him and recommended me) for a manuscript he was working on. It was never picked up by a publisher, but he’s been writing some marvelous books that came after! My first publishing job was a cover for Farrar Straus & Giroux half a year after graduating from SVA… but unfortunately the job was killed.


Above: Done with watercolor, colored pencil, and acryla gouache. 10″x12.5″

Do you have an agent or artist rep.? If so, who and how did the two of you connect? If not, would you like to find representation?

I don’t. Whenever I’ve contacted them they usually tell me my work is too traditional or realistic. But I haven’t needed one so far. Sometimes I think about looking for another, but I’ve heard mixed reviews, and I just haven’t needed one yet.


Sketch to final for self-published book, Brendan and the Beast – an alternative retelling of the classic fairytale.


When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?

I guess I would say Diamond, written by Suzanne Weyn, one of the Breyer Stablemates books published by Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. That was in early 2009.


How did that contract come about?

One of my classmates became a graphic designer at Scholastic. She recommended me. They needed someone who could draw horses, and she had remembered that I drew some at SVA. I had to paint the cover first, to show that I was capable of drawing a horse and just good enough in general, and they went with me!


Above: Watercolor/acryla gouache/some digital touch ups.

Do you consider that book to be your first big success?

For sure! It was the biggest paycheck I ever got. Went directly to my student loans.


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

I have written and illustrated two of my own books while at SVA. I showed them to a few publishers but nothing came of them. One was a book about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, called Amytis’s Garden. The other was a book called Nico’s Journey, about a boy searching for the best paella in Spain. They were fun to work on and great learning experiences!


Above: From Amytis’s Garden


What type of work have you done for Scholastic?

I did two books for the Breyer Stablemates series, Diamond, which I mentioned above, and Fancy by Kristin Earhart. I also did a map for 39 Clues, a map for Infinity Ring, and three biographies for the I Am series, on Martin Luther King Jr., George Lucas, and Cleopatra.


Same two questions again for Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

So far I’ve only done one job for Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and it was very recent. I illustrated two maps for the upcoming book, The Last Days of Jesus, which is a middle grade adaptation of Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly. The art director, Patrick Collins, has in-person portfolio reviews with illustrators if you contact him beforehand by snail mail to set up a time (See here: http://us.macmillan.com/Content.aspx?publisher=holtbyr&id=375). So I sent him a postcard and a few months later we met!


It must have been exciting to be asked to do some illustrations for Cassandra Clare’s book, The Shadowhunter’s Codex. How did that come about?

It was fantastic. That was a dream job, because I don’t often get fantasy work from publishers and it’s what I really want to do. I was in a mentorship with illustrator Rebecca Guay (http://www.smarterartschool.com/) which was the best thing to happen to me in my illustration career since grad school. She is a fantastic teacher and my work has really developed since the mentorship. I made many new contacts too. It’s all about networking. Anyway, she knew the art director working on The Shadowhunter’s Codex and he was looking for some new illustrators. I submitted samples based on text he had sent. He ended up hiring me!

albasilentbrothers-bDo you feel living in New York City helps you get more work?

It has definitely helped, because it’s easy for me to go in for portfolio reviews and go to amazing illustration shows and lectures and events here. The Society of Illustrators is one of my favorite places. Meeting people face to face definitely puts you a step up, I think. It’s a huge community and you get to know so many people and mingle. Illustrators are generally pretty nice folks. I’ve gotten work thanks to them, and I have also passed on jobs to them as well. It’s just a friendly giving community.


What illustrating contract do feel really pushed you down the road to a successful career?

Hard to choose, but I guess the Scholastic one since they have hired me multiple times!


It looks like you exhibit your work at conventions? Can you tell us about that and has it been helpful in making contacts and getting you more business?

I’ve been to a lot of conventions, but the first one where I had a booth was Gen Con 2013. It is a gaming convention (board games, roleplaying games, etc), and it has a wonderful art show that my fiance has been a part of for a few years. I’d tag along and decided I wanted to exhibit at the art show too. I’d like to try to get some gaming work, and I am also breaking into the collectors market—that is, people who buy prints and original paintings. You can meet a lot of art directors at conventions. They stop by the booths, but sometimes they have portfolio reviews that you can sign up for. And it’s just more exposure in general for people who might want to collect art. Gen Con was a pretty successful first convention for me, a lot of sales!


How did you get involved in illustrating maps?

I worked on a private commission for an author who is self publishing her novel online (www.whyismud.com). She needed a fantasy map. I’d never done one before, but it was actually super fun. That single map was all I needed to get more map work.


Have most of the maps you’ve done been for educational publishers or more for fantasy books?

A mix. For publishers it has been educational, and for private clients  who are self publishing it has been fantasy.


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Not yet!


What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

My favorite materials are Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus liquid watercolors and Holbein acryla gouache. Sometimes I use ink too, FW acrylic sepia ink or Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star matte ink. Sometimes I use a little bit of colored pencil. I also like working with pencil when I work in black and white.


What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

So much! Half the work is promoting yourself. I keep my website updated, my facebook artist page, tumblr, just started using twitter, selling on Etsy, various portfolio sites like Behance. I carry around business cards and attend a lot of illustration networking events. I make promotional postcards and greeting cards and mail them to a list of art directors from the SCBWI market guide, and to my contacts that I already have. I also email samples to my contacts and to any companies that accept email submissions. I attend conventions to meet more art directors and artists.


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Probably my computer…. I do so much research on it, and keep all my reference images on it, and I do a lot of stuff digitally… It’s just so dang useful.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to work 2-4 hours Monday-Thursday after my day job, and I get most of my work done Friday-Sunday. It depends on what I’m doing socially or how much illustration work I have. Sometimes on weekends I work from morning to late night, but sometimes I let myself off by dinnertime. I’d love to work even more but the day job makes it difficult!


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

All the time! Since my work is more realistic I like to make sure my anatomy is correct and that my poses are actually doable. I also research historical clothing, architecture, plants, animals, etc.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. It’s great for promoting and networking, and that mentorship I mentioned with Rebecca Guay was all done online. If you’re not on the internet promoting your work or with a website than I can’t imagine how you would get work now…


Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I’ve used Painter in the past and would like to relearn it. I use Photoshop all the time though.


Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I have an ancient Intuos II tablet. Should really buy a new one because it’s starting to act wonky! I do a lot of my sketching on Photoshop with my tablet. Also make my color tests digitally. Sometimes I work entirely digitally, but I prefer traditional media. It’s very useful to know though.



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

I would love to get more fantasy work from publishers. My dream job would be to do covers and interior illustrations for a middle grade or YA fantasy book/series, like Harry Potter or Series of Unfortunate Events. Someday I might like to write and illustrate a book, but right now I’m just concentrating on getting more clients and building/improving my portfolio.


Above: Scholastic’s Fancy, part of the Breyer Stablemates book series.

What are you working on now?

I gave myself time to work on a personal project – I have a booth at MOCCA in April, a comic convention here in NYC. I wanted to make a comic sample to share, so I am working on that all this month. I am also working with a private client on her self-published fantasy book – a map and book cover!


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.

I love Dr. Ph. Martin Black Star matte ink. Sometimes it’s hard to find. I had to order it online last time. It’s completely waterproof and flows wonderfully. I also love working with layers of acryla gouache. My mentor, Rebecca Guay, recommended them. They flow like watercolor but dry like acrylics, so they don’t wipe away. Also, if the paper I’m working on isn’t too thick and it’s not too big, I print out my drawings directly onto the watercolor paper so that I don’t have to redraw it!


Book Cover for SVA thesis book, Nico’s Journey, watercolor and ink.


Interior Art


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

Don’t get discouraged. Do everything you can to keep improving. It is a lifetime of learning and practicing! Do what you love, not what you think gets work. You’ll end up making better work.


One of my interior illustrations of a young George Lucas (he was actually very handsome!) working on a draft of Star Wars, surrounded by reference material.

Thank you Elisabeth for sharing your process, journey, talent, and expertise with us. It is easy to see how you have managed to be so successful. Please make sure you let us know about all your future successes. We’d love to have you share them with us. You can see Elisabeth’s work at:








Please take a minute to leave a comment for Elisabeth. I know I would love it if you did and I am sure Elisabeth would enjoy hearing from you. Who knows she could someday illustrate your book.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Process Tagged: Elisabeth Alba, MFA in Illustration, School of Visual Arts, University of Flordia

8 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Elisabeth Alba, last added: 3/9/2014
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16. 2012 The Best Of Illustrator Saturday

At the end of each year, I go back and look at all the featured illustrator’s for that year and try to pick my favorite illustration for each one. With so many wonderful illustrations, it is a very hard task. I am sure, if you go back and look, you will come up with different picks. But here’s mine:


Michele Noiset



Betsy Snyder



Juanna Martinez-Neal



Cheryl Kirk Noll



Kathi Ember



Mellisa Iwai


Gabrielle Grimard



Lisa Anchin



Lauren Gallegos



Vin Vogel



Sara Jane Franklin



Jennifer Gray Olsen



Josee Bisaillon



Jon Stommell



Kim Dwinell



Jill Dubin


dillardwindy day

Sarah Dillard



Robbie Gilbert



Kirstie Edmunds



Tim Bowers



Sarah Brannen



Barbara Jonansen Newman



Roger Roth

leeza rabbitscropped

Leeza Hernandez


The days of wine and peonies 2

Anne Belvo



Alik Arzoumanian


Nancy Cote


Louise Bergeron



Elizabeth Rose Stanton



Brian Bowes



Susan Drawbaugh



Nancy Armo


barbaradilorenzo parade

Barbara DiLorenzo



Kathleeen Kemly



Sandra Salsbury



Ruth Sanderson



Joanne Friar



Nina Mata



Kelly Kennedy



Roberta Aangaramo



Kris Aro McLeod



Casey Girard



Wendy Grieb



Brooke Boynton Hughes



Courtney Autumn Martin



Roberta Baird


Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, picture books Tagged: 2012 Best of Illustrator Saturday, children's book illustrators

6 Comments on 2012 The Best Of Illustrator Saturday, last added: 1/1/2013
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17. Illustrator Saturday – Constanze von Kitzing

constanze-sign-cropped290Constanze is an award-winning, German based illustrator and author. She has a wide variety of clients in the illustration industry, including publishing houses, magazines, newspapers and design companies.

Her work has been published and exhibited in Germany, the USA, the UK, Korea, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, China, the Netherlands and Spain.

In 2010 her illustrations have been selected for the Illustrator’s Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and the exhibition of the cj Book Prize in South Korea. In 2011 one of her books won a bronze medal, another illustration a gold medal in the 3×3 children’s competition.

In 2012 her book “Semeli’s Smile” got the National Cyprus Book Award.

Here is Constanze explaining her process:


I start with a sketch of the illustration on a thick structured paper, but I don’t think it’s specific acrylic paper.


Then I use acrylic paint to lay down the under painting.  Depending on the work I use a different underground color, if I want the color to be bright and intense, I usually go with yellow/ ochre as the background color, if I want the work to be in muted colors, I use ochre, white and lilac. If you have this kind of underground color, it always shines through and pulls together the piece. you don’t have a pure green, red and yellow next to each other, but they will be slightly influenced by the background and will belong to the same color family.


Then I transfer the sketch on top.


And start working on basic colors.


Then I start putting in Details and coloring smaller areas using acrylic and color pencil.


Then I start making digital changes.


Till I get to the finished piece.


English Translation: I’m the Best – written and illustrated by Constanze von KitzingHere are a few additional book covers illustrated by Constanze.


English Translation: Kitten and the Snow.


English Translation: Penguin Ice – written and illustrated by Constanze.

constanzeSemeli-CoverSemeli’s Smile won the National Cyprus Book Award.


How long have you been illustrating?

I finished university in 2007, and have been illustrating ever since. But I was drawing my entire life, starting off with princesses and horses.


Did you go to college to study art?

I did study communication design and then changed to illustration.


What types of classes did you take?

Illustration, writing, photography, typography, graphic design, painting…


What was the first piece of art that you sold?

When I was 16 or so I designed a poster for a basketball game and the boyfriend of my arts teacher liked it so much that he actually bought it. Now I frequently sell my original works that I created for children’s books.


Have you seen your style change since when you first started?

Of course. You  start off somewhere and change and change… I think I’m still developing, it would be sad to get stuck somewhere, I think.


How many picture books have you published?

Eighteen so far.


What book was your first? When was that?

My very first picture book was published in 2009 by La Joie de Lire in France. It’s called “Cache-Cache” and is a book about a little lion that tries to catch other animals, but they always hide from him. So it’s a playful book about camouflage.

constanzequilted landscape

How did the contract come about?

In university we regularly visited book fairs and it was when I attended the Bologna Book Fair that I showed the project to different publishers. Some were interested and in the end I went with the publisher I liked most. I had to rework the entire book though, as they didn’t like my fist character, but there’s a lot you would do to get your first book published, right!?

Colorbus Cyclone scan

I see that you are represented by The Organisart UK.  Can you tell me a little bit about the agency and how you connected?

They actually approached me, they found me through an illustration friend that is represented by them and linked on my website, Violeta Dabija. I can’t tell you much about them, other than that we get along well and that I get jobs from the US and UK I think I would not have gotten in another way.



Do you ever sell your illustration work on your own?

Of course, most of my jobs I get myself, but they are mostly not (yet) in the US or UK.


constanze soccercat

Have most of your books been published in Germany?

No, actually not. Most of my books have been published in France with La Joie de Lire, some in Spain, in South Korea, in the Netherlands, the UK, in Cyprus… 3 books have been published in Germany and another one will be out in autumn this year, but I feel I’m just getting starting on the German market.


How is the children’s market for Illustrators in Germany?

It’s tough, as it is anywhere else. Every market is very different, that is challenging and exciting at the same time. In France and Spain, they are very open to artistic illustrations, in Germany I feel they are a little more conservative, but I get paid better. In the beginning I had a hard time to get started here, this is when I went for other countries and that was very successful.


Have you published picture books in English?

Only one, “Jack and the Beanstalk” with Oxford University Press, BUT I can proudly announce that my “Prayers for Children” is going to be published this spring in the US.


What is your favorite materials to use for your illustration?

Acrylic and Color Pencil.



Do you use Photoshop to clean up your illustrations or paint your illustrations?

To clean up.

Constanze skatingpenguinscropped

constanze Lovepenguins

Do you own a graphic tablet?

Yes, I can totally recommend it!



What are the names of some of the book publishers you have worked with?

Aga World (KR), Baha’i-Verlag (D), Bayard (F), Buro Extern (NL), Carlsen, Cornelsen, EEN Art (KR), Kalandraka (ES), La Joie de Lire (CH), Oxford University Press (UK), Sauerländer (D)



What type of things do you do to get your work seen?

Website, Book Fairs, Sending out cards… the usual…


How did your illustrations get picked for Illustrator’s Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair?

I just send my illustrations there and was lucky I guess…



Did you attend Bologna Children’s Book Fair?

All the time, it’s the best!


Do you have a strong artist community where you live?

No, I used to live in Hamburg and there were MANY other illustrators, that was really nice. When I married I moved to Cologne, here are only a few (but still very nice and good) illustrators .


Do you have a studio in your home?

Yes.constanze troll79Cconstanzewrappedprincesscropped

Do you try to stick to a schedule everyday?

No, I just paint whenever there is time. I have a little daughter and I basically work around her sleeping hours.



I see that you have written and illustrated a number of your own books.  How did that come about?

All of the books published with La Joie de Lire in France are self-written and illustrated. As it is quite hard to get published at first, I thought it might be easier with my own project, so I came up with the lion series (that also happened to be my diploma) and they liked it. So, whenever I have something now that I wrote myself, I present it to them and often times they liked and printed it.


So you write and spoeak several languages?

Just German and English, and a Little Bit of French, too.


So the publishers translate the books you send into their language?




Have you been to the United States?

Yes, twice to NY just for fun and then to Minneapolis for a semester abroad.

constance musicianscropped

Would you like to illustrate a US children’s book?

Of course!


What are your career goals?

Mh, good questions, I feel I just go along with whatever happens. I am teaching illustration and find that I really love that, so I want to continue with it. I love children’s book and want to illustrate more of those… So, I would love to continue doing what I’m doing basically…


What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on another project that I wrote, but of course, it’s still top secret! J Besides that I just finished a cover and Poem-Spread for Babybug Magazine and have a request for a children’s theater poster.


Are there any painting tips (materials, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Not really, all I can say that it takes a lot of time to develop your style and that would be my crucial advice: take your time and work hard!!!! J


How do you send your finished artwork into the publishers?

For jobs for magazines, I scan the work myself and then do digital corrections, for books, I usually keep painting until everyone is happy and then the publisher does the scanning. sometimes, there are still corrections that need to be done, and then either me or the in house graphic designer does it.


Is there anything that you do that identifies your style or work?

In a lot of images, I let the background be and this has become a kind of trade mark, something that helps others recognize my work.



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

Do what you love, believe in yourself, work hard, have fun, help other illustrators, know your rights…


Thank you Constanze for sharing your illustrations, books, and your process.  Absolutely loved showing off all your illustrations.  Please let us know when you have a new book or success.  I do hope I will be able to buy one of your books here in the US, soon.

If you would like to visit Constanze you can find her at: www.constanzevonkitzing.de/  Please take a minute to leave Constanze a comment.  I am sure she would love to hear from you.  Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Bologna Children's Book Fair, Constanze von Kitzing, The Organisart UK

8 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Constanze von Kitzing, last added: 2/7/2013
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18. Illustrator Saturday – Russ Cox

coxpicsmallRuss Cox was raised by a pack of crazed hillbillies in the back woods of Tennessee. Without much in the way of modern conveniences, like a television set or running water, he spent his time drawing and whittling away the hours, often dreaming of the joys of a shower. Having been born into a family with a flair for racing, Russ hoped to be the next Bobby Allison or Richard Petty. After dismantling his grandfather’s lawn mower engine, and without a clue on how to get it back together, he soon realized that he did not have an automotive bone in his body. Back to the drawing board he went with his pencil and paper (and sometimes the barn wall).

After spending much of his childhood roaming the South with his mom and sister, they moseyed to Pennsylvania. While in high school, Russ developed an interest in design and a passion for music. His automotive shop teacher was relieved.

Once out of high school he got his education at a local art school. With a portfolio in his hand, he ventured into the world of design and illustration. Good ole Russ worked for various design and advertising agencies until coming to his senses. With his wife giving him a swift kick-start in the rump, he opened his own studio, Smiling Otis Studio, where he presently specializes in illustration, Flash animation and logo design. Russ also found time to teach various classes at PCA&D for several years. Recently he and ma packed up the wagon and headed to the wilderness of Maine where they have setup a homestead in Pittsfield. When not drawing, running amok in the snow, or training their four cats to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody’, Russ enjoys some quiet time with his banjo while also taking in the beauty of Maine. His wife would prefer him to play the triangle or build a sound proof room.

Here’s Russ talking about his process:

coxsketch1croppedThis was the final drawing that I scanned into Photoshop which became the base for the painting. For the color palette, I wanted to keep the colors toned down and warmer to emphasize the friendship between the two characters. Usually my colors are very vibrant, this was something different for me.

coxtrollstage1cropJust like working traditionally, I did a gray underpainting to establish my light direction. I was happy with my first attempt and decided that the values would work. Oh, I made it a ”multiply” layer some that the pencil work would show through.

coxtrollstage2cropI copied my gray underpainting and added a deep brown tint to the copy. Again, the ”multiply” was turned on for that layer. This made the underpainting very dark which is what I wanted to build the colors upon.

coxtrollstage3cropThe sky was painting first which keeps the traditional way of thinking of working from back to front. It was hard not to put a bright sky in but I wanted to stay try to the color palette that I wanted to use. I built each component in layers with the “normal” setting on since I wanted to paint over my base painting. This allows me to tweak or redo something as I progress.

coxtrollstage4cropOnce the sky was completed, the grass was next to be added. The colors are flat except for the bright yellow and a few highlights. This was intentional to help draw the eye up towards the figure.

coxtrollstage5cropThe next step was to paint the oafish, troll-like giant. Having again to fight the urge to use bright colors, the bulk of his vest is an olive green and his pants a maroon red. The skin tones where built up in many separate layers which were flattened once I got them to my liking. I feel that I still need some work in the color theory for skin tones but it is getting there. Practice, practice, practice!

coxtrollstage6cropHis vest seemed to missing something so I laid in a burlap texture from an old scan I had. It worked really well. The layer is set on ”multiply” and the opacity was set to around 35%. The tree branch and bird was also painted in at this time.

coxtrollstage7cropThe next step was to paint the girl. With the muted colors being a backdrop for her, I focused on brightening up the colors for her. I wanted to her to airy and very lively looking. Lots of purples and pinks were used in her clothing and a base of orange for her hair helped me achieve the look I was after.

coxswinging-girl-flattenedThe final touches like highlights, some lines, and a few dollops of color were added to bring the final piece to life. I was very happy on how the final turned out. Seeing the textures of the brushes helped make this look less digital and more traditional.

cox12Teaching myself Painter.  Here is my first attempt.  First the sketch., then scanning it in to get started.  After adjusting the layers so that the white background of the sketch disappears, I began blocking in colors. Since I liked painting with gouache back in the day, I used the brush setting for it plus the gradients tool. That took some getting use to but I figured out how it works.

cox34I blocked in some basic colors on the gator and then added textures to the background. For that effect, I used the sponge brush on separate layer and then ten adjusted the transparency so the blue showed through. Each part of the illustration was built in a separate layer.

Again, more details are added while using the sketch as a guide. I really like how authentic Painter feels while painting. Much better than Photoshop in my opinion but I do not use Photoshop enough to be an authority on it. The funny thing is, I did teach a class on it many years ago. I think I learned more from the students than they did from me.


Highlights and floor details are now added. I then exported the Painter file (riff) to a Phoshop file (psd) and imported the illustration into Photoshop. I tweaked the overall colors just a tad and added the spotlight effect.


Final Sketch

coxhappy holidays v2

Final Art
coxdoodles week of 9-3-12
Character Sketches and doodles

coxdoodlepuppetFinal Sketch


Final Art

coxbad hair dayBad Hair Day Sketch to Final Art


How long have you been doing illustration?

I have been a freelance illustrator for almost 16 years. I started out as a graphic designer will a small studio. There I became an in-house illustrator before going out on my own.

coxvoltarcroppedDo you think art school helped develop the style you have today?

Maybe a little but what art school did do was expose me to other artist, whether professionals or classmates. You ingest what you see from other artist so some of that does bubble up to the surface and into your work.


What was the first illustration you got paid to do?

My first job as a freelancer was doing 50 black & white marker renderings for a mattress company. My first published piece was when I was about 5 or 6. The town I lived in Tennessee has a local magazine that published children’s drawings and one of mine got in. I was hooked.coxboy_dogcrop

How did you learn Flash and Photoshop?

Photoshop, I basically taught myself with doing some online course with Will Terry to learn the painterly aspect of the software. As far as Flash, I did a month long workshop at the Maryland Institute of Art. I tried learning that on my own but it was a bit more complicated than I thought.


I noticed you have done traditional painting on your blog.  Do you ever use watercolor, oil, or acrylic when illustrating now?

I still sketch with pencil but paint digitally. The thought of going back to traditional for children’s books has been creeping back into my head. I do miss the feel of a real brush so maybe it is time.coxsick-gator

Do you have any favorite materials?  Such as paper, paints, pens, etc.?

I love gouache and Dr. Martin’s Dyes with colored pencil on Arches hot press water color paper. I also love oil paint which I am getting back into with more fine art pieces.


Your sketches are very good and look like they could be sold on their own.  Have you sold the black and whites to clients?

Thank you, that is very kind of you to say. I have not sold any of my sketches to clients. At least none that I can remember. I’ve had a few traditional pieces sell.


After looking on Amazon, I found two books, Molly Kite’s Big Dream and Major Manners Nite Nite Soldier.  Are these your first published picture books?

They are my first books. I hope this is a start to the next phase of my career. I would love to do just books and maybe write a few along the way.


How did these self-published authors find you?

Most of them find me through childrensillustrators.com and my website. I have gotten a few inquiries through Jacketflap.com. Lately, Facebook has been a good source.


What is the story behind these books?

Molly Kite was from a first time self published author. She found me online and contacted me about the story. It is based on some actually people she knew and their spirituality. We worked on it for about 6 months. She recently had it picked up by a small publisher.

Major Manners came to me from a small publisher in Florida.  The idea behind the story is that the Major helps the kids get ready for bed through a series of cadences. It comes with a cd that adds to the story and is very fun to hear. This is the first in the series of 3 books I believe.

Did you develop a contract to use when working with a client?

Yes, all of my book projects have contracts. It helps establish the responsibilities, schedules, payment, etc.


How do you figure out how much to charge for your work?

Sometimes a budget is presented to me so the client and I will discuss what can and cannot be done within the allotted budget. Other times, I will need to sit down and come up with an estimate based on time, material, deadlines, etc.


Does Enchanted Forest Press have illustrators they recommend to their clients?

That I do not know. Molly Kite was just recently picked up by them so I have not chatted with them directly.


Amazon states that Major Manners Nite, Nite Soldier was a USA Book News 2012 Best New Children’s Picture Book Finalist.  Can you tell us a little bit about this contest?

The publisher, Outhouse Ink, submitted the book to various contest. It actually won a Pinnacle Award for Book Achievement. Both contest are for small, indie publishers but from what I gathered are a big deal. It is very cool to see both stickers on the book.


With your flare for music, were you involved in creating the CD that goes with this book?

No, the publisher and their families put the cd together. They did a great job. It cracks me up every time I hear it. Maybe the next one, I can put a banjo tune on it. Lol!


Do you belong to any organizations like the SCBWI?

Yes, I belong to the SCBWI which is one of the best things I’ve done. I have met so many wonderful people who are willing to share their insight and information to help one advance in the industry. Many of them are not close friends and their careers are taking off.


Did working for advertising agencies help you make connections you use in your freelance Design and Illustrating business?

Yes they did. When I left the design studio after 13 years, many of the designers, photographers, and illustrators in the area knew I had gone out on my own so they were willing to send me projects in order to help me get off the ground. It pays to know a lot of people and equally important to have a easy going reputation. At least I think I have that reputation. Maybe we should ask around first.


How did you learn animation?

Self taught. Having been a big fan of Warner Brothers cartoons, I decided to learn how it was done. I bought several books on animation, not Flash, to learn some of the tricks.


How much of your work is done in animation?

For a while, I was doing quite a bit of animation, mostly for websites. I still do one or two a year but mainly focus on illustration.


Have you done any illustrating for magazines or newspapers?

I think my second client when I went solo, was for Central PA Magazine. They were a Harrisburg, PA magazine that had about 20,000 readers. So I did a lot of work for them. They helped me get my name out there. I’ve done some pieces for other magazines like Disney Travel.


Do you do illustrating for The Idea Works, Inc. the design and advertising company?

Yes. Ilene Block and I became really good friends while I freelanced at Word World. She was the art director there. When she left, she started The Idea Works. We did this really cool promo piece together which was a calendar called “Voltar”. It has moveable dials that you turn for the new date but it also gives you a fortune. We had so much doing that together. I love that piece.


Did you do Voltar for them?

Oh, here is a Voltar question. Yes I did. See above.


Was that illustration painted in Photoshop?

No, that was all Adobe Illustrator.


How do you find new clients?

I try to do 3 postcard mailings a year. They really help. Attending conferences is another good resource in finding possible clients. Posting on Facebook, Google +, Dribbble, Twitter, Flickr, my blog and website plus other portfolio sites like childrensillustrators.com are equally valuable . Also doing interviews has generated interested so thank you for offering to do an interview with me.


Do you own a graphic tablet?

Yes, I have a first generation Cintiq and just bought a Monoprice tablet as a backup in case the Cintiq calls it a day.


Do you find a strong opportunity for illustrators to design apps?

YES! That area is booming. Some of my illustrator buddies are extremely busy by doing apps. I am working on a few as well.


Do you have an agent?  Would you like to find one?

I do not have one at the moment but would to find a literary agent to team up with and help me develop my story ideas. Hopefully this will happen this year. It is on my “to do” list for 2013.


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

YES! I just wrote a story which I now have in a dummy form, ready to submit. It is going through a series of critiques. While this is happening, I have started writing a second story with several others roughly sketched out. This is all new to me so I am learning lots about the writing process. I tip my hat to anyone who writes.

coxfinal art color final flattenedcropped

What are you working on now?

I just finished up two picture books and have begun final art for a book with Capstone. Caterpillar Books and are chatting about doing a book together. Plus I have another book coming in, plus a couple of apps. With all of this, I am redoing my website, some new postcards, and writing.


How do you market yourself?

Postcards and the web are the biggest ways to get my name out there. I try to do a conference a year to make connections.


What future goals do you have for yourself and art career?

I would like to write and illustrate my own stories while continuing to work on books and apps for others.


Do you have any words of wisdom you can share with other illustrators?

I was at a conference in which R.L. Stine was a keynote. He said “Never say no. You never know where saying yes will take you.” He was hesitant on writing a scary book for kids but saying “yes” turned out well for him. I wanted to do editorial illustration but somehow with many “yeses” along the way, I got into children’s illustration and love every minute of it.


Thank you Russ for sharing your work and process with us. It was a lot of fun to read about how you create your illustrations. Please keep in touch and share your successes with us.

You can visit Russ at his website: www.smilingotis.com  His Blog: www.smilingotis.blogspot.com  I am sure he would love to get a comment from you.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process, Tips Tagged: Major Manner Nite Nite Soldier, Molly Kite has Faith, Russ Cox, Smiling Otis

8 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Russ Cox, last added: 2/5/2013
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19. Illustrator Saturday – Maria Bogade

bogadebiopic_mariaMaria Bogade is an illustrator and author with an animation background specializing in the children’s market. After graduating 2007 from the University of Media in Stuttgart in Audiovisual Media, she started working as a freelance animation artist. Maria worked on award winning projects such as “Angel afoot”, “The Gruffalo” or “Princess’ Painting”.

Soon she wanted to create her own environments and characters and tell stories with them, be it her own or the ones of others. This led to going after her dream of being a children’s book illustrator with the start of 2011. Shortly after leaping into her illustration career she authored her first book “Schlafplatz gesucht!”, which was published beginning 2012 by Bohem press AG.

Maria loves creating illustrations with a strong narrative, colourful and beautifully composed, to entertain children and adults alike and let their imagination take them places, they might not have been before.

She has worked for a number of clients across the globe including Big Cat HarperCollins, Picture Kelpies an imprint of Floris Books , Kerle/Herder Verlag, Magination Press, American Greetings, Bohem press AG, Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, Clavis Books, HABA, Roth GmbH and is a member of SCBWI.

Maria lives with her two daughters and spouse in a tiny town in Germany.


Here is Maria’s process:

Bogade HalloSchule_storyboard480

Every illustration I do starts with a sketch. If it is for a book the very start is a storyboard with tiny thumbnail sketches. Note: This uses the typical picture book format of 13 double page spreads for the book. Later I transfer into full size sketches.

Bogade_Hallo Schule 01

Once the sketch is laid out, I transfer it with the help of a light table to the paper I want to work with.

Bogade_Hallo Schule 02

In some cases I scan the sketch and work digitally from there on. It depends on the style the later illustration is to be in.

Bogade_Hallo Schule 05

After transferring the illustration I start watercoloring, inking or working on a black and white foundation in pencil, as I did for my pieces for the Storybook Brushes calendar. This pencil layer will add nice textures to the later digitally colored illustration.

Bogade_Hallo Schule 06

When taking the pencil stage into Photoshop I lay down the colors first, but also use colored paper sheets and watercolor washes to add some more depth and texture. Then I work on the details until I call the illustration final.


And here are a few of my favorite pages of the book.


Some more interior final art pages.


How long have you been illustrating?

Well I’ve been painting and scribbling for a long time, like many other artists, before going after my dream of being an illustrator with the beginning of 2011.


What types of classes did you take to get your diploma in Audiovisual Media at the University of Media in Stuttgart?

There are certain classes you have to take, when studying at a German University and making a choice for a degree. I think it is different then US Universities, at least as far as I know, as I never attended an University in the USA and therefore can only rely on things I learned through media. My courses were in fact very technical at the beginning as I was studying to become a 3d animation artist. Of course there were some drawing lessons too, but not a lot. I also took some courses in storyboarding and storytelling, but apart from that I was very much into making animated movies at that time.


What other types of classes did you take?

In 2010 I took a Character Design online course with Stephen Silver at schoolism.com. This course helped me a lot to understand my flaws better and also get a better understanding of creating and constructing characters. I can highly recommend taking Stephen’s class.


Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

I don’t think any of the classes influenced my later style. I think influences came later on when working for animation studios and seeing the designers at work there and bringing their designs to life as 3d models. I learnt a lot during that time about composition, lighting of scenes and of course character poses, which all helped me a lot in my later illustration career.


Have you seen your style change since when you first started?

Yes, I’d totally say so. I have developed more styles and also my characters have changed in various way as I became more confident with the way I was drawing scenes and figures.


Did any of the contacts you made in college help you get your first job or any contract?

Actually, no. I was lucky to meet people just at the right time and worked for a small animation studio right after finishing University. All the contacts and commissions I got as an illustrator I made by sending out cards.


What was the first piece of art that you sold?

If we speak of an original it would have to be a watercolor painting I did for an illustrators exhibition at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2010 titled “My favorite book”. If it is books we are talking it would be the art for “Wee Granny’s Magic Bag”, published by Picture Kelpies an imprint of Floris Books.


Congratulation for Schlafplatz gesucht!  I see that you wrote and illlustrated that book.  Is this the first book you have written?

It is indeed the first book that I wrote and illustrated at the same time. A very exciting project I had lots of fun with creating. I hope to be able to author many more books, we will see.


Can you tell us about how you got the contract for Schlafplatz gesucht! with Bohem Press?

Again the initial contact was made by sending them a promo mailer. I send a mailer with three cards, one of the cards showed a boy cuddling on top of a huge teddybear in the moonlight. The art director contacted me and asked whether there was a story to that picture, which she adored. I said yes, but I have to write it down first. I had two weeks to come up with a first draft. After that it was a short time of waiting and they let me know, they loved the story and wanted to do the book with me. Of course there were still many rounds of editing until I could start illustrating the book. But being able to create both sides of the book, text and illustrations, was a very exciting experience.


I do not know much about Bohem Press.  Could you share what you know about them?

Bohem Press is a tiny publishing house based in Switzerland. They focus on high quality products, not only books but also non book products. The team is made up of three wonderful ladies. I very much enjoyed working with them.


Can you take a minute to explain a little about how you proceed when you work digitally?

As “Schlafplatz gesucht!” is a digitally illustrated book I scanned in the roughs, opened them in Photoshop and started painting away. Well, not exactly. I actually made a little pallete of all the colors I wanted to use. This way I made sure I would be using the same colors in all illustrations and it would be consistent throughout the book. I also have a custom made brush I use most of the time, which looks a bit painterly. And I scanned in lots of textures and watercolor backgrounds to make the illustrations look less digital.
I usually end up having lots and lots of layers, as you can kind of see in the little video below.


All those layers give me the freedom to alter an illustration any time without having too much trouble.
Again as with the roughs I did not do the illustrations in chronological order, as they appear in the book, but did them randomly. One of the first illustrations I finished was the cover. Most of the time I have to do the cover before all other illustrations because the publisher needs it for their marketing and catalogue. This wasn’t the case with this book, but I ended up doing it nonetheless as one of the first.
It is hard to describe how I work when drawing digitally. Usually I do the shapes in their plain color first and then start rendering the different parts. I also really like working from the background of an illustration to the foreground. It’s nice to watch how the image builds up while working.


Do you still do work for American Greetings?

No, although I would love to.


Could you tell us about  “Angel afoot”, “Princess’ Painting” or “The Gruffalo” that you worked on at Studio SOI. Are they game and animated books?

“Angel afoot”, “Princess’ Painting” and “The Gruffalo” are all animated short movies for children. The first two were for a German TV series. “The Gruffalo” is the actual animated movie of the picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.


How many picture books have you published?

I have 8 books published with 4 more in line to be released this year and hopefully many more to come.


What book was your first? When was that?

That is tricky. My very first commissioned book was “Wee Granny’s Magic Bag”, published by Picture Kelpies, a small Scottish publisher, but I finished my second commission first, which was a tiny educational book titled “Getting Dressed” published by Big Cat /HarperCollins . Both books were created in Spring 2011 and released shortly after one another in September the same year. So it is in a way both of them and it was very exciting as they are in different styles.

bogadeGetting Dressed_5

How did the contract come about?

The picture book for Picture Kelpies came about by sending them promo cards. One day I had an email in my inbox, letting me know they liked a style, which I had in my sketchbook section at that time and would love for me to do a sample. I did the sample and got the commission. I don’t know how Big Cat came about my art at that time, I forgot to ask, but I suspect twitter was helpful in this case.


It looks like 2012 was a very good year with six picture books coming out.  Did that take up your whole year trying to do the illustrations for them?

Almost but not completely. But being a mother I probably wouldn’t have been able to take on too many more commissions in addition.


Two of your books were published by Clavis Books. Are they located in Germany? How did those book find their way to you?

Clavis is a publisher from Belgium. I came across them when attending the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2010. As with all the publishers I get to work with, I send them cards and promo mailers. After sending out the first mailer it took a whole year until I heard back from them but with a very happy message. They offered me to illustrate the first two books for a series they were doing. The best part though was not only the books, but that the characters were baby animals. I was thrilled as I never had done anything like this before.

Are most of your book published with German Publishers?

Actually, no. I work a lot in the English speaking market but also in the Dutch market. I really like this about being an illustrator. It is wonderful to work with people around the globe, as stories vary from country to country and also what clients like. This led me to have more than one style, which not only is lovely to have as a little variety to my working process but also to be able to illustrate for a various number of clients, who might not have commissioned me otherwise.


What is the German children’s book market like?

That is a question I can barely answer. So far I have only worked with one German publisher. I guess the greatest difference is we don’t have real art directors here. Most of the houses work with editors, who also oversee the art and work with the illustrators. I think the illustration styles are also very different to the ones I see in American or British books. Other than that it is just as every where else, you have to fit the style to get commissioned.


I see that some of your books are in English. Do you speak several languages?

I speak English and German, and a ridiculous tiny bit of Russian. I wish I had learned more languages when I had the chance to in either school or college, it would come in very handy to work for even more publishers.

bogardMariaBogade mouse and squirrel1

Have you ever visited the USA?

I did, but only once. I went to New York for just a week, which was completely mind blowing. I wish I could come back some time to maybe attend an SCWBI conference either in New York or in LA.

bogadeChristmascard stork2bigger

Have you published any of your illustrations in magazines?

Kind of. I published a few illustrations in two independent magazines. That was in the very beginning when I started out as an illustrator and was still building my portfolio for the picture book market.

bogardChristmascard bearbigger

How did you get involved with the illustrator at Storybook Brushes?  Did you all know each other?

I knew the other members Juana Martinz-Neal, Angela Matteson and Katriona Chapman via twitter. Only Katriona had I met in person once last year at the Bologna Book Fair. I had the idea to form a group of illustrators who’s styles would go well together when creating promotional products without catering the same styles and projects. I asked Katriona if she was interested and gladly she said yes. I then contacted Angela and Juana, who both were excited to be part of the group too. After that it was a lot of back and forth emailing until we had our first promo finished – The Storybook Brushes calendar 2013. I am very happy to know those talented ladies and to not only call them my colleagues but also my friends. It amazes me again and again how well you can get to know someone by just talking online, although I hope we can all meet in person one day. It would be to good to be true.

bogardChristmascard penguinbigger

I see that you have an Etsy shop.  Have effective is that for selling your illustrations?

As I do not promote it much and rarely put new stuff up it is not very effective. I always think I should do more with it, but to be honest, it takes up a lot of time which I do not seem to have.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, I use Photoshop for my illustrations. Although many parts of them are created traditionally depending on the style.

bogardMy Favourite book

Do you own a graphic tablet?

I own two tablets, a Wacom Cintiq and an Intuos. When starting out as an illustrator I only had the Intuos. Since having the Cintiq I can almost work at double the speed, which has changed my working life much to the benefit.


Did you set up a studio in your house?



Do you try to stick to a schedule to get your illustrations done?

Yes I do. Sometimes life interferes though and the schedule vanishes into thin air. But usually I have the mornings all to myself and work as much as I can. Then I paint again a bit in the afternoons and in the evenings when my kids are in bed and the house is again quiet.


Have you gone to any of the big conferences for Children’s Illustrators and Writers?

Unfortunately not. I wish I could go but it is a huge journey for me as I would have to fly from Germany. I hope to make it one day though.


What are your career goals?

I would like to publish more of my own stories. So I am writing as much as I can in my spare time. Apart from that I simply want to illustrate many books that children will enjoy while reading in bed or any time during the day. To make kids and adults happy with my art would probably sum it up best.


What are you working on now?

At the moment I am working on a picture book for Magination Press. Another book with Clavis and one with OUP are waiting for me to get illustrated right after. I am also working on own picture book ideas and write and do samples for them . As I am also preparing for the Bologna Book Fair in March I need to get my portfolio up to date and print a new promo card to hand out to publishers there.

bogadeLoB-LoS Page3 - 4

Are there any painting tips (materials,paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Of course every artist has something he likes best. If I had to recommend a paper I would go for a mixed media paper made of bamboo by Hahnemuehle Fineart. This paper might not be available anywhere but I like its subtle texture. It is great to use for pencil and watercolor paintings. I use it to do my layer of pencil drawing, which I use to add texture to my mixed media illustrations. Textures is a very important thing when it comes to mixed media or digital illustrations. I use a lot of scanned watercolor and acrylic plain color sheets to achieve a look of more depth to my illustrations. Usually I put them on a layer with a layer mask, and either multiply or overlay them to add them on top of the part of the illustration I want them to show through.

bogademagic bag

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

Never give up, it sounds a lot simpler than it is, as we all sometimes think our art isn’t good enough or no one will like it. Work hard on your craft and always try to get better. Get a good website up with all the information you need to provide so potential clients can find and contact you. Run a blog and get on Twitter and Facebook. People will find you there. I actually got commissioned by a publisher who found me on twitter, so do care about social media. Other than that sharpen your pencils and draw, draw, draw – and enjoy what you do!


Maria, thank you for sharing your wonderful illustrations and process with us. I am sure that besides the pure aesthetic beauty of viewing it all, it will help other authors and illustrators understand what goes into creating a picture book.

Please take a minute to leave Maria a comment.  I am sure she would love to hear from you.  If you would like to see more of Maria’s work you can find her at: www.mariabogade.com  - www.mariabogade.blogspot.com  - www.facebook.com/MariaBogadeIllustration?sk=wall

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Children's Picture book Author and Illustrator, Maria Bogard, Schlafplatz gesucht!, Wee Granny's Magic Bag

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Maria Bogade, last added: 2/9/2013
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20. Sydney Taylor Book Award Tour

All of us have heard of thkristinaheadshotsmalle Newbery Awards, but there is another very prestigious award that is given out every year that you may not be as familiar with.  It is The Sydney Taylor Book Award and it is presented to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature.

Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers.

Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category.

Kristina Swarner illustrated ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE written by Sheri Sinykin.  The book was a 2013 Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Younger Readers Award.  It was published by Peachtree Publishers.

kristinazayde225Kristina’s illustrations are often described as magical and dreamlike and she draws much of her imagery and inspiration from dreams and from memories of exploring  forests, gardens, and old houses when she was a child.

Since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design,  Kristina has illustrated books, greeting cards, magazines, wine labels, CD covers, and theatre posters, and has won numerous awards.  You will be hearing more about Kristina and her beautiful illustration on a future Illustrator Saturday post.

For now, I want too share with you some of the answers to questions I had for Kristina about this book and the wonderful recognition she has been awarded for this book.

How did you come involved with Zayde Comes to Live?

As I heard it, Jane Yolen recommended me to Sheri Sinykin as a possible illustrator.  Luckily for me Peachtree Publishing agreed with the choice.

Tell use your thought processes when you knew you were chosen to illustrate the book. Did the ideas immediately come to you or did you play around with different ways to approach the book? 

I really didn’t want to make the art too sad or pensive. The ideas evolved as I sketched, and the more I sketched, the more the tenderness and joyfulness of the story came out in the art.

kristinaZayde p 28 spot final225How do books get considered for the Sydney Taylor Book Award? 

So far it’s been a mysterious process to me, because my publishers submit the books without telling me, and then I’ll suddenly get a phone call that I’ve won.

Did you know that the book was under consideration for the award? 

I suspected that it was, and Sheri confirmed it.

How did you find out that the book and your illustrations had won the award? 

The call came on a grey day in early January. First I was asked how I would feel about being recognized again by the Sydney Taylor Committee. Of course I said that I would feel delighted.

What has happened since it won? 

This early, it’s mostly been a lot of congratulations, and interviews. :)

Congratulation Kristina! We will spend more time with you on Saturday February 23rd.

Below is the schedule for:


Ann Redisch Stampler, author of The Wooden Sword Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category At Shelf-Employed
Carol Liddiment, illustrator of The Wooden Sword Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category At Ann Koffsky’s Blog
Doreen Rappaport, author of Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category At Bildungsroman

Linda Glaser, author of Hannah’s Way Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category At This Messy Life
Adam Gustavson, illustrator of Hannah’s Way Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger ReadersCategory At Here in HP
Louise Borden, author of His Name was Raoul Wallenberg Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category At Randomly Reading
Deborah Heiligman, author of Intentions Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category At The Fourth Musketeer

Sheri Sinykin, author of Zayde Comes to Live Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category At Read, Write, Repeat
Kristina Swarner, illustrator of Zayde Comes to Live Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category At Writing & Illustrating

Linda Leopold Strauss, author of The Elijah Door Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category At Pen and Pros
Alexi Natchev, illustrator of The Elijah Door Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category At Madelyn Rosenberg’s Virtual Living Room

Blog Tour Wrap-Up at The Whole Megillah

Did you notice that New Jersey Adam Gustavson won the award for his illustrations in Hannah’s WayHe was featured July 2, 2011 on Illustrator Saturday.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: awards, children writing, illustrating, Interview, Kudos, Picture Book Tagged: Adam Gastavson, Kristina Swarner, Newbery Award, The 2013 Sydney Taylor Book Award

2 Comments on Sydney Taylor Book Award Tour, last added: 2/13/2013
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21. Illustrator Saturday – Jen Betton

bettonpiccroppedshort2Jen lives and works in the Boston area, where she freelances illustration and teaches art at a local college. She received her BFA in Painting from the University of Central Florida, her MFA in Illustration from Syracuse University, and learned amazing things about illustration at the Illustration Academy.

She loves working in watercolor, solving visual problems, and seeing a story come to life by creating images for it. Her work has appeared in CMYK, 3×3 and Illustration West, where she won third place for the Children’s Market category in 2010.

She also won the SCBWI Mentorship Award in 2012, and joined the KidLitArtists.

Here is Jen explaining her process:

bettonp-1-1I begin with  small “thumbnail” drawings, which I use to develop ideas and composition.


This process continues until I settle on a concept and composition, and these two elements are  interdependent. For this piece, the idea that the soldier was already in his grave, disappearing into the flowers, led to certain visual solutions.


After developing the composition, I took reference photos.


Reference photo – this is fellow illustrator Charlie Griak!


Reference photo for the poppies:  Since antiquity, poppies have been associated with sleep and death, due to their connection to opium and morphine. During World War 1, fields were often red with flowers growing where men had died, because poppies grow well in disturbed soil, such as on fresh graves or battlefields. Image copyright Corbis.

bettonp-1-7final sketch500

Finished sketch.

bettonp-1-8color theme

Color studies. Before moving on to the finished painting, I figure out what the color scheme will be on a small scale.


Start of the painting. First I put down a light green wash, and then laid down the light colors of the soldier’s clothes, gun, and  painted his face and hand.


For the next stage, I painted in the shadow portions of the figure, and started to lay down some of the poppies. The poppies were painted with heavily pigmented watercolor, so that the flowers would bleed and run when a wash was painted on top of them.


Next, I painted the first section of the grass and flowers. This was painted very wetly, and I used a spray bottle to add texture to the wash.


Here is a detail of the face. It was a little nerve-wracking to paint the flowers over it, since if I messed it up I would have to redo the entire painting.


The completed wash. In this photo you can see a little bit of the reference photos – I kept them right next to the painting while I worked.


I used a damp brush to lift paint out of the wash to create the barbed wire.


Finished! The last touch was painting in the barbed wire at the top.


How did you end up in California after attending the University of Central Florida for your BFA?

My husband got accepted to grad school, so we migrated across country. However, I’m actually from California originally.


What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

The Illustration Academy was amazing (www.illustrationacademy.com). It is an immersive summer program where you get to work with an amazing set of illustrators (Anita Kunz, Sterling Hundley, Mark English, Jon Foster, Gary Kelley, George Pratt, C. F. Payne, John English, Brent Watkinson). I saw incredible personal growth after attending.


Did you go directly from college to get your MFA in illustration at Syracuse University?

Almost. I transitioned from fine art to illustration for one year in between. I attended classes at Ringling College of Art and Design as a non-degree seeking student, and spent the summer at the Illustration Academy before going to Syracuse.


Can you tell us a little bit about the MFA program there?

Syracuse has a 3 year MFA program, which I attended, but it also used to have a summer intensive where you were taught by a lot of guest artists. That was great – to have the ongoing instruction and continuity of the wonderful full time faculty, but also be able to participate in the summer courses where I got to work with some amazing visiting illustrators. Syracuse is also not that far from New York City, and I went there about once a semester.


What did attending the Illustration Academy bring to the table?

They have a very different instructional environment, in that the teachers are not just there for a few hours while you learn and paint, but they are there all the time – when you are working on your piece at 9pm at night, one of the teachers is there too, and can help you if you need. It’s intense, because you are producing a new piece every week, but it is also nice to just have one project at a time to focus on, and nothing else. And like a lot of intense situations, it forces you to grow!


Did you always tend to lean towards using watercolors for your illustrations?

Yes, my mom got me art classes when I was ten. I was too young to use oil and my teacher didn’t like acrylics, so I learned pastels and watercolor. At first I didn’t like it, but it quickly grew on me – I love the happy accidents and textures you get with watercolor. I’ve tried other media, and enjoyed them, but I keep coming back to watercolor.


Are you open to working with self-published authors?

Not at the moment.


What was the first things you did that you got paid to do?

I think I sold a collage when I was in high school.


What is Illustration West?

It is a term that the Society of Illustrator’s Los Angeles uses for their annual competition and show.


What piece won you third place in the Children’s Market category?

The underwater polar bear.


Is their contest open to everyone?

Yes, it is like most other illustration competitions – you pay to submit and is open to everyone.


How long have you been illustrating?

If you count school, then since 2005.


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

I enter the big competitions, I send out postcards, and this year I’m going to the SCBWI conferences.


Have you ever tried to write and illustrate your own story?

That is something new I’m working on. I have one completed dummy book for a story I wrote, and a few other story ideas I’m developing.


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

I do not have an agent and yes, I would like one.


Do you want to concentrate on being a children’s picture book illustrator?

Yes, although I like Middlegrade and YA too. Bookcovers would be fun.


Have you made a picture book dummy to show art directors, editors, and reps.?

Yes, I’ve done a couple dummy books.


I see the you belong to KidLitArtists.com. How did that come about?

KidLitArtists.com is the website for winners of the SCBWI Mentorship Award. Every year at the LA conference, five illustrators are chosen from the portfolio competition for the Mentorship Award. You get individual critiques from the mentors, and you join the KidLitArtists (past and present mentees). It’s a wonderful, insightful event, and you join such a warm, supportive group of peers. I was fortunate to be picked for the award this past summer.


In your e-mail, you mentioned that you were attending the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC. How do you prepare for attending something like that?

I did a new piece for my portfolio, reorganized my portfolio book. You never know who is going to see it at the portfolio exhibition, so you want it to be as polished as possible. I’m packing a bunch of postcards and business cards, and hoping to get my website updated before I leave. I also recommend reading the bios for the speakers you are going to see. If you bump into any of them, it’s good to have a conversation topic. I also bring a sketchbook to put notes and thumbnails in – I got a lot of ideas at the last conference! Also have a spot to store other people’s cards – you’ll collect quite a few. And finally, I’m bringing Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, since he’s going to be doing a book signing.


Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Yes, although it’s had a consistent direction.


Have any of your college connections ended up helping you get work?

Not directly: although they helped me get a number of connections, none of those directly led to work.


Have you had any of your artwork published?

Yes, I’ve done some zoo advertising work.


Do you use Photoshop in your work?

Sometimes. Usually it’s just color corrections, but sometimes I use it quite a bit, like in the Ice Cream painting I did – the background is all Photoshop. I also have some non-children’s book pieces I’ve done that are all Photoshop over graphite, but it is a very different style.

What about a graphic tablet? Do you  own one?

No, I don’t. I would if I did a lot of drawing and painting on the computer, but I learned to digitally paint using a mouse, and I still use it most of the time.


Do you own a graphic tablet?

No, I don’t. I would if I did a lot of drawing and painting on the computer, but I learned to digitally paint using a mouse, and I still use it most of the time.


Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes, that you couldn’t live without?

Strathmore 500 illustration board! I love it.


What are your career goals?

I’d love to get into the Original Art Show someday.


Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I always paint on Strathmore 500 Illustration Board, vellum finish. It reacts to watercolor in a very different way than traditional watercolor paper. It makes it much easier to build dark colors, but it also lifts very easily, so there is a trade-off because it is much harder to layer your color. I also use a spray bottle with water, instead of salt, for when I want to acheive light spots. Water drops give you a wider range of effects, depending on how moist the wash is at the time you apply them.


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

Be persistent! Work on your craft and enjoy it, but don’t ignore marketing. If no one knows about you, they cannot hire you!

Jen, Thank you for sharing your wonderful illustrations and process with us.  I enjoyed showing off your talent.  If you would like to see more of Jen’s work you can visit her on her website: www.jenbetton.com or her blog: www.jenbetton.blogspot.com

Please take a minute to leave Jen a comment, I am sure she would love to hear from you.  Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Jen Betton, MFA in Illustration, Syracuse University, University of Central Florida

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Jen Betton, last added: 2/17/2013
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22. Illustrator Saturday – Manelle Oliphant


Manelle graduated with a bachelor’s degree in illustration from Brigham Young University Idaho and has been working as an Illustrator since 2005.  She’s illustrated multiple books. Most recently, In the Garden, (spring 2012) In the Woods, (fall 2012) and At the Beach (spring 2013) for Peachtree Publishers.

Some of my other clients include: McGraw-Hill, Friend Magazine, The Empress Theatre, and Blooming Tree Press.

I work with watercolor, prismacolor pencil, pencil, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

Manelle says, “My object in writing and illustrating books for children is: to recapture imagination, rekindle curiosity, and demonstrate the rewards of knowledge and virtue. Pretty good eh? I stole it from Walden Media. Regardless I am creating books and illustrations for children with this in mind. Hoping that others will have a chance to have fun, and learn from the products I create.”

Manelle has sent three panels that describe her process, thinking, and interview answers.

manellecover process
Have you always lived in Salt Lake Utah?

Basically, I did go to school in Idaho. I lived in West Yellowstone Montana one summer and I lived in Provo Utah for about a year after college.


How did you go to college to study illustration?

Well, yes, sort of, I went to college to study art. I thought I wanted to be a gallery artist but then I took an illustration class and the rest is history.


What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

Like I said I took this one illustration class… It was intense and really hard. It seems like during the semester I was just exhausted the whole time but it really gave me the tools I needed to be able to draw the kinds of pictures I always wanted to draw. In the end I took that class three times, twice with the same teacher and once with another teacher. I learned so much in all of them.

manelle walking through woods

What did you do after you graduated?

After I graduated I moved to Provo Utah and got a job doing layout for an educational publisher. I liked it there and I sometime I got to do small illustrations. It was fun learning more about Graphic design and layout there. I still use those skills all time.

What was the first thing you did that you got paid to do?

I think it was an illustration for the Friend magazine.


How long have you been illustrating?

Eight years


What materials did you start out using for your illustrations?

Watercolor and pen, and I also did a lot of digital painting at first.


Have those material changed over time?

Yes. I still use watercolor but now I use colored pencil and pencil more than pen. I just use the computer for prep work now, value studies and things like that. I stopped doing digital after I got a few jobs painting that way and realized I didn’t enjoy doing that as much. And sometimes l like to just try something completely different if I can. That is what Ruby and the Skateboard is, a fun style experiment.


Was the artwork for Don’t be Afraid a self-published book project?

No it was for a small Christian publisher. I think the first book job I got. I was pretty excited about it at the time.


How did you get involved with Familius?

It’s a long story. I’ll try to sum up. The Just In Time books were first being published by another publisher and they hired me. But before they were published the authors decided they wanted to go a different rout than that publisher was going so they pulled out. I had already done some sketches and things for them and I really, REALLY, wanted to do them. Luckily the authors, Cheri Earl and Carol Williams, live in Utah and I had met them at some SCBWI conferences, so the next time I saw one of them at a conference I told her how baldly I wanted to do those books. Later I emailed the sketches I had done and she liked them. She said she would suggest me as an illustrator if they found another publisher. Years later they found Familius and Familius hired me. So I think the moral of the story is be patient, and go to conferences, you never know what will happen.


Will there be other Just in Time books coming out?

Yes, 50 are planned, one for each state.


Can you tell us something about Familius?

They are new as of last year (2012). Christopher Robbins the publisher used to be CEO of Gibbs smith. So far they have been good to work with and we’ve enjoyed getting the Just In Time books ready for publication.


Will you be the illustrator for all of them?

That’s the plan.


Did you do any interior art for The Princess and the Pee or was it just the cover?

Yeah, I did an illustration for each chapter.


manellebanjo log

I see that you just wrote and illustration your own picture book and are selling it on Amazon for $.99. Was it easy to take the book dummy and turn it into an ebook?

It wasn’t too hard. But like I said I had a job doing layout and I took some deign classes in college. I don’t know that it would have been as easy if I didn’t know how to do that.  After the layout there is just some mechanical stuff to figure out that takes time but isn’t too hard. Julie Olsen has a nice blog post about how to do that. http://jujubeeillustrations.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-to-create-and-publish-ebook-picture.html


How hard is it to get people to notice your ebook?

I haven’t been good at it yet. Gradually I’m selling more and more and I’ve been trying things here and there to market them. Just learning stuff from people online and trying it. No giant success yet but I kind of enjoy the trying.


Do you plan to produce the book and self publish it, so kids can hold it in their hands?

Not at this point. Both of the ebooks I have out right now were just little things I did for fun and for practice telling stories. I think they will always just be ebooks.


What are your thoughts about the acceptance of buying a digital picture book?

I think people are accepting it more and more and that we all aren’t sure what a digital book is exactly. It’s all a process and I just want to be involved in the new fun. I don’t have programing skills or animation skills so my books are just pictures and text but there are so many more things they can be. I plan to keeping learning and telling better stories and just seeing what happens with digital picture books.  And having fun with them as they evolve.


Do you plan to write and illustrate another children’s picture book?

Of course. I think the reason illustration appealed to me in the first place was the chance to tell stories with my art. I plan on doing that until I die and still doing it in the after life. Why stop right? I have some fun manuscripts written and new ideas all the time, and as I said I feel like I’ve just been practicing so far. I plan on getting better at telling better stories.


Are you concentrating on becoming a children’s picture book illustrator?

Um… yes, and no. I like variety I love picture books but that is not all that I want to do. Mostly I just want to tell good stories.

manellerabbit hatbigger

How did you get involved with Peach Tree Publishers and the board book you illustrated for them?

They hired me after I sent sample postcards.


Who is Jeremy D. Miller and how did you work together on a wordless picture book?

Ha ha, good question. Jeremy is my husband and after I had the idea for Ruby and the Skateboard he helped me figure out everything that would happen to her. Then I drew it.


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

Postcard mailings, and a website are the main things. Conferences are great also. You never know what is going to happen. I have heard of people getting jobs from twitter but that hasn’t happened to me yet.


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

I don’t have one. I would like one but I want them to be the right one so I keep dragging my feet. I’ve submitted to some before and got some offers but they never felt right. I’ve also gotten a lot (and I mean a lot) of rejections. That was a couple years ago though so maybe I’ll try again soon. But not having an agent has been good for learning. I feel like I know my way around contracts and I’m getting better at taking better jobs. It’s hard asking for more money or changes in contracts. When I have to do stuff like that It’s always nerve racking but I like the feeling of accomplishment at doing something hard even if I don’t get what I want. And of course I’m getting better at it the more I do it.

maellegirl talk

I see you have used your artwork to make t-shirts, cards, ipad, iphone covers, etc.  Can you tell us a little bit about this?

Yeah, I just use the website society6 which is a service where I upload my art and they print on demand. If someone buys something of mine I get a percentage. I think they have good quality from what I’ve seen. It’s been a fun little side thing.


Do you ever use two different materials in one illustration?

Yes. Right now almost all of my color illustrations are a combination of watercolor and colored pencils. Some of my pencil stuff has a grayscale digital under painting. Doing that helps me save time.  Ruby and the Skateboard is ink and digital.


Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Yes. Although I don’t know how I can explain it in detail.


Have you gotten any work through networking?

Yes. I would say the just in time books are a good example of that.


Have you published any illustration in magazines or newspapers?

Yes. I’ve done a couple jobs for the Friend Magazine, and some other stuff here and there. I’ve also done illustrations for text books and thing like that.


Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

Not usually but sometimes if the opportunity arises.


Are you open to doing illustrations for self-published picture book authors?



Do you ever use Photoshop?

Yes. I use it for value and color studies and all kinds of other stuff. I used to do a lot of my paintings with it but now I just do paintings with Photoshop for fun when I’m doing experiments and the like.


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

Yes. I use it  for painting in Photoshop mostly.


How much time do you spend illustrating?

As much as I can I suppose and sometimes more. I just finished the second book for Just in Time. We had a really tight deadline with it and I spent every waking hour illustrating.


Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

I suppose I would prefer not ever live without the salt lake county library system. They provide most excellent recorded books for me to listen to while I’m illustrating (It’s not technically in my studio but the books are).


Any picture books on the horizon?

Not right now.  I have some manuscripts I’ve been working on but it remains to be seen if I will turn them into ebooks or try to publish traditionally. Right now I’m just really busy with Just In Time.


What are your career goals?

Be amazing and keep getting better.  I did have the goal to illustrate cover and interiors for beginning chapter and middle grade books. That’s what Just in Time is and they will keep me busy for a long time.  So I met that goal and haven’t made any new ones yet. I suppose my goal would be to not mess them up. I have some personal projects in mind to do while I’m working on those as well.


What are you working on now?

I just finished the second, Just In time and will probably start on the third soon.


Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Every painting needs an awesome composition and the right values.


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

Keep moving forward. I still think I’m in development stage but when I look back I can see that I have made progress. It has been slow going but the work is starting to pay off. I just had to be persistent and I have to keep being persistent and believe it’s gonna be great.

Thank you Manelle for sharing you process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing more success stories from you. Please make sure you let us know.

If you would like to visit Manelle you can go to her website: www.manelleoliphant.com And please take a minute to leave a comment here for Manelle. It would be  much appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books Tagged: Brigham Young University, Manelle Oliphant, Peachtree Publishers

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Manelle Oliphant, last added: 4/18/2013
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23. Illustrator Saturday – Shawna JC Tenney

shawnaIMG_4080Shawna JC Tenney has always loved to draw and she has always loved children’s books. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from Brigham Young University and started illustrating as a freelance illustrator a year later. Since then, she has created artwork for 16 books along with children’s magazines, charities, educational materials, religious materials and theater playbills. I love drawing and learning every day.  She works in a number of mediums including acrylics, digital- Photoshop and Painter, charcoal, pastels and watercolor.  

Shawna lives in Utah with two very artistic little girls and graphic designer husband.  Shawna says, “One of my favorite things to do is teach an art class for my girls and other neighborhood kids. I love seeing the beautiful artwork they create!”

Here is Shawna explaining her process:

Process 1: First I draw lots of thumbnails. This helps me decide where to place characters and which angle I want to use. Sometimes I draw the thumbnails in pencil sometimes I use ink or the computer.


Process 2: I always sketch my drawings out first by hand using a mechanical pencil. Then I scan the picture into the computer and adjust lines and shape sizes in photoshop. Often I have to draw more than one sketch to get it right. Then I bring the lines into a new layer by selecting the channels so I can use my original lines and color under them. This also allows me to lock the “lines” layer and change the line colors later.


Process 3: Next I make a grayscale study.


Process 4: Then I make a color study. I usually don’t make this many, but it was fun to explore different color options for my dragon.


Process 5: I lay in the background color in photoshop. I like to use lots of different textures on my brushes. Sometimes I will print out my sketch and throw in some background colors with watercolor, just for fun.


Process 6: I lay in all the foreground color.


Process 7: Then I work in all the details over the top. Sometimes I finish the painting in Photoshop. Sometimes I use Painter because of the fun paint textures you can get. And that’s about it!

How did you end up going to Brigham Young University?

I first went to Utah Valley State College (which is now Utah Valley University) on an art scholarship, where I earned my associates degree. I had a great experience there, but at the time, they offered no Bachelor Degrees. I decided to go to BYU because at the time it had the best illustration program in the state (and also very high ranking nationally). At first I showed my portfolio to one of the professors there, Richard Hull. He thought I had some good potential. Unfortunately, I did not get in the university because of very high admittance standards. Richard Hull wrote a letter to admissions to request that I be admitted into the university to study illustration. Happily, it worked, and I was admitted. I will always be grateful to Richard for helping me get into an amazing illustration program where I learned so much valuable knowledge, which prepared me to working as an illustrator.


What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

I took some awesome figure drawing classes, taught by Robert Barrett, who is phenomenal at figure drawing. I took an amazing (and very difficult) oil painting illustration class from Doug Fryer, where I learned amazing things about mixing color and composition. I also took some amazing illustration classes from Richard Hull, and Bethanne Anderson. Bethanne was my senior project mentor, and she inspired me in so many ways to become a children’s book illustrator and live my dreams. I took a couple  of digital classes in college, but hated them, and vowed I would never be one of those “digital” illustrators. This is very funny if you read on.


What did you do after you graduated?

Funny story. I graduated and had a baby two months later. Then we moved so my husband could go to school at another university. My husband was only able to get a part time job early in the morning working for UPS, and it wasn’t making enough to support us. So I went and got a part time job at JoAnn’s working in the frame shop. I worked there for a while, getting more and more annoyed that I was working at a retail frame shop for minimum wage. I was a well-trained frame shop worker (I had worked at several frame shops prior), and besides, I had a bachelor’s degree in illustration!  All I really wanted to do was be at home with my baby and draw. So I decided to work and pray really hard- take a leap of faith, quit my job and send out my work into the wide expanse of children’s illustration art reps and publishers, and see what happened. I think it was no coincidence that I was in the right place at the right time. Within a month, I got my first illustration job, and I got an art rep.

shawnaFlying Pig

Did Brigham Young University help connect you to companies that could give you work?

No, but I did learn a lot of valuable information about the business of illustration, and how to start getting work.


I notice that you use a lot of different paint materials. Did you start out with a favorite material and expand to others?

When I graduated from school, my medium of choice for my children’s illustrations was acrylics.  Like I said before, I was scared of the computer. Then I saw more and more how people were able to save a lot of time and money by doing their art digitally. I was still afraid that using it would change my style, and I wouldn’t be able to make my art look enough like a traditional medium. Finally, I decided I wanted to learn once and for all how to paint digitally. So I asked my friend Manelle Oliphant to teach me a few things. I also learned from asking some of my other friends a lot of questions. I decided to jump right in and digitally paint a book I had been assigned. It took a while to really understand how to do things the right way (I am still learning a ton all the time), but eventually I got things to look more traditional than digital. So to answer your question- now I only paint digitally- except for things like watercolor sketches. I have tried a lot of different techniques, which may explain why it looks like I use a lot of different mediums.


What was the first thing you did that you got paid to do?

It was some illustrations for a crossword puzzle for a magazine called The Friend, a children’s religious magazine. My second job was the more interesting one (in a bad way). It was a reader for elementary school called The Case of the Bushy Tail. Because of a misunderstanding I took on the job not realizing that I would only have 10 days to paint the entire book- and take care of a 1 year old at the same time. It was…something I don’t want to do again. But many lessons learned.


What was the turkey’s illustration for?

It was a self-promotion piece I did a few years back.


How long have you been illustrating?

About 8 years.


How  many children’s books have you illustrated?

If you count all the readers and chapter books, 17 all together.


I see that Picture Window Books published The Truth About Ogres that you illustrated.  Can you tell us how that contract came your way?

I got that job through my agent.


Can you tell us a little bit about Picture Window Books?

Picture Window books is an imprint of Capstone Publishing. They mostly publish through the school market. I have also illustrated one of their Read-it Readers, called Allie’s Bike. That was the second book I illustrated- a bit embarrassed to look at it now, but its fun to look back on it and see how my illustrations have grown since then.


How many children’s magazines have you done illustrations for?

The Friend Magazine, Highlights, Spider and Ladybug.


You illustrated a few book with Magic Wagon. How did those books and contracts find you?

That was also a job I landed through my agent.


Tell us about DEADWOOD put out by the new small publisher Pugalicious Press. I assume that it is a middle grade book and you were hired to do the cover. What is the story behind getting this job?

Yes, Deadwood is a middle grade novel written by Kell Andrews. I illustrated the cover, and the book came out November 2012. I also landed this job through my agent. Unfortunately, I recently heard that Pugalicious Press has gone under, and the book is already out of print. But I also heard that they are selling the rights to a new publisher, and trying to see if they can use the cover artwork that I have already created.  I hope that things go well for Deadwood, especially for the author’s sake!

shawnaIce Cream

It also looks like you have done a few Christian picture books. Could you tell us about those books, the publishers, and how you landed those contracts?

Yes, I have worked with  Concordia Publishing house on a couple of books (The Parable of the Prodigal Son, and King Josiah and God’s Book) which I got through my agent. I also illustrated a book called, When I Take the Sacrament, I Remember Jesus, through a local publisher called Covenant Communications. I got that job because I met the art director at a couple BYU Alumni events.


It also looks like you have done a few Christian picture books. Could you tell us about those books, the publishers, and how you landed those contracts?

Yes, I have worked with  Concordia Publishing house on a couple of books (The Parable of the Prodigal Son, and King Josiah and God’s Book) which I got through my agent. I also illustrated a book called, When I Take the Sacrament, I Remember Jesus, through a local publisher called Covenant Communications. I got that job because I met the art director at a couple BYU Alumni events.


I notice a lot of illustrations on your website that have a Christmas (Santa) theme. Are they all from one book? Where they published in a picture book?  Same questions for the reindeer illustrations?

The Christmas and reindeer themed illustrations are all from a book I illustrated for an author, Chantell Taylor, called Rosie the Reindeer. The book was finished about 3 years ago, but the author has not been able to publish it yet. That was a fun book to illustrate!


Do you want to concentrate on being a children’s picture book illustrator?

Yes, it is my dream and passion. I have always loved picture books- I love looking at them and reading them to my kids. My big dream is to write and illustrate my own books.


Where were the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella illustrations, published?

I think what you are referring to is the Beauty and the Beast pictures? I illustrated  a Young Learners Classic Reader version of Beauty and the Beast for Compass Publishing.


Tell us a little bit about the educational books that you have illustrated.

Well, I’ve done a lot of readers for the educational market. They are good bread and butter jobs, but not ultimately what I want to do for my career. Same thing with the religious books. I am really trying to focus my career on getting work in the trade book /big publishers market.


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

Yes, I have written a few of my own stories, which have failed. I am currently writing a new story, which I plan on finishing soon and then illustrating. I have so many great ideas floating around my head, and I would really just like to write and illustrate my own stories and ideas rather than always illustrating other peoples ideas.


Have you made a picture book dummy to show art directors, editors, and reps.?

I did make one dummy book that I sent to my art rep some years ago. It was a flop, but I learned a lot from the experience and gained a lot of wisdom since then. I hope to have a new dummy out by this fall.


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

I’ve been doing a lot of blogging, social media, and sending out my own post cards. Lately I’ve really been focusing on what kind of things I need to do to connect with other illustrators and art directors.  I’ve also been trying to focus my work on the trade book market.


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

Yes, my agent is Janet DeCarlo of Story Book Arts Inc. She has been a great agent and has gotten me pretty steady work for the past 8 years.


Do you ever use two different materials in one illustration?

Yes, I’ve used digital with pastels, Photoshop with Painter, watercolor with Photoshop. It’s fun to experiment!


Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Yes, a lot. When I first started, I only painted in acrylic. My goal was to have as little texture as possible and to finish every single last detail. My colors were very saturated all the time. The end result is that every one thought my illustrations looked too “Disney” and too mass market. So I’ve changed things up quite a bit. Now I use a lot more textures. I realized I don’t need to finish every single little last detail- in fact, it works better when I don’t. I have tried to make the eyes of my characters look less “Disney.” I know better how to use color. I know now that it’s better not to saturate everything with pure color. I also know better how to stylize characters and how to compose an illustration. I think it’s important to be learning all the time- from teachers, from friends, from books, from conferences. I hope my style evolves and changes and improves a ton in the next 10 years!


Have you gotten any work through networking?

Funny enough, no, not really. But I have gotten lots of lifetime friends through networking. And I learn tons from my friends all the time. In fact, I run a local monthly illustration critique group, which I love!


Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

I have participated in a couple BYU Alumni illustration shows. I have also participated in two shows at the Bountiful Davis art center called Illustrators Utah. It is a juried show, and the last  show I was in, I one 3rd place for my illustration entitled Ghost Watcher.


Are you open to doing illustrations for self-published picture book authors?

As I said before, I illustrated the book Rosie the Reindeer for a self-publishing author. I think since then I’ve learned a few things. I may be open to illustrating for a self-publishing author if they had a phenomenal story and gave me an offer I couldn’t pass up. But for the most part, I would say no. I’d rather write and illustrate my own stories or work with a publisher.


When did you start using Photoshop?

The first book I illustrated in Photoshop was The Parable of the Prodigal Son, which was published in 2008. After my friend Manelle showed me how to paint in Photoshop, and I just jumped right in, hoping to make it look just like I illustrated it in acrylics. Since I was so new to the medium, the process took way longer it would have taken to just do in acrylics. Since then, I have learned a lot of tips and tricks to really speed up the process.


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

Yes, I paint all my illustrations in Photoshop and Painter with a Wacom Bamboo tablet. I hope someday soon to be able to get a Cyntiq!


How much time do you spend illustrating?

Well, I’m a mom. So whenever I can fit it in! Both my kids are in school now for a full day, so I really try to get a lot done while they are at school. Sometimes I illustrate late into the night or early in the morning.


Do you have a studio set up in your house?

Yes, I have a studio/office room in the house. It’s pretty small and I share it with my husband who is a graphic designer. I have a computer desk and a drawing desk, he has a computer desk, and we also have scanners, printers, a book shelf, and a supply closet. So as you can guess, it’s a little crowded in here. It is also often filled with my kids and their drawings, so it gets even more crowded! But it serves it’s purpose.


Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

Of course, my computer (I used a Macbook Pro which I hook up to a bigger screen). My Epson Scanner (since I draw all my drawing with pencil and scan them in). I also love my Epson Artisan 1430 large format printer. And of course my art books. I am obsessed with children’s books and art books!

shawnaChristmas Surprise

You have an illustration you titled Christmas Surprise. Was that used in a picture book? What about the one titled Flying Pig? 

Christmas Surprise and Flying Pig are both self-promotion pieces I illustrated quite a few years ago- when I was still using acrylics. I like Christmas Surprise, but I don’t put it in my portfolio anymore because I often get the comment that it looks too mass market, and I’m going for trade books.


Any picture books on the horizon?

Right now I’m working on a few non-picture book jobs. But I am also working on my very own written and illustrated book –I hope to have a dummy finished and sent out this year.


What are your career goals?

I would love to illustrate more middle grade novels. My ultimate goal is to write and illustrate my own books steadily.


What are you working on now?

I am working on an few illustrations for The Friend Magazine, and I am illustrating a story which will be published by Oxford Publishing house called Harpoona. It’s an under the sea/fish Cinderella story .  And of course, I’m working on my own story!


Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Something that I really like to do is scan textures into Photoshop- such as watercolor textures or gesso textures. This is how to do it. Scan in a texture such as a watercolor texture. Change the mode to gray scale. Play with the curves to make the pattern more contrasted. Select the entire image. Go to the “Edit” menu and choose “Define Pattern” and give it a name. Then your pattern will show up in your brush palette when you double click “texture.” Then set the brush mode on multiply and you can make the contrast go as high as you like. Use this on an already textured brush. Then you can get textures that look like you are using real paint!


I  love the examples of the paper doll illustrations you have on your site. Who did you do these for?

I did some paper doll illustrations for Girl Guiding U.K. (equivalent to Girl Scouts in the U.S.). I also did a fun zombie-ish paper doll for self promotion.


Here are a few examples of Shawna’s black and white illustrations,



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

If you are in this field, illustration needs to be your passion. You need to keep finding ways to learn and improve your style every day. Find friends and mentors who will help you and inspire you. Blogging and social networking are important. Never ever give up, no matter how depressed you might feel about where your career is going, or feeling that your art isn’t good enough. The people that make it are the ones that never give up. I don’t even feel like I’ve made it yet to where I want to be, but I’m not going to give up! Remember, you don’t have control over what is happening in the industry, but you do have control over the quality of artwork you are producing– so keep making better artwork. Don’t ever do artwork for free. Don’t take on cheap jobs that pay way too little. Instead, focus on making better artwork, and if you do, the better jobs will come. I keep having to tell myself this every day. I know if I do, good things will happen for me and my art. And I know it will for you too!



Thank you Shawna for sharing your talent and process with us. I see a great future for you and you art and good luck with adding the writing to your achievements. Please remember to let us know when you have new successes. It will be fun following you.

If you would like to visit Shawna, you can go to: www.shawnajctenney.com Please take a minute to leave a comment below for Shawna. It will be  much appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Brigham Young University, Digital Art, Graphic art, Shawna Tenney

12 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Shawna JC Tenney, last added: 4/20/2013
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24. Illustrator Saturday – Kary Lee

karyMacDonald School Visit  3_12This week I would like to introduce you to Kary Lee. I think you will enjoy hearing about her journey, her watercolors and process. Here is Kary:

I see things in pictures. I always have. It wasn’t until college that I realized not everyone did. It explained a lot. My need to solve problems visually made sense. Being artistic gave me a pass with the linear world. I could show through my art that I do get it. I just go about it differently.

I’ve worked with different mediums and as an art director and designer but it was through motherhood that things began to resonate. I rediscovered the wonder and magic of the world as a child sees it, the ordinary as extraordinary. This and my passion for picture books and my new found love as a watercolorist fueled me. I started out creating personal student work as a traditional fine artist.

That journey brought me to book illustration. Five published books and several awards later personal circumstances caused my work to be inturupted. But in finding my way back, my current successes have come from commercial illustration, creating pieces that visually solve problems for external intities. I now find my work coming full circle, returning to more traditional fine art with a new and  passionate sense of purpose.

My niche is the human figure and more specifically, children. My goal, to capture the innocence, curiosity and sense of wonder for the things adults take for granted. The hidden agenda is to subtily imply that regardless of our ethnic, cultural and physically challenging differences that make us all unique, we’re all the same on the inside. The message may or may not be loud and clear and that’s okay.

My execution involves using light and it’s play on the subject matter to mold my images. I use pure transparent watercolor pigments and whenever possible have them mix and blend on the paper to keep my colors vibrant and alive. These elements are the glue that hold together the feel and personality of the my composition. I work in a realistic style so it’s important to keep my images fresh.

To be successful requires an element of interest that can’t be achieved through a photograph. It has to look effortless even though every brushstroke is calculated. The fewer brush strokes, the fresher the feel. Too many and it becomes overworked, flat and boring.

I prefer displaying my work in public venues over galleries. I like the challenge of capturing the attention of people who may not realize the beauty of my art or any art for that matter. I want to tell a story to someone who didn’t know they were going to care until they see the image.

I love being an illustrator and sharing my stories. It makes everything else in my crazy life fall into place. Some years ago my daughter’s play group was discussing what their parents did for a living. “Well,” my daughter stated, “My mommy colors for a living.” Silence fell over the room. I’m totally cool!

karysketch to final stoolcropped

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in sunny Southern California. I spent my early childhood barefoot and in a perpetual bathing suit.  On hot days we would      mix powdered tempera paints with the garden hose and use the sliding glass door as our canvas. On rainy days we would snuggle in the happy chair and read.  My mother’s love for books had a profound impact on me. Now I live in Pullman, Washington, in the South Eastern region of the state and home to Washington State University.
Karysketch to final stool3

How did you decide to attend Washington State University for Communication and Graphic Design?

I am a fourth generation WSU Cougar (Washington State University).  So, attending WSU was always my first choice. Communications with an emphasis in Advertising made sense because it was a creative career with the hope of job security.

karysketch to final stool2

Can you tell us a little bit about the classes you took while at WSU?

WSU has a prestigious communications program; The Edward R. Murrow school of Communications, Murrow’s alma mater.  There were many interesting and informative classes. Ironically, my most practical experience came through my involvement with a volunteer club, National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC).  It mimicked an ad agency campaign and we competed with other universities.  I learned that I loved conceptual thinking, and problem solving I realize now that the process is similar to story telling.  My fine art classes centered on traditional graphic design. It was the early 80’s, before computers were part of any curriculum.  So I learned ‘old school,’ studying traditional typography and layout methods.


You don’t usually think watercolor with Graphic Design. Did WSU have a fine art class that you took?

My final year as an undergrad I took an illustration class from John Christ, an adjunct professor from Atlanta (spelling is to the best of my memory).  He spent extra time with me, taught me to see think critically and really see things before I drew.  He helped me to understand how and why to draw with purpose, to know my subject and the importance of good characters. The experience was wonderful! He was wonderful!  But, my focus at the time was to be an art director.  I turned down his offer to go to a portfolio school in Atlanta. I had no money left.  Hell of a time for me to be practical! But he went back to Atlanta and I lost him. It took years for me to admit that this was a grave career error.  What can I say?  I was barely 21.  I goofed!  John, if you’re out there, it took me 20 years, but I am finally taking your advice and going for the dream!

karySwoozy and Suzy cropped

Did you try other mediums before you decided watercolor was what you enjoyed using?

Not really. Unless you include pencil and ink, because I’ve always loved to draw.  I played around with acrylic, oils and      watercolor in high school, but it was a small school and there was nobody to teach me.  It didn’t come up again until I decided to try book illustration.  And watercolor seemed my natural choice.  I took some classes while my kids were in school.  The instructor was good, but I was the only person under 60 and we spend a LOT of time with flowers and fruit. All humor aside, it was a tough time for me and watercolor gave me an outlet I needed.  I had finally found the my it.       And, as refreshing and empowering as it was, I knew still life’s were not gonna cut it!

karyStans Busy Daycropped

How did you find your way from there to Dallas, Texas for an art director job?

It was actually my third job out of college. I was an artist at a local T-Shirt shop the first year. Based on my daughter’s terms, I think I was a hipster before hipsters were cool! It was great. Then I married to my high school sweetheart.  He took a job with Texas Instruments and we moved to Dallas. The art direction job came after six months working for a banner company specializing in Car Dealership Point of Purchase marketing.  Can you say ‘character builder?’  I set type for used car bumper stickers and cut rubylith for vinyl signs. We also had those fun hoola skirt flags that drape every dealership.  It was grueling but looking back, a great experience!  Every designer should have to squeeze Lewis and Clark Auto Sales into a 5” x 2” space that can be read from 40 feet. Ironically the typeface Impact became my best friend!  I could crank out a mean mechanical in nothing flat.  After 6 months of the sweatshop I landed the graphic designer job and worked my way up to art director.

karyWeed and Seed cropped

What types of work did you do with that job?

I got to do everything; design, layout, illustration, photo direction and even some AV work. It was amazing. It was the type of environment where I was gonna sink or swim.  The story of my life!  So I swam!  I loved the work, the teams, and creative challenges.  Our team worked with a free-lance illustrator and I soon realized I secretly wanted her job.  She was a mom with a studio in her back yard and among other projects, illustrated kids books.  How cool was that?  We became fast friends and I was very jealous!


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

It was at an art show during my still life phase.  I did a whimsical painting that involved Hewey, Dewey and Louie and a color wheel (…you had to be there).  But, it sold for $165.  I couldn’t believe it!


How long have you been illustrating for a living?

I’ve been illustrating for about 14 years now.  Once the kids got old enough for me to breathe I made the decision to go for it.  I got the studio in my back yard, balancing my career as a stay-at-home mom. Things were going swimmingly until I suddenly found myself as a single-mom.  All emotions aside, the timing for my career was terrible.  I juggled my first book tour with my newly acquired real estate career! I remember attending BEA and signing books beside Judy Blume by day (I know, right?) and arguing escrow dates and appraisals over the phone with my broker by night. My plate was a bit full. Something had to give. I knew it would be temporary, but I turned down the next book and dug in to real life.  As I said earlier, I swim even if sometimes it’s upstream!  It was so hard to see that project completed without my name on the cover.  I vowed that I would return as soon as it was possible.  And, here am! I’m back on track with a newfound appreciation for everything! What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and it’s so true. It also gives me ton’s of subject matter. My passion has only gotten stronger.


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

I was 8.  Yes, that’s right. I wrote, illustrated and constructed my first children’s book when I was in the second grade. I guess you could say I was self-published.  I had an old typewriter, paper, pencils, and crayons.  I folded an old scrap of material over cardboard, folded it in half for a cover, glued it with Elmer’s, punched holes in spine with my pencil, and tied it all together with some yarn from the junk drawer.  Ta Da… “’Me and My Dog Ralph.’  Written and illustrated by Kary Lamb, grade 2.”


I see you have illustrated and published four books with Perfection Learning. How did you connect with PL?  

I met an editor, Susan Wilner at a local SCBWI workshop and gave her my card.  Much to my surprise, she called me a few months later!


Can you tell us a little bit about them?

They are actually pretty big educational publisher out of Iowa. The early readers I worked on are just one small division.  They do all types of educational books.  My connection was through Susan and when she hired me she owned her division, Lucy’s Letters out of Seattle, Washington.  In the interim, PL bought her out and my connection was lost.  I did one more book with one of their editors but he had his own group of illustrators, and things fizzled out.  All of the books are still in print.  There are links on my website.

kary waking up

Are they 32 page picture books? When were they published?

No, they were early readers; 1-3rd grade.  They focused on phonics and letters in 8 page simple stories. They were published in 2005 and 2006.

How did you connect with Stonehorse Publishing?

It’s a very small publisher. Usually one book a year.  And, again, I met my publisher through SCBWI.  This time it was at the Winter NYC SCBWI Conference. Dizzy is one of a series of three fiction books.  But all included fun non-fiction facts about the animals the characters were created after. In our case, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins.


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

I definitely want an agent, but the right agent.  I have recently had some great feedback and a couple positive leads.  I am hopeful that things will come together and I will acquire representation soon.

karythrow theball

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

Yes. I actually have one of my stories written and blocked into a dummy, The Race.  It’s a historical fiction story (circa 1880; Kansas) based a story by great-grandfather, a published poet. I’ve had positive feedback from critique groups with award winning authors. But, I am focusing on getting established with an agent before I pursue it further.


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

Yes, and I won!  Runner Up; Realistic Category at the LA Conference in 2003.  It was amazing!  It was early in my career and I didn’t really know how cool it was. I had been upgraded from still life and fruit bowls but most important, I had found ‘my people.’  From that day on my dream turned to goal: to ‘make a living’ as an author/illustrator.

karyflying whale

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

Can I say two?  My natural light view and my music! Both are essential.


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

Yes. But it’s always a challenge. It’s like exercise.  If I skip, it shows.  Staying in ‘shape’ is the key to improving skills and perfecting your craft.


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

Yes, lots of research, in conjunction with sketching and creating characters.  For example, my current book project      involves a deaf girl, so I am trying to learn sign language.  My older work is more realistic and photos were imperative. Now I take photos but try to work more from imagination.  But, even if I’m not using likeness of the model, it always helps to have images, especially with strong light sources because luminosity is sort of my trademark.

karymoreDo you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

No question!  Early in my search it was Verla Kay’s website that opened the biggest door.  That’s where I learned about SCBWI, the single most important external impact on my success. That’s a mouthful, but it’s so true!

karygetting the cone

Are you willing to work with a self-publish author?

No.  It’s a good fit for some, but I choose not to focus my energy there.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, but sparingly and at this point only as a production tool.  I love the traditional process of paint on paper, and it’s also what gives my work my look.


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

I have an old WACOM from about 7 or 8 years ago.  I was curious when I first got it, but the concept was still abstract and the process seemed clunky.  It didn’t really save me any time.  But the new versions seem amazing.  So, I have it on my wish list.


Do you think your style has changed over the years?

I would describe it as my ‘evolving.’ I find my work loosening up, becoming more ‘painterly.’  The thing that remains constant in my technique is the underlying glazes of primary colors to create the luminosity.  As I said earlier I believe this sets my work apart and gives it the depth and life.  It’s not overly obvious but more like a ‘feel.’  The changes in my style have come simply in my gaining experience and knowledge, hence drawing and painting as much as I can.  It’s      quantity that creates the quality. There’s really not any big secret.  If you want to do this, then do it…. A      lot!

How do you market yourself?

With my graphic design/marketing background, I have been pretty good at creating marketing materials. Although I am a terrible client. I can’t seem to decide on anything for myself.  It’s a good thing I don’t have to pay myself.  I couldn’t afford it! I use social networking and attend conferences as often as I can.  I have a website, blog, and am active on Facebook, Twitter and most recently my girls are showing me the benefits of Instagram. Yikes! There are so many choices.  It can be overwhelming.


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

Being able to do this full time, ‘for a living.’   I have so many stories to tell!


What are you working on now?

So glad you asked!  I am very excited to be starting a new book project this month!  A Good Sign for Alice; Guardian Angel Publishing, projected release – early 2014.  Alice is a deaf dog rescued from a shelter by Marie, a little girl who is also deaf and bombarded by two brothers who don’t understand girls.  It is written by Rachelle Burke.  I’m in the thick of research, learning sign language.  The challenge I’m finding will be to ‘illustrate’ deafness.  But hey, it’s the problem solving that I love about this job, right? I’ll be posting progress on my blog if anyone is curious. www.karyleeillustration.blogspot.com .


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

Professional grade paint and paper are a must if you’re serious about this medium.  My paints of choice are Windsor Newton and Danielle Smith with little exception.  Arches cold press is my choice for paper.  When trying something else I once found my self frantically waving my paintbrush in the air with one hand, the other propped on my hip and shouting with attitude, “What is this crap? I can’t work this way!” …with a French accent!

It’s not really a material type, but my wonderful new Epson Photo R2880 printer definitely affects how I use my materials.  It is oversized and takes watercolor paper.  I can now take sketches, scan them and print directly on the paper. It saves time and frees me up to try without worrying about ruining anything.


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

For me this answer has two parts:

1.         Philosophical:  Stop for a minute and think about WHO you are WHEN you are creating.  That’s your muse; the inner voice you should be listening to if you want to be true to your work.

2.         Practical:  Paint or draw EVERYDAY! Go to conferences! Do your research on publishers, art directors and agents.  Find where your work fits best. Ask questions. But remember the answers are based on that person’s situation.
The truth? There is NO RECIPE! And success for one person is different than another.  At first I would ask questions and get a little annoyed when the answer was, what to YOU think. I have received some amazing help from some very well known authors, illustrators and industry professionals, but it’s still my journey.  And yours will be different than mine!

We a have all heard this:  ‘Do what you love and the money will come.’

For me I suggest a slight change: ‘Do what you love and the happiness and success will come.’  (maybe money too….but that’s just a bonus.) karybwbigger

Kary’s work hangs in public venues and private residences throughout the Northwest. She is currently writing and illustrating a historical fiction book entitled, The Race. It is inspired by a poem written by her great-grandfather.


In 2009 she was featured in Washington State Magazine for a University of Washington athletic event project, The Windermere Cup. The link is on my website, www.karyleeillustration.com . In 2008, Dizzy the Dolphin received the Mom’s Choice award for Children’s Picture Book Adventure. And, she was a national portfolio finalist at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA in 2003.

Thank you Kary for sharing you expertise, process, and journey with us. Please make sure you continue to share you successes with us. We looking forward to following your career.

Taking a minute to leave Kary a comment is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, awards, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Dizzy the Dolphin, Illustrator Kary Lee, John Christ Professor from Atlanta

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Kary Lee, last added: 5/23/2013
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25. Illustrator Saturday – Tracy Campbell

tracyHeader 13Here is Tracy explaining her process:

Below, I’ve included some of the steps I used to draw and paint the “Watermelon Barrette”.


  • Draw the design, scan it, and then reduce the drawing to fit the surface.
  • Trace the design onto tracing paper.

Tracy Campbell - Barrettes - B & W Illustration



  • DecoArt Americana Acrylics.
  • DecoArt Matte Varnish Sealer.
  • Krylon Matte Finish Spray.
  • Brushes—1/8” and 1/4”      Stipplers, #1 and #3 Round, 3/4” Wash, #2, #4, and a #10 Shader, #6      Filbert, and a #10/0 Spotter.

Wood Surface Preparation:

  • Sand the wood barrette with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper.
  • Remove the dust with a tack cloth.
  • Apply one coat of DecoArt Matte Varnish Sealer.
  • Allow to dry, sand, and then wipe clean.
  • Paint the background with at least three coats of paint.
  • Center the tracing over the barrette.
  • Slip the dark blue dress-maker’s paper under the drawing, and then
  • Trace the main pattern lines with a stylus and/or a pencil.


Color Worksheet:


tracybarette2 Drybrush Tips:

  • Use a 1/8” Stippler to      drybrush small areas.
  • Use a 1/4” Stippler to      drybrush large areas.
  • Dip the brush into the      desired paint color.
  • In a circular motion,      wipe off the excess paint onto an absorbant paper towel.
  • In a circular motion,      applying slight pressure, begin in the darkest area and move toward the      lightest area.
  • Follow the above steps      until the desired results are achieved.

 Finishing Touches:

  • Let the piece cure (I      wait three days).
  • Apply one coat of DecoArt Matte Varnish Sealer.
  • Let dry (15 to 30      minutes).
  • Lightly sand with a      brown paper bag.
  • Apply at least three      coats of sealer, sanding between each coat.
  • Spray with Krylon Matte Finish.

Did you go to school for art?
No, not unless you count the “How to Paint” workshops I signed up for in 1991.

What types of things helped you to develop as an illustrator?
In 1994, a published picture book illustrator encouraged me to draw my own designs. So with shaky fingers, I picked up a pencil and gave it a whirl. And voila! The fabric tree and snow mama was my first design, and I painted it on slate.

Tracy Campbell - Potted Fabric Christmas Tree 3

I continued studying “How to Paint” books, and then with three years of drawing and painting practice under my belt, I designed “How to Paint” pattern packets. During that time, I attended a Tuesday morning group for young moms at a local church. The moms loved my designs, and they invited me to teach on Tuesday mornings. One of the designs I taught them, Noah’s Flying Angels, was painted on a wood piece.

Tracy Campbell - Noah's Flying Angels

My confidence bloomed like the flowers in my garden, and I decided to sell my expanding portfolio. Without access to the Internet, I packed up my car and traipsed all over Southern Ontario, begging and pleading with store owners to stock my designs on their bulging shelves. Krafty Kennedy’s, a store in London, Ontario, took a chance and purchased my packets. Wait, it gets better. They even asked me to teach workshops. A few years later, I became a “Big Brush” teacher at national painting shows in Toronto and London, Ontario.

Here is a pattern packet design.

Tracy Campbell - Coaster Tray - I Love Coffee, I Love Tea

What was the first piece of art you did where someone paid you?

A small marketing company hired me to design thirty cards. I recently revamped “Gone Fishing” to create a Father’s Day card.

Tracy Campbell - Father's Day Card (1)

Did you start out doing interior design work?

It wasn’t until 2004 that I received accreditation as an International Design and Decorating Professional. I then obtained my Staging, Color Consulting, and Professional Organizing designations. While I was running my decorating business, QC Design School approached me to tutor students and, later, to facilitate Color and Professional Organizing workshops. I’ve recently cut back on my decorating services to allow more time to pursue my new love…writing.


What are your favorite art materials?
Hmm…I don’t really have a favorite. I paint on many surfaces—illustration board, slate, tin, wood, and canvas.
Here is a “Musical Angel” I painted on a CD box.

Tracy Campbell - Musical Angel CD Box

Have those material changed over the years?

Yes, I’ve discovered Copic markers, which I must say are not forgiving. To avoid making mistakes, I test the markers on scrap paper to ensure I choose the correct tint, tones, and shades. The upside, I reduce my painting time in half.

Here is a very rough sketch for the painting below.

Tracy Campbell - Thanksgiving Dinner - Rough SketchOnce the idea takes shape, I redraw each figure, scan it, and then enlarge or reduce each element until I’m happy with the placement. I then transfer the final drawing onto Strathmore WindpowerTM smooth finish, acid free Bristol.

Tracy Campbell - Thanksgiving Dinner

How long have you been illustrating?

I seriously began illustrating in 1994, so that means almost twenty years!

I like your note cards. How did you start creating and selling them?

Thank you, Kathy. Some of my three-dimensional wood designs were the inspiration that lead me to produce a line of square-shaped greeting cards, which I submitted to the Thirteenth Uniquely Ontario Creative Arts Show in Toronto, Ontario. My cards were judged on design, workmanship, promotional materials, and saleability. After receiving a score of 92 out of 100, I was invited to participate in the show that assists in the growth of Ontario’s best home-based entrepreneurs. I was disappointed I didn’t receive 100. 

Tracy Campbell - Singing Birthday Angel

Tracy Campbell - Sunflower Angel  1

Tracy Campbell - Toys 1

Kathy, I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment. Regal Gifts hired me to create A Country Charm Collection, reproduced on wrapping paper and gift cards.

Here are just four designs.

Tracy Campbell - Christmas Clad Reindeer

Tracy Campbell - Holiday Clad Reindeer 1

Tracy Campbell - Christmas Angel

Tracy Campbell - Christmas AngelsMy confidence soared. I queried a well-known calendar company in Markham, Ontario. Rejected, I sulked, unaware God was still at work. A few months later, I received a call. My name had been passed on to Zebra Publishing. They hired me to design a “baby’s first year keepsake” calendar, and the following year, a “twelve-month folk art” calendar. Both calendars sold like hot cakes in mom-and-pop bookstores, Chapter’s bookstores in Canada, and Barnes & Noble in the U.S.

Tracy Campbell - Calendar Cover Art - Baby's First Year

Tracy Campbell - Folk Art Calendar Cover

It looks like you have written and illustrated a children’s book. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Our Story—You & Me is much more than a children’s book. It’s also a record-keeping book sprinkled with quaint quotes that will appeal to mommies and expectant mommies who want to capture the milestones of their baby’s first year. The book is unique in that it elevates a record-keeping book to an early-reader storybook a mom can read to her child, and uses a child’s natural curiosity about their first year of life to help interest them in reading. In the years to follow, mom and growing child will giggle together, poring over candid photos of things like a toothless grin, wobbly first steps, the ultrasound, and other special moments. This fifty plus page book mirrors my calendar art and will make the perfect baby shower gift.

Tracy Campbell - Book Cover

Do you have plans to self-publish?

I’m on the hunt for an agent.

Is illustrating children’s books a new direction for you?

It sure is. 

tracybunniesHave you ever illustrated something for a children’s magazine?

I haven’t pursued that avenue yet, but I have been published numerous times in American and Canadian “How to Paint” magazines.

Here are two tear sheets.

Tracy Campbell - Sweet Cherry Pie

Tracy Campbell - Barrettes

The drawing and painting instructions for the “Musical Angel CD Box” are similar to the “Watermelon Barrette”. Below, I’ve listed the differences.

Tracy Campbell - Musical Angel CD Box

Additional Supplies:

  • DecoArt Walnut Gel Stain.
  • Krylon Matte Finish Spray.


CD Box Surface Preparation:

  • Prep the box as per the previous instructions, paint the base Napa Red, paint the lid Antique White, and then paint the edge Deep Teal (apply at least three coats of paint).
  • Drybrush the Deep Teal area with Blue Green, and again with Deep Teal plus Buttermilk to brighten.
  • Apply scotch tape 1/4” from the edge, and then paint the border Country Red.
  • Paint corner squares Lamp Black.
  • Dilute the gel stain with water, and then apply with a foam brush. Wipe the excess stain with a cotton cloth. Let dry.
  • Spatter with Burnt Umber and again with Lamp Black.
  • Trace main pattern lines onto the lid.


Color Worksheet 1:

Tracy Campbell - Musical Angel - Color Worksheet A1

 Color Worksheet 2:

Tracy Campbell - Musical Angel - Color Worksheet A2

What have you been doing to get your artwork noticed?

I have an online whimsical shop over at http://www.tracycampbell.net/shop.html and a website over at http://www.tracy-campbell.artistwebsites.com, where Fine Art America reproduces my original whimsical works of art on metal, stretched canvas, and acrylic. You can also buy unframed prints or framed prints that are ready to hang on your wall or on a friend’s wall.

Tracy Campbell - Great Memories 1

Tracy Campbell - Bee Happy

Have you made picture book dummies to show art directors, editors, and reps.?

Not yet.

Do you have an agent?

I’m hard at work querying agents.


Do you ever use two different materials in one illustration?

Not materials per se, but here’s another style where I used a Micron pen and watered down acrylics.

Tracy Campbell - The Door replacement jpeg

The above piece was painted on illustration board. The process is the same as painting on wood, except I don’t have to prepare the surface. I just transfer the line drawing, ink the design, and then apply watered down acrylics.

I also paint on Paper Mache items.

tracyCandy Cane Ornament Painted on Paper Mache - Tracy Campbell 1

Tracy Campbell - Mitten Ornament

Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Oh my, yes! My earlier drawings and paintings were stiffer than my ironing board.

tracysheepHave you gotten any work through networking?
Yes, from author extradornaire, Susanna Hill. She purchased designs for her online course—Making Picture Book Magic. Take a peek over at http://www.susannahill.blogspot.ca/p/making-picture-book-magic.html.

Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

Not at present.

tracyumbrellaAre you open to doing illustrations for self-published picture book authors?

Not at the moment. I’d like to concentrate on illustrating my own books.

Do you use Photoshop?

Yikes! I hear the learning curve is steep and I’m not getting any younger. I do scan my artwork, and manipulate my designs with Microsoft Publisher and Paint. Here’s one I reconfigured.

Tracy Campbell - Grow where you are planted

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

Unfortunately not.

How much time do you spend illustrating?

Not as much time as I’d like. Some days I work on marketing, other days I write and/or paint.

Do you have a studio set up in your house? Where do you live?

I have a second-floor studio in my 1841 farmhouse, nestled high on a hill in a secret location. 

Tracy Campbell - Our Farmhouse--Circa 1841

Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes, that you couldn’t live without?

My art and writing reference books.

What are your career goals?

My career goals are to find a literary and/or art agent, finish writing two picture books, polish my middle grade novel, and continue creating art that one day will appear on home décor and giftware items. Lord willing.

tracywateringcanWhat are you working on now?

Besides tutoring, I’m querying agents, blogging, writing a rhyming picture book, and adding art to sell on my website.

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I love dark blue dress-maker’s paper. I lay my line drawings over the transfer paper, and then I use a stylus to trace the design onto any surface I like. The beauty of this paper is that as soon as you add ink or water—poof—the lines disappear.


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

Don’t be afraid to try new things, step out of your comfort zone. As Will Rogers once said, “If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple: Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”

Thank you Tracy for sharing your artwork and process with us. We will be watching to see how you develop your style to illustrate picture books.

If you want to see more of Tracy’s work or follow her in the future, her website is www.tracycampbell.net.  Please take a minute to leave Tracy a comment. It is much appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: 3-D wood designs, How to Paint, Interior Design company, Magazines, Tracy Campbell

11 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Tracy Campbell, last added: 5/18/2013
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