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1. Illustrator Saturday – Colleen Kosinski


colleen_baby_cropped_300x300Colleen Rowan Kosinski has always been involved in creative projects. She is an alumna of Moore College of Art and graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Visual Arts. While in college, Colleen worked with The Robert Wood Johnson Hospital as part of her curriculum. She developed, designed and constructed step-by-step instruction booklets to be used by nursing staff. After graduation, Colleen worked as a jewelry designer. While working as a designer she won a scholarship to the Gemological Institute of America and earned a certificate in Colored Stones. Colleen, having a great interest in science, volunteered at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. She worked with Dr. John Gelhaus in the entomology department rendering illustrations of insects for scientific publications. She also worked at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, were she designed illustrations for a cookbook featuring Ben Franklin’s favorite dishes.

After the birth of her first child, Colleen opened her studio and virtual gallery. She has been working as a visual artist, with clients all over the United States, for the past eighteen years. You can visit her site at http://www.myartsite.com. She specializes in pet portraiture and still life. Her mediums of choice are oil or pastel.

Colleen resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband, three sons, doberman pinscher, rottweiler, and miniature dachshund and volunteers at the local animal shelter. During the summer you can usually find her nursing a sick squirrel or robin back to health.

Here is Colleen explaining her process:

This painting example was created for the NJSCBWI 2014 Conference. I knew I wanted a dreamy, fairytale-ish feel. I wanted the viewer to wonder what would happen next. I also wanted to include the theme of the Jersey shore.

First I researched elements I needed for this particular piece of work, ex. I needed to research old-fashioned bathing suit attire, seagulls, and Victorian style homes in Cape May for this piece.

Next, I drew (in pencil) each element that was to be included in the artwork. I scanned in the early sketches and placed everything in the space to see if worked. I’d drawn a lifeguard chair and the Cape May lifeguard boat but they didn’t fit in the composition, so they were cut.

Then, I went back and shadowed each drawing in pencil.

I scanned each shadowed piece into the computer and placed them on the page.

All the shadowed pieces were built as their own layers. I then painted in colors, using varying opacities and brushes.

colleenstep_1_pencil_sketch_cape may girlOriginal pencil sketch

colleeenstep_2_scan_and_cut_cape may girl

Scanned image, cut out, cleaned up and contrast adjusted.

colleenstep_3_color_layers_cape may girl

Colored layers built up.

colleenstep_4_highlights_shadows_cape may girl

Shadows and highlights are added last.


colleenseagull_full_colorI brought the colored drawings back into the original composition.

colleencapemayflag sketch

colleencape may flag_full_colorI adjusted scale and brightness.

colleencape may houses_pencil_sketch

I then layer in shadows into the final composition and sometimes I add various textures into the composition.

colleencape may girl 3_head_tilt

Finally, when the painting looks finished to me, I put a bump map of a watercolor texture over the entire painting. This makes the work look less “computer-like”. Copyright ©artshow colleenscbwi entry 2_6

After critiques by my trusted artist friends, I add my finished piece to my portfolio. For example, they suggested her head should be tilted toward the bird so I made the adjustment as seen here.

colleendiving girl comp5

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing forever. I participated in my first “show” when I was thirteen (and won first place.) I’ve been seriously working on illustrating for children for the past three years.

What made you choose to get your degree in visual Arts at Rutgers University?

I was originally granted a full scholarship to Moore College of Art when I happened upon a portfolio day after a Saturday class at the Philadelphia College of Art. I attended my freshman year, but then transferred to Rutgers to follow my boyfriend. I know. I know. But we’ve been married now for 27 years. : )

colleenbeach girls14

What were you favorite classes?

I loved figure drawing, creative writing, and anthropology. I’d always try to convince my professors to hold class outside on beautiful days. All except figure drawing. Naked models posing outside in the middle of campus would have been frowned upon—but would probably have drawn quite a crowd.

Did the School help you get work?

Actually, Moore College of Art helped me get my first internship as a scientific illustrator for the entomology department of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

colleenriver of wishes9hair lowered a smidge3tdep5_6_14_3NO-WORDS

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

In high school the teachers would commission me for artwork.

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

After college I worked in a jewelry store and did some jewelry design. I was fascinated with gemstones and won a scholarship to study colored stones with The Gemological Institute of America.


colleenmermaid comp 8Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

The figure drawing classes may have helped a bit but my style has organically evolved over the years.

When did you do your first illustration for children?

I started working on children’s books illustrations about three years ago.

colleenswimming with the fish7

How did that come about?

I had worked as a fine artist for many years, but stopped drawing to seriously study writing. I’ve written screenplays, YA novels, and MG novels, along with picture books. NJSCBWI was holding their first illustrators showcase three years ago and I decided to participate and developed a character, which then became a story.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

After all the positive feedback at the NJSCBWI conference.

colleengoldilocks comp_v7

How did you get interested in writing novels and when did that happen?

I had a friend who worked in the SAG office in Philadelphia. I had an idea for a movie and asked her how I could try to sell my idea. She told me I’d need to write a screenplay. I bought books on the mechanics of writing screenplays and started networking with other screenwriters. I decided to try to convert one of my screenplays into a novel. Then I wrote bad novel after not as bad novel until I finally had one that I thought was good enough to submit. But it really wasn’t. So I kept writing more and more. I think my eighth book was the charm and is now being read by several editors.

Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a writer who would like to self-publish?

I think I’d rather work on my own books or be paired with an author from a traditional publisher.

colleenflying girl comp4

Have you worked on illustrating a book dummy to help market your illustrating skills?


Since you already are writing novels, have you thought about writing and illustrating you own picture book?

I’ve written quite a few PBs and I have one finished dummy and one in process.

colleenbad luck boy new comp6

Do you have an artist rep.? If not, would you like to have one?

I’m presently not represented, but would love to work with an agent interested in an author/illustrator. I’m a hard worker and not afraid of revisions.

What types of things do you do to market your work?

I show at conferences, tweet, network on FB, display my work on the SCBWI illustrator showcase, and I have a website—ColleenRowanKosinski.com

colleenjaquar11What is your favorite medium to use?

I’m currently working with a combination of pencil sketching and digital painting. I also love oils, and soft pastel.

Has that changed over time?

Many years ago I worked primarily in pen and ink and watercolor. I did a lot of hand-numbing stippling with a rapidograph pen. I transitioned to pastel. Sold quite a few, then fell in love with oil painting. Oil painting is a long process because of the practice of building layers of colors and the drying times involved. That’s why I love digital so much now. I approach color the same way I did in my oil painting but have zero drying time!


Do you have a studio in your house?

I don’t have a designated studio. Because of very bad back issues I have trouble sitting for long periods of time in a regular chair, but I’ve found a recliner takes the stress off of my lower back so you can usually find my there, either writing, sketching or working digitally. I do have an office with my supplies, a desk, computer, scanner, printer and bookshelves from floor to ceiling.

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

My laptop computer.

colleenHanging Around4

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

I work every day for at least eight hours or more. I try to attend at least one SCBWI conference a year and as many other workshops that I can fit into my budget and schedule.

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

Yes, I take pictures and research reference images online.

colleenskunk girl_portfolio3

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. I used to have to find reference photos by paging through books and magazines for hours. The Internet also helps me network with other writers, illustrators, agents, and editors.

What do you feel was your biggest success?

I don’t know if I’ve experienced a “big” success yet. I just keep doing what I’m doing while constantly trying to improve.

colleenfox running picture 16Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I actually use GIMP, which is a free version of Photoshop. I did finally bite the bullet and start subscribing to Photoshop (you can’t buy it outright anymore, you must pay a monthly fee.) I’m experimenting with it but feel more comfortable with GIMP.

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

Yes, I use a Wacom pad when creating my artwork.


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

I dream of finding an agent who knows the craft and market, and being traditionally published. I guess if I want to dream big, I’d love to win a Newberry or Caldecott.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a story called Lydia Light Takes Flight. The character I created for the 2014 NJSCBWI Conference Art Competition inspired the story. The text is finished and I’m currently working on the dummy. It’s a lyrical story with a fairytale’ish feel. I also have a couple PB biographies ready to go, and two other lyrical PB texts. Editors are reading my older MG novel and I’m hoping one of them will make an offer soon.


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

I don’t know if I can really speak to being successful, but I can say that you have to be a fighter. Don’t wallow in rejection and keep moving forward. Be open to critique and learn from it. Lastly, be involved in the kidlit scene. It’s a wonderful, supportive community.

colleencozette and the black umbrella7


Thank you Colleen for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Colleen’s illustrations you can visit her at: www.ColleenRowanKosinski.com Twitter: @writergirlrowan 
Facebook: Colleen Rowan Kosinski

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Colleen, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, Interview, Process Tagged: Colleen Kosinski, Illustrator Saturday, Moore College of Art, Rutgers University

9 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Colleen Kosinski, last added: 7/26/2014
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2. "Family Camp-In"

Illustrating for The Friend is not only a pleasure, but can be exciting as well, especially when one forgets about an illo only to open the newly arrived issue and discover it there! I never get tired of seeing my work in print! VERY satisfying, unless of course I wasn't pleased with the finished work, which happens, and then I cringe!
I had so much fun with this one, watercoloring it traditionally, and then sending it to Photoshop to add the final lighting etc. I still am struggling to get the techniques down, but am enjoying it as well, and appreciate the confidence placed in me now and then.
On to the next assignment! What fun!

0 Comments on "Family Camp-In" as of 7/25/2014 12:32:00 AM
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3. Ebook Sales and Who is Reading YA

art showAngie Kidd ShinozakiFrog on a Log

Angie Kidd Shinozaki entered this cute summer frog in the NJSCBWI Artist Showcase.


Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: illustrating, need to know, Publishing Industry, Young Adult Novel Tagged: 2014 NJSCBWI Conference, 2014 State of the Market Report, Angie Kidd Shinozaki, Ebook Sales and Growth, Kathy Temean's State of the Market, Who'es Reading YA?

8 Comments on Ebook Sales and Who is Reading YA, last added: 7/16/2014
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4. Ebook influences on Book Sales

art show falkenstern_scbwi

The art show that took place at the NJSCBWI Conference continues with this evening illustration done by Lisa Falkenstern.

Filed under: illustrating, inspiration, need to know, Publishing Industry Tagged: 2014 State of the Market Report, ebooks fluences on book sales, Kathy Temean's State of the Market, Lisa Falkenstern

1 Comments on Ebook influences on Book Sales, last added: 7/15/2014
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5. NJSCBWI Conference Thoughts

amalia fish with girl

This fun and colorful illustration is what Amalia Hoffman entered in the NJSCBWI Art Show. Here is the link to her website: http://www.amaliahoffman.com

Amalia wrote the following about her time at the conference.

The last weekend of June, I attended the New Jersey SCBWI conference in Princeton, NJ.

This is really a great conference. So much to do and you get to pitch your idea to an agent, dine with the faculty, view the great illustrations and display your art if you are an illustrator.

But the best part is that you get to meet groovy super creative people, some of which could become your pals forever.

Of course, you can’t do it all. I had a hard time choosing where to go and what to do.

I can only say that going to this conference is like going to a great restaurant – wonderful creative menu but you can’t do it all.

On Saturday,I started with a first page appetizer with Susan Dobinick from FSG and Carter Hasegawa from Candelwick. Of course, I was eager to know what they thought of my first page but it was also very useful to hear what they said about other writer’s first pages.

For main course, I chose Kathy Temean who gave a great session on how to sell more books. She actually took the time to look at each participant’s web site and / or blog and gave suggestions and recommendations. She inspired all of us.

Carter Hasegawa gave a great presentation on narrative Nonfiction. It really helped me realize how to improve my non fiction manuscript. He brought lots of books with him and we teamed and made comments why these were fantastic books. Yes, he did mention that the book were heavy but it was well worth the schlepping.

For desert, Rachel Orr gave an informative presentation about plotting.

I had to miss some of the goodies because I had a very wonderful one on one critique with Emily Feinberg from Roaring Brook Press.

On Sunday, I had a wonderful first course treat as Kathy Temean delivered a very informative session on the state of the market. I don’t know how long it took her to prepare all this, we were lucky to have her put all the ingredients together.

The next course I tasted was Natalie Zaman’s session. Natalie reviewed each participant’s non fiction proposal. It was very helpful to hear her suggestions on how to write the kind of proposal that will get a publisher convinced that you could write and deliver.

Unfortunately, I missed some of Katie Davis’s presentation on how to use video to explode your career because I had an agent pitch but Katie gave a few links to websites and lots of information to a newbie like myself.

There was so much to whet my appetite and, oh, I forgot, the food was yummy too!


Kathleen Bakos said, “I am quite happy to say I’ve attended my first NJ SCBWI conference. I left there in the midst of multiple epiphanies about how to change my stories for the better. There were so many ideas popping in my head while I drove home, I had to record them with Siri in my notes app on my phone so I wouldn’t forget them! Kudos and thanks to all the SCBWI organizers for featuring an awesome faculty and for a well organized conference. My favorite workshops were humor cells, great novel beginnings and endings, and the character development double session. I walked away with many a gold nugget to chew on! Write on!”

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: article, authors and illustrators, Conferences and Workshops, illustrating Tagged: 2014 NJSCBWI Conference, Agent Rachel Orr, Carter Hasegawa, Conference Thoughts, Emily Feinberg Roaring Brook Press, Susan Dobinick

1 Comments on NJSCBWI Conference Thoughts, last added: 7/9/2014
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6. Illustrator Saturday – Omar Aranda


Omar Aranda was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on November 16, 1963. He began at an early age in a study of comic Buenos Aires with artists Gustavo Trigo and Alberto Saichann later developed and completed his studies at the National School of Fine Arts “Beato Angelico”, also conducted painting workshops.

His career began in 1992, carrying out worked designing scenery for theatre and television for the mainstream media.

In 1995, as an artist freelancer, integrates the staff of DC comics for publications Animaniacs and Looney Tunes, also begins to work for Disney Studios in publications of children’s books.

In 2003 started his own studio consisting of numerous artists collaborating in this way with numerous publishers in the world for various publishing projects.

From 2007 to date is represented by “The Illustrators Agency ” and through them published numerous books for the most popular publishing companies: Zondervan, Harper Collins, Hinkler Books, Pearson , OUP name a few.


Initial concept sketch to final artwork. This wonderful illustration is a personal project for Omar based on some of his earliest childhood memories in Argentina. Here is Omar explaining his process:34


Stage 1 – The Concept. I already have a picture in my mind of exactly what I want. I just need to get it down on paper as quickly as possible.


Stage 2 – Here I add some colour from a previously created palette. I apply some textures in Photoshop using ‘Artistic’ pencils and brushes, gradually building layer upon layer until I create the correct atmosphere.


Stage 3 –  With the main colour base now in place, I work on the light and shade, adding detail and trying not to lose the initial ‘freshness’ of my sketch.


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally about 23 years before that had not published anything although of course drew and painted a lot.


How did you decide to attend Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina?

From the age of eleven began my love of drawing and then almost casually discovered a study drawing near my house where comics and cartoons were made and there were lots of artists. One of the artists gave me the opportunity to go and see what they did, and I was very happy of course, so I helped him with some tasks and they helped me in my drawing issues. from that moment I knew I wanted to draw, and so it was that years later career start Bella Artes.


What were you favorite classes in college?

Well, there were many. If I have to choose, of course, drawing and painting (traditional on easel), but they were my favorite classes of sculpture and engraving.


Did the School help you get work?

No, well not helped me at that time had not yet decided to be an illustrator, my idea was to devote myself to painting, doing exhibitions and if all went well sell paintings which was quite difficult and unlikely. I did some exhibitions with some success and satisfaction. The truth is that at the time the money was not a concern, but yes!, the desire and the desire to paint.


What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork? 

About painting, it was precisely at that time, I was about 22, and was in an exhibition at a Cultural Center well known in my country, there a man bought 3 paintings mine.

As for my first illustration, really submitted some samples to make a comic for Hanna and Barbera (Top Cat and the gang) and were accepted was the happiest moment of my life, my first job!. After that I worked for “DC Comics” drawing Animaniacs and Looney Tunes, the going very well with that and were some good years. I also worked in some projects for Disney always on the editorial side.


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

I made several, some related to the artistic and others which bore no relation. I will mention that if they do.

I worked in a workshop where stage designs for theater and television were made. In this place also designing scenography and also painted large-scale decorated, I liked working mainly in children’s theater projects. I made some great designs scenery and costumes and even gladly did.

Then, I worked as an assistant to a great cartoonist in my country, making backgrounds or even layouts for a monthly series that was published in Italy.


Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

Yes, I think definitely yes, although the influence was through knowledge, about how to put together a design,or respect to the color, or also on issues of composition, ie although the paintwork to call it a “traditional” way and illustration are not the same, share many of things in common.


When did you do your the first illustration for children?

The illustration consider professionally, it was not so long ago, it was for the book Jimba……., in 2008 authored by Alexis Tapp who had approached my agent, The Illustrators Agency. Before that did a lot, but this was, no casually, that opened the door to something new.



How did that come about?

Well … I was going around in my head, that of children’s illustration, it was exciting, but really did not know how it would be because until that moment all my work had more to do with the genre of the cartoon and comic , which felt like a fulfilled stage. But the idea of illustrating stories excited me much, working with my own characters, my own scenarios, more interior and freer world.


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

It was shortly before the draft Jimba, so when it arrived I could not believe it. It was the opportunity I was looking for .


How long did it take you to get your first picture book contract?

It was very fast, I have been a lucky person about it !!!. Since I contacted The Illustrators Agency and began to represent me, soon after, few months emerged Jimba project.


What was your first book that you illustrated?

Well I’ve already answered, I consider the first was Jimba ……… publication was in 2009.


How did get the contract with HarperCollins to illustrate the Princess Parables books?

It was through my agent, The Illustrators Agency, I think that they must have consulted the catalog of illustrators looking for someone with the characteristics of style they were looking so I was elected. Once the proposal came to me, I made a sample series and designs of different characters which featured in the stories, which apparently was liked and so I started to draft of 5 books over two years.


Was that the first time you illustrated a book for the American Market?

A book yes, but I had previously worked before in comic book projects.


Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, I have worked several times, is a good experience but not the one I like. If I can choose I prefer children’s stories, if I can not choose a good job and can become very interesting work.


How many children’s books have you illustrated?

A lot, counting all: educational, children’s stories … about 40 I think, but I do not remember exactly.


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

Yes, that is a desire, probably the next step, the idea excited me, though I’ve never written, but there are some ideas floating around that I hope to carry out soon. It is an outstanding debt.


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

If it refers to children’s illustration, no. I have done many cartoons for children’s magazines.


How long have you been represented by The Illustrator Agency?

The first contact with them was in 2007


How did you connect with them?

Well … as I mentioned, had any idea of giving a turn of my profession, so I started to search the internet agents with the idea of dedicating more children’s illustration, and sent them an e-mail. From that moment began this relationship of which I am very happy, they are great people.



What types of things did you do to find illustration work before you had an artist rep.?

In my beginnings, knocking on doors of publishers in my country without any success.

Then, by a fortuitous event, send samples of work to publishers outside my country with some success.In my beginning, editorial market in Argentina was very depreciated so this led me to look elsewhere outside my country.

It is an advantage of the artists have a universal language.


What is your favorite medium to use?

My favorite medium right now is digital, this may change because I’m feeling the need to return to traditional materials, perhaps a combination of both soon. I am referring to textures, watercolor, acrylic.


Has that changed over time?

Yes, I’ve changed a lot, and I hope to keep doing it, keep learning.



Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, fairly recently I work in a small studio at home, since leaving a studio I shared with many other artists.



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

My computer, without a doubt.



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

I try but it is difficult, the hours pass in a strange way in this profession, time is very short, and it turns out not realizing you’ve been sitting at the computer 12 hours. In general, I try to be not more than 10.


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

No, I do not take pictures but before starting each project I search some reference, especially with the scenarios that I will use and when it comes to historical stories. So looking from the costumes that was used until the architecture of that time.



Which illustrated book is your favorite?

There are more than one, and many talented artists !!, if I have to choose one, as a reference would by Rebecca Dautremmer Princesses



Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Internet is a great medium and yes, it has opened doors, but I take it with some caution


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, always. Is the par excellence program and one has wonderful tools.


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

It is another essential tool. When I began this I did the manual mode,

that is to say brush and airbrush, then appeared the computer I never thought I was going to use and with it, the mouse, never thought that I would leave. Today could not survive without my tablet.


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

This profession has complied me many dreams, but appear always new. Basically my dream is to continue working in this beautiful profession that I love and allows me to live, be able to maintain passion is essential to realize your own project … would not be bad.


What are you working on now?

Now, I am working on a series of 12 books of 50 pages each, right now I go by the number 6, this series tells the story of a girl who wants to be a ballerina.

And parallel in some children’s books whose stories are related animals and a child who wants to work super hero.


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 have no tips, because what is good for an artist can not be for another.

The materials are just that, which means you feel more or less comfortable to use. Personally I use many different brushes and textures that resemble materials like acrylic or watercolor and I think give it a more plastic spirit illustration but luckily there are no formulas in this, and the best is the own experimentation.

There are very good brushes, eg for photoshop, is available easily from internet and worth trying.



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

I do not like self-reference, and less I consider myself someone success, hard work is the watchword.

I can imagine however the desires and anxieties of young people who are beginning, when things do not go as you want, when you take longer and these results are not as expected, or simply when you suffer some rejection. I think that’s the point to overcome, this work takes time … and it takes a long, until one day, after much work and much try, a door opens.

No experience is a formula, I like to think that’s not it, rather a way to walk the easy doing the best you can, always.


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

You can see more of Omar’s work at The Illustrator’s Agency  and at ChildrensIllustrators.com  Please take a minute to leave Omar a comment. I am sure he would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview Tagged: Buenos Aires, Children's Books, Disney Studios, National School of Fine Art, Omar Aranda

4 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Omar Aranda, last added: 5/5/2014
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7. The Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award


The Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award is given annually to an illustrator of promise chosen by Tomie himself. The award consists full tuition, transportation and accommodations to the New York Winter Conference held in Manhattan. The winning piece of art will be featured at the annual winter conference in New York.


Deadline: June 15th, 2014


The winner will receive a trip to the 2015 SCBWI New York Conference at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, where the award will be presented. As a special addition to the prize this year, the winner will also get to have lunch with Tomie at the conference!


The Tomie dePaola Award competition is open to all SCBWI members.


Visual sequence is key to conveying feeling, action, storyline, interest and character, especially in children’s book illustration.

One of the hardest things to do is to know your character so well—what he, she, or it looks like, how they move, how they project emotion, and at the same time to make the character immediately recognizable and consistent —all without resorting to a generic depiction, but making sure your character has charm, individuality and special qualities that make young readers fall in love with them. All of this is the same whether your character is human, animal, and yes, even vegetable! (Maybe inanimate as well)

The task is to create a six-panel sequence that has a beginning, middle and an end that is obvious, featuring a character of your own invention. It can be funny, sad, dramatic or ordinary, but interesting and with lots of invention and finesse.

I understand that there are computer programs that make “sequence” easier than good old-fashioned drawing. But, I don’t know any of them. I leave it to you.

SPECS: 4 to 6 panels – illustrator’s choice

SIZE: 8 ½” x 14” – horizontal or vertical

COLOR: B&W or Full Color – your choice


DUE DATE: June 15, 2014. This is very important. Ten semi-finalists will be chosen by July 30, 2014, to go on to the next step: A final assignment that will be announced after the first phase of the competition is complete.



Read these instructions carefully! Submissions that do not follow these guidelines will be disqualified.

1. Submit your entry by midnight PST on June 15, 2014. No files received after that time will be considered.

2. E-mail a single, high resolution JPEG, titled with your name (firstname_lastname.jpg) to sarahbaker@scbwi.org with the subject “Tomie”. The image must be an attachment, not a link or showing in the body of the e-mail. No original artwork should be mailed. All submissions must be digital. You will receive a confirmation e-mail within three days.

3. Tomie will select the 10 semi-finalists July 30, 2014.

4. You must be a current SCBWI member to win.

Do you want to be included in the “unofficial” gallery of submissions?

Three years ago, Diandra Mae, Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI Houston region, started an “Unofficial Gallery” of submissions to the award. It was such a great success that we’ve made it more official and easier to enter. Any SCBWI member who enters the award is eligible to be included in the gallery. The gallery will not be made public until the winning piece has been chosen and announced.

If you are interested in having your submission included please follow these guidelines that will be posted after round one.

Questions? Email the Grant Coordinator – sarahbaker@scbwi.org

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Artist opportunity, authors and illustrators, Competition, Grant money, illustrating, opportunity, Places to sumit Tagged: Illustraor Grant, The Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award, Win trip to NYC SCBWI 2015 Winter Conference

0 Comments on The Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award as of 5/4/2014 12:21:00 AM
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8. Illustrator Saturday – Denise Clemmensen

deniseBird Cat Caterpillar header

Denise Clemmensen240Denise Clemmensen has been an artist from the moment she tore open her first box of crayons. In fact she became a drawing maniac. She drew on everything. Her parents finally bought her a little table where her coloring passion could be unleashed a little less destructively. Being a very shy child during her school years, she kept her passion for art quite. Though, one time in fifth grade, while helping out on the class history mural, her fifth-grade teacher noticed she could draw. For the rest of the week her teacher asked her to work on the mural while the rest of the class studied math.

Artistically, Denise has worn many hats; she has done both fine and graphic art, and has even made handmade rag dolls. But, throughout her artistic journey, her love of children’s books has never wavered.

In 2011, Denise illustrated the award-wining picture book, “Just Because.” This is her first picture book and in 2013 it won the prestigious Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award. And, in 2012 it won the Young Voices Award, The Mom’s Choice Gold Award, and was named a Book of the Year by Creative Child Magazine.

She has illustrated artwork for various traditional and Internet-based educational publishers, and produces illustrations and character designs for many private clients.

Denise lives in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles, with her husband, and for the time being, her grown kids, grandkids, two dogs, two cats, and three fish!



Here is Denise explaining her process:

deniseClemmensen picture 1

Sketch of the kids. Sometimes when I start a project I do character sketches. That way I can get to know and shape the different characters and their personalities. Here are three children from “Just Because” and their favorite toys.


deniseClemmensen picture 2

Sketches of Mom and Dad. This is the rest of the family getting ready for breakfast. The family even has a fluffy dog.

deniseClemmensen picture 3

Sketch of page 9-Dad holding the kids in a chair. Here is the finished sketch of the kids sitting on their dad’s lap that was used in the book “Just Because.” The white square is where the text will go. I always put in the text, so I can make sure that the words and the picture fit together well.

deniseClemmensen picture 4

Light box. Once the sketch is finalized I transfer it on to watercolor paper by using a light box. My favorite watercolor paper is Canson 140lb cold press.

deniseClemmensen picture 5

The start of painting. I use either acrylic matt or gouache paints.


deniseClemmensen picture 6


The second picture of the painting. I paint in layers so I can build up the colors and add depth.

deniseClemmensen picture 7

The final painting.  After I finish painting I go in with colored pencils to help bring out the details.

deniseClemmensen picture 8

All the paintings together. When I do a project that has more then one illustration I like to work on all the paintings at the same time. I rotate my time on each one so I can keep a constant color palette.

deniseJB cover

How long have you been interested in art?

All my life, I even remember as a small child having a drawing table in my bedroom. denisefoxes

Did you study art in college?

Yes, I was a Fine Art major all through college.




Did you study to be a librarian?

No, being a librarian is something I just kind of fell in to. I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and when the time came that I needed to go back into the work force, a friend of mine, who was a library aide with the Los Angeles School District, suggested I might like it.

Before I was a mom I had been a graphic artist, but with the coming of the computer age, I no longer possessed the skills needed to compete in that market. So I have been a library aide for 14 years now and I really enjoy the job and the kids. Plus I am surrounded by children’s literature, how great is that?



What was the first painting or illustration that you did for money?

In my early twenties I tried selling my artwork at local craft shows. I did a bunch of pen and ink fantasy drawings. I think the first one I sold was of a baby unicorn.


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

I never quite graduated from college. You know that old story. I was only taking a semester off, I meant to go back and finish, I only had a year left, but life got in the way. My first art job was as a graphic artist. When I took graphic art in college I really didn’t care for it, my heart was really in the fine arts. That quickly changed, I learned so much more on the job and it turned out that I really enjoyed being a graphic artist. By the way, I learned everything old school: T-squares, triangles, French curves, mechanical pens, rubdown type, and so on. It was right before the onset of computers.


What do you think influenced your artistic style?

I have always loved animated movies. I hate to admit it, but I think Disney had a lot of influence on me, and so did getting married and having a family. Before I met my husband, my artwork was always a little sad and dark.

denisesketch old lady on scooter

deniseold lady and the scooter 1 When did you do your the first illustration for children?

While I was a stay-at-home mom, I still did some freelance illustration jobs here and there. I was hired to do some black and white line drawings for a science book for children.


How did that come about?

A friend of a friend knew the gentleman who was writing the book and knew that he was looking for someone to do some of the artwork. They introduced us.


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

I think this is something I have always wanted to do, but in my early twenties I took an extension class, How to illustrate Children’s Books, through Cal State Northridge, and that cemented it.


 How long did it take you to get your first picture book contract?

It took a long time to get the first book contract and then there was a fourteen year gap between “Aides: first facts for kids” and “Just Because.”




What was your first book that you illustrated?

My first book was an educational book “Aides: first Facts for kids” written by Linda Schwartz. All of the illustrations where done in pen and ink.


Was it a self-published book

No, the book was published by The Learning Works, Inc., a small publisher in Santa Barbara, Ca.



Are you open to illustrating a self-published book?

Yes, the second book I illustrated “Just Because” written by Amber Housey was self-published.


How did you get the contract to illustrate JUST BECAUSE?

The author found my illustrations through a website that I belong to. She then contacted the self-publishing house she was using and they in turn contacted me.


Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, I just recently did four illustrations that will be included in an educational textbook and a few years ago I did two eight-page booklets written for English learners.


How many children’s books have you illustrated?

To date, I have done four books, but only one is a traditional 32-page picture book.


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

Yes, I have a few stories that I have been working on.


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No, not yet, but I am hopeful.


Do you have an agent to represent you? If so how did you connect? If not, would you like one?

No not at this time. I did submit my portfolio to an agency once. They were very polite and helpful but were not interested. I might try again because having an agent does allow more doors to be open for your work to be seen. Though, I believe even if one does have an agent they should still self-promote.



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

I have a website and a blog. I also advertise on a Children’s illustrators website and I send out post cards to publishers and editors. SCBWI has a spot on their website for illustrators to show their work. Last year, I also ran an ad in the Directory of Illustration.

 denisewatchingtvWhat is your favorite medium to use?

I would have to say pen and ink, and colored pencil.


 Has that changed over time?

Yes for me there has not been much demand these days for just pen and ink and colored pencil is very time consuming. In order to save time I started to use acrylic paints with the colored pencil (though I am not sure if any time is actually saved) and I have just recently started to explore painting in Photoshop.


Do you have a studio in your house?

For years my studio was the kitchen table, then I was able to set up a drawing table in the corner of my family room. Two years ago, one of my children moved out, and I was able to turn that room into my art studio.


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

My eraser.


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

Yes, I look at it as another job. If I am not working on a project for someone I am working on something for self-promotion. I work everyday.


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

Yes, I have taken lots of photos and I do online and book research. Whenever I go on vacation somewhere I always end up taking photos of all the different plants I come across. Sometimes at home when I am working on a sketch, I will physically put myself in the character’s pose to see how it looks and feels. I even have a small mirror next to my drawing table to reference hands or facial expressions.


 Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Most definitely, it allows me to show my portfolio to more perspective clients than I could before.

 denisespelling bee

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I have just started playing with Photoshop. I bought a Wacom Tablet a little while back and I have been experimenting with it ever since. It’s fun and I have put a few of my digital works up on my website and blog.


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

I have just started using the Wacom tablet and for right now, I have just been scanning in my pencil sketches into Photoshop.


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

I would like to illustrate a 32-page picture book from a traditional publisher and I also think it would be great fun to do the cover and inside drawings for a children’s chapter book.




What are you working on now?

At the moment, besides learning Photoshop and the Wacom tablet, I am busy finishing up some new illustration to add to my portfolio.

denisebw flying girl with kite



Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

When I was working on “Just Because” I bought a light table and that was the best investment I ever made. It took one step out of the process of transferring the sketch on to the watercolor paper. I have found that anything that saves any time when working on a project is great, because deadlines are always so tight.




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

Never give up. Work hard. Keep learning and honing your skills, and most important illustrate what you love.




deniseself portrait line and colorThank you Denise for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know about your new books and all of your future successes.

You can visit Denise and see her work at http://deniseclemmensen.blogspot.com/ Please take a minute to leave Denise a comment. I am sure she would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process, Tips Tagged: Children's Illustrator, Denise Clemmensen

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Denise Clemmensen, last added: 5/11/2014
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9. Happy Mother’s Day – Spinelli Poem

2014mother's Day

Children’s illustrator, Vesper Stamper sent in this whimsical mother and daughter illustration to help us celebrate Mother’s Day. Vesper was featured on Illustrator Saturday http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/illustrator-saturday-vesper-stamper/.

Happy Mother’s Day! Eileen Spinelli has shared a poem to help us celebrate Mother’s Day. It reminds us how a mother feels about their child and that our Mom will always be with you. Today is the day to remember her.




I will be your mother.


Long into the spill of time
and when time no longer
has anything to do with
dawn or dark.


I will be your mother…


the local newspapers
and the rattling cat-bird songs.
You can grow up
wild and bright.
You can be wind
or fire,
willow or oak.


You can breathe green.
You can wear poppies
in your hair.
You can stand astonished
in the moonlight
or peek from a safe,
moonless space–


I will be your mother.

I may turn into sky
or red clay
or simply bones.
I may become delicate
as milkweed
or hammered hard
as canyon cleft–

but I will be
your mother.






by Eileen Spinelli


Thank you Eileen for sharing your poem with us. Did you see Eileen’s latest book, ANOTHER DAY WITH EMILY?

another day as Emily
Spinelli’s free verse presents a summer of self-acceptance for one girl. Suzy is almost 12 when her 4-year-old brother sees their elderly neighbor collapse. He dials 911 and becomes a “little hero” in their town. Suddenly everything revolves around him, and no one seems to care about Suzy’s needs. Worse, she doesn’t get a part in the community play, but her best friend, Alison, does. Suzy is feeling decidedly unloved and decides that her best bet is to emulate a poet she has recently learned about—Emily Dickinson. Suzy insists on being called Emily and makes a list of Emily-appropriate activities (write poems, dust, read, listen to crickets). But Suzy soon finds that being a recluse is a lonely occupation. Lots of white space on the page, short chapters and appealing illustrations make this an unintimidating read for even the most reluctant readers. And besides, it’s a rollicking good story. Spinelli mixes dollops of wit with her dabs of pathos to keep things lively and realistic in a fresh way that nevertheless feels comfortably old-fashioned. The interspersed bits of history (the origin of baseball, some famous people of the 1800s) and wholesome activities (bicycle riding, helping neighbors, going to the library) make this a story to be enjoyed and appreciated by readers weary of the mall-shopping, cellphone-centric, mean-girl genre. A witty and endearing story with a timeless message. (Verse fiction. 9-12) – Kirkus Reviews

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Holiday, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, poetry Tagged: Another Day with Emily, Eileen Spinelli Poem, Happy Mother's Day, Vesper Stamper

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10. Illustrator Saturday – Alison Jay

Alison-Jay260Alison Jay was born in Hertfordshire, grew up in Derbyshire and studied graphic design in London where she now lives. After graduating she worked in animation for a short while but gradually started to get commissions in illustration.

She works in Alkyd a quick drying oil paint on paper and sometimes adds a crackle varnish to give the work an aged appearance.

She has worked in all areas of illustration including advertising ,packaging, editorial and design. Her commission’s include a 48 sheet poster for B.T, a TV commercial for Kellogg’s corn flakes and has recently illustrated the new baby range of products for Crabtree and Evelyn.

She has also illustrated lots of children’s books including ‘Picture This’, ‘William and the night train’,’The Race’, ‘I took the moon for a walk’, ‘The Emperors new clothes, If Kisses were colours, ‘ABC Alphabet’.an unabridged fully illustrated version of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’,Listen Listen’ ,Welcome to the Zoo ‘, A Child’s first Counting Book’ ‘Today is the Birthday of the World’ and ‘Nursery Rhyme Rainbow’. She recently worked with Aardman Animation on the development of a feature film and is currently working on a version of ‘ The Nutcracker’.

Her book ‘ Welcome to the Zoo’ which is a wordless visit to a cage less ‘ animal hotel’ has been selected as one of New York’s Bank Street’s 2009 best books of the year.

Here is Alison explaining her process:

alison1Spread 12

This is the rough I e-mailed to the publisher, which I drew at A4 size.

alison2Pic 2 progress

The next is a photo of the drawing  enlarged to A2 size, slightly larger than the print size. I trace the drawing very faintly onto thick smooth cartridge paper using a very heavy weight 100lbs/220gms.

alison3Pic 3 progress

I then start to paint, usually the sky first using Alkyd a quick drying oil paint and then the rest of the background.

alison5Pic 5 progress

If I am painting fine details, I sometimes add liquin to my paint. This helps the paint to flow easier. It is also helps the paint to dry quicker. I do not use any liquid adhesives to avoid painting mistakes. I just avoid the area and paint the background as close to the edge as I can.

Alison6pic 6 progress

Final without text. The publisher always needs to see the work before I apply the crackle varnish in case of any changes or mistakes so I usually e mail photographs or scans for them to check. Then after I finish that final step I send the art work to the publisher to scan. If the commission involves fewer illustrations I have scanned the art work professionally and uploaded the scan to yousendit or wetransfer for the editor or art director. This especially works well if the job is urgent or when the publisher is located in another country.

alisonagift for Momma
How long have you been illustrating?

I have been Illustrating for nearly 20 years.


Where did you study Graphic Design?

I studied Graphic design at the London College of printing which is now  the London College of Communication.


Did the School help you get work?

No I think it was a bit of a shock when I left college, although my older sister who also studied Graphics and specialized in illustration had left college two years earlier and was finding it very tough so I should have realised .. My illustration tutor may have suggested how to make appointments and show my portfolio but she didn’t introduce me to any art directors or help me get work.


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

I think the very first thing I was paid for was an illustration for an article in a music paper NME ,I was so excited to see my work in print, it was a simple black and white  pen and ink drawing.


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

After I graduated I found it difficult making a living at illustration, I had been very interested in animation at school so  in addition to making appointments for illustration work I visited animation studios ,I was given some freelance work painting and tracing ,then quite a lot of background work and a little bit of animation work  . I loved the idea of working as an animator but at the time I think I wanted more control over  style and narrative. The animations I worked on were advertisements, a children’s series and a feature film all of which were already in production.


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

No I think we had a very good illustration tutor who worked in the industry but she didn’t have any influence on my style .I think I probably looked at artists and illustrators I admired and took influence from them but tried develop my own style.


How did you start doing advertising work?

The advertising work came later after I got an agent.

alison countsheep

When did you do your the first illustration work for children?

The first work for children was about two years after I joined the Organisation Illustrators agent. I think it was a book cover for a children’s novel.


How did that come about?

By the time I joined the organizationI I had developed my style of painting ,after a few months I started to get more and more work in all areas of illustration. I  illustrated some greetings cards which were quite popular and then Penguin books offered me a manuscript for a children’s book ,I was thrilled.


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

I don’t think it was a conscious decision ,I think I was just so lucky that my style could be applied to lot’s of different areas of illustration .I always loved the idea of story telling in my animation days so illustrating a Children’s book is a bit like a very detailed story board and I had a lot more control over the style and compositions.


A CHILD”S BOOK OF GRACES was published in  2003. Was that the first book you illustrated?

No The very first book was Emma’s Doll by Brian Pattern.


Did you continue to illustrate children’s books at that time, or did you do other things and come back to doing children’s books later?

After my first Children’s book  I was soon given another manuscript for a very big project, ,a” Treasury of Children’s prayers”. At the same time I worked on other commissions including packaging ,editorial work and some advertising, so I managed to work a few days  a week on the book and also fit other work in at the same time, the book took about a year all together.


What was the first picture book that you did for the American market?

The first picture book for American was for Dial books (part of the penguin group) it was “A World of Wonders “ by J Patrick Lewis although Dial had bought the rights to publish “Picture This” which is how I was noticed by the editors.


Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes I have ,it was a while ago for different reading stages.


What was your first illustrating success?

I think it was “Picture this” published in 1999,It won the” Transworld Childre’s Book Award” and was nominated for the “ Kate Greenaway” award.

Layout 5

I see you have done many board books. How many have you illustrated.?

I am not sure it must be about 15.


Do you think board books represent a large opportunity for illustrators?

The board books I have illustrated have been produced after the full size hard back books have been published ,they have been re formatted by the publisher . I have never set out to illustrate specifically for a board book.


How many picture books have you illustrated?

I think about 30 but there maybe more as sometimes publishers  re use illustrations to produce more books as with the touch and feel books.


Is your new book, OUT OF THE BLUE, coming out in June, the first book you have written and illustrated?

I illustrated a book a few years ago called” Welcome to the Zoo” a wordless picture book ,which although the publishers asked for a book about a zoo they  allowed me to weave little narratives into the illustrations. I had been doing that for previous books and now I always try to put in little sequences .“Out of the Blue” came about by the publisher suggesting a beach combing book and I though up the narrative ,again it is a wordless picture book with a main loose story and other little narratives happening in the backgrounds. I hope to write  and illustrate a book  (with words) one day but need a lot of practice   on my writing skills.


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes I  have had quite a few commissions from ‘Club house Junior” and “Nick Junior”. I really enjoyed working on those jobs  the subject matter is often fun and it is nice sometimes  to work on shorter projects than a full books.


How long have you been represented by The Organisation in London?

I think it must be about 18 years.


How did you connect with them?

My sister who is also an illustrator joined the Organisation a few years earlier than me and she suggested I meet  them for advice .I was amazed when they said they would like to represent me too.


What types of things did you do to find illustration work before you had an artist rep.?

When I first started trying to get illustration work it was just before the days of e mail so I had to phone art directors at magazines ,design companies and advertising agents and try and make appointment for them to see my portfolio. My partner worked in a graphic design studio so he gave me a few contacts but it was hard work just getting appointments.


What is your favorite medium to use?

I use alkyd paint which is a fast drying oil paint.


Has that changed over time?

When I was a student I used a lot of  coloured ink and made three dimensional model illustrations which I painted with gouache it was a time of experimenting, I tend to use the same type of paint now but I would like to try water colour one day.


Did you study painting or did painting just come naturally to you?

I have always painted ,I think I just worked out a way of painting that suited me,. I know my sister and her husband paint in different ways ,I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way ,it is a personal thing I guess.


How long ago did you come up with the crackle look technique and what made you think of trying that out?

I first used the crackle varnish about the time I joined the Organisation. My cousin used crackle varnish on some decoupage trays and products she made , she also worked as an interior designer and used the varnish for paint effects on walls. I always loved old paintings I think they have a mysterious quality so I tried the varnish to give  my work an aged look.


Do you have a studio in your house?

I use a small bedroom in my house as a studio ,I am rather a messy worker so it is usually a bit chaotic.


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

I think apart from the obvious paints ,brushes and paper it is my light box.  I work on rough drawings at a very small scale,it seems to helps my see the composition early and quickly, I then enlarge them to  slightly larger than print size on a photocopier and  faintly trace off the drawing onto thick cartridge paper ready to paint.


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

Not really I have been working constantly for a long time on commissioned work but I think my work has changed naturally over the years,. When I look back at my very first books they look very crude to me now.


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

Yes I sometimes take pictures ,when I started working on “Alice in Wonderland “ I took photos of different houses and buildings that I used as the white rabbits house and the little hut in the croquet court . It is also nice to let my imagination go and make up landscapes etc,I had fun doing that in “ The Cloud Spinner.”

LISTEN 16-17

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I think it must have done ,I have never got around to setting up my own web site but it is on my to do list I would love to   sell pictures , prints , cards etc and that would be a great way to do it.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

No I am so old fashioned I work  with paint  on paper so if I make a mistake I either stick paper over the area or start again.

LISTEN 10-11

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

I bought a graphic pen and drawing tablet recently but haven’t got around to installing it yet ,I’m ashamed to say it is still in the box.


It looks like GIFT FOR MAMA that came out at the end of March is getting good reviews. Was that the first book that you did with Barefoot Books?

The book, A Gift For MAMA was commissioned by Gullane Children’s Books  and bought I think by Knopf Doubleday. I also illustrated, “ The Cloud Spinner “ for the same publisher so it was the second book with them. I think they have sadly been a victim of the recession so those are the only two books I will have illustrated for them.


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

I have been so lucky with my career sometime things happen that I could never have dreamed of.  Recently I have been asked to exhibit some of my illustrations from “The Nutcracker “ in the Ghibil museum ,Tokyo Japan by the amazing Hayao Miyazki the director of the wonderful ‘Spirited Away’ and The Wind Rises. I am being flown over to Japan for the opening of the exhibition and spending a couple of days touring the animation studios and the museum. I can’t believe my luck.

Apart from that I would just like to carry on illustrating and as I mentioned earlier write and illustrate a children’s book.


What are you working on now?

At the moment I am working on a nativity book for Lion Children’s books ,I am really enjoying painting the illustrations as they wanted a medieval slant as apposed to a biblical look, I have always loved early renaissance  paintings, medieval art and the work of Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch so I have been looking at their work for inspiration.


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.

No not really, I think it is best to try lots of different mediums and decide which one suites you best.

A lot of people use computers nowadays with amazing results, but I think I will stick to paint for now.


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

I can’t really advise about writing as I am still struggling with that part myself but I think it is important  to illustrate  whatever you love or feel passionate about as it will always show .

LISTEN 22-23

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

You can see more of Alison’s work at :

The Organisation
42 Delavan St

New York, NY, 11231

or on ChildrensIllustrators.com  

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

Talk tomorrow,



Filed under: illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Alison Jay, London college of Communication, New York's Bank Street's 2009 best books, Twelve Days of Christmas, Welcome to the Zoo

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Alison Jay, last added: 5/19/2014
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11. Illustrator Saturday – Favorites

Hi everyone!

The illustrator I had scheduled for today did not get the interview questions into me, so since I usually pick my favorites for the first half of the year in June, I decided to post those illustrations a few weeks early. I have provided the link to each illustrator’s featured post, so you can link over if you missed visiting on their Saturday and to make it easy for you to see if you would have chosen a different picture. Believe me it’s not easy to pick just one illustration when so many are exceptional. I listed them in chronological order.










bobSing Clap Praise






karenleeHFC What Is It_ final









































Let me know if you would have picked other illustrations. Hope you have a great long weekend, kicking off summer.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Art Exhibit, Asking opinion, authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday Tagged: Carol Heyer, Christopher Denise, Elisabeth Alba, Link to illustrator processes, Michael Dooling, My favorites

5 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Favorites, last added: 5/25/2014
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12. Illustrator Saturday – Rob McClurkan


rob mcclurkan photo290Rob McClurkan grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and spent many happy summers visiting his grandparents on their farms.

In college, Rob studied graphic design. Upon graduation he moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he got his first job at an in-house art department. After several years of job hopping Rob, settled in at a non-profit that gave him a children’s magazine to art direct. This gave him the drive to build a portfolio and eventually work as a full time illustrator. Rob has worked with HarperCollins, Scholastic, Usbourne, American Greetings, Highlights for Children. Rob’s first picture book Aw, Nuts! The nutty adventure of a squirrel in pursuit of the perfect acorn is in stores Aug 26.

Here is Rob explaining his process:


Step 1: I always start with a sketch that I create in sketchbook pro. Sketchbook has been a big time saver for me. I can sketch without having to scan the image in and it saves on paper too. Sketchbook pro offers a desktop version and a version for the iPad so you can sketch on the go.


Step 2: I like to start with the main character. I feel like it sets the tone for the illustration. If I get it right the rest seems to fall into place.
I enjoy using texture but I try not to over use it. Here I used a brush to add a little texture under the runners eyes. The rosy cheeks and red nose with highlight  adds a little more interest to the characters face.

Step 3: Next I colored the ground. I always struggle how I want to deal with the ground especially when it is grass. Here I just decided to add interest by using a gradient.


Step 4: I then move to the smaller characters and elements of the image. Here I took a wood texture that I had in photoshop and brought it into illustrator.
The wood texture was originally a black and white wood texture but when saved as a tiff, you can change the black color to any color you need in illustrator by choosing a swatch.
I then create the shape I want for the wood sign and use a clipping mask so that you only see the wood grain in the wood sign.




The final result of the mask a fun little wood sign complete with wood grain.


Step 5 : Next I add the other elements in the mid ground as well as the background color.


Step 6: I waited until I had the background to add these buildings. I was not sure how I was going to solve them but once I had the background color I really liked the effect of the buildings fading into the background as if there was a ground fog.


Step 7: I created a texture using photoshop brushes and brought it into illustrator the same way as I did the texture in for the wooden sign.

I never want to overdo texture so I limited my use of it since I knew I was going to use it in a big way in the background.


How long have you been interested in art?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy drawing and creating my own characters.


Did you study art in college? If so, what college did you attend and what did you study?

I attended Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. I studied graphic design.


Can you tell us a little bit about the classes you liked?

The classes I liked were geared toward concept, design, layout and typography. I am a big fan of type I just don’t think I am particularly good with it. I took a class on cartooning and comic strips that I loved. After the class I started submitting cartoons to magazines and created a comic strip for the school paper.


What was the first painting or illustration that you did for money?

Barbie Magazine I did an activity scene in watercolor.


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

My first job out of college was the world’s worst waiter. I thought I was doing a good job but one of my customers didn’t think so. My first design job out of college was working for a wholesaler of RV parts and anything that goes along with the RV lifestyle. I had to design a weekly marketing mailer that RV retailers would use in their stores. The mailers were similar to the Sunday circulars that are in the Sunday paper. My claim to fame was removing the foot from a camping toilet that you flush with your foot. This was before layers in photoshop. That took mad skills. ;)


How did you get involved in Advertising art?

I landed a job at a small advertising agency. I think I knew someone that knew someone. They did newspaper ads which were similar to what I did for my first design job. There were a few illustration opportunities as well.


Did you have to leave Tennessee to find opportunities in commercial art?

No – I followed a girl that I eventually convinced to be my wife.


What do you think influenced your artistic style?

My biggest influence I would have to say was the Sunday Funnies. I loved reading them and the art seemed accessible. I felt like I could draw those characters. Saturday morning cartoons were a big influence as well. Any other day of the week I was not a morning person but on Saturday I was up by 5:30 watching the pre-cartoon show which was “Farm Digest” with Murray Miles. I thought that 30min show would never end.


I see that you have done greeting cards. Do you still do them?

Or was this something you did only early on in your career? Greeting cards are so much fun to do. I still enjoy working on them. I have some that I want to show in my portfolio so badly, but they have not been released yet. Greeting cards are like comic strips quick reads and funny. Sometimes I buy a card just because the art is awesome and they make me laugh.


What was your first big success in illustrating?

Being able to quit my day job and illustrate full time. That was a huge step.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for the children’s market?

Early on. I ended up at a non-profit that had 2 kids magazines, and they gave me one of them to art direct. Budgets were tight and so I would hire out some illustrations and then do some on my own. That was a great time of learning because I tried different mediums traditional and digital. I also couldn’t believe I was getting paid to draw.


When did you do your the first illustration for children?

My first illustration for children was the Barbie magazine I mentioned above.


How did that come about?

One of my best friends from high school lived in New York. At the time, he was a designer at Marvel comics. I was surprised to learn they also created Barbie Magazine. He knew I wanted to be an illustrator so he thought of me for the job. I think I redrew that image 5 or 6 times trying to get it right. It was my first illustration job and I was very nervous.


Do you have an agent to represent you?

If so how did you connect? If not, would you like one? I do have an agent. I am with the Bright Agency. An artist friend recommended them. About the same time I realized that Bright’s New York agent was following me on twitter. Once I connected those dots I just direct messaged her through twitter.


How did you get the opportunity to do the WHAT TO DOODLE? Activity Books with Dover Publishing?

I sent out postcards within a day or two of mailing them out Dover called, referenced the postcard and wanted me to do the doodle book. That’s my plug for direct mail. It’s very effective.


Is AW, NUTS coming out in August with HarperCollins you first picture book?

I have illustrated a couple of short run books in the UK and some Bible story books here in the U.S. but “Aw, Nuts!” is the first picture book I have written and illustrated.


How did that contract come about?

It was actually sort of a happy accident. My agent was pitching another story and the publisher mentioned they would be interested in a board book about color. They were not necessarily asking me to write a book it was just mentioned in passing. That was on a Thursday. I wrote Aw, Nuts! over the weekend and sent it to my agent as a dummy book on Monday morning. In the end, I really saw “Aw, Nuts!” as a picture book so I dropped the color idea and reworked the story and then HarperCollins came along.


How long were you trying to get a picture book opportunity?

I had toyed around with writing and illustrating my own book for several years, but the bug really bit when I attended the 2013 SCBWI Winter Conference. Mark Teague and Mo Willems both spoke that weekend and if I remember correctly encouraged the artist to write their own stories. Their speeches fired me up.


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

I have another book right now we are pitching and others ideas I am noodling with.


Are you open to illustrating a self-published book?

I may be in the future at the moment I am focusing on working with publishers.


Have you worked with educational publishers?

I have. I really enjoy working with education publishers. My wife is an elementary teacher and if I am not careful she steals my printed samples.


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

I do. That is how I got my start so I always enjoy working on an editorial piece.


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

My agent helps a great deal, but I also use direct mail and I am on a few websites. Dribble.com has been a fun way to connect with artist and get jobs at the same time.


What is your favorite medium to use?

I work digitally, but for fun I like pen and ink. I am also planning on pulling out my watercolors this summer.


Has that changed over time?

Digital has always been the way I preferred to work. I like the idea that I can easily rework a piece if I need to and send to the client without scanning or dealing overnighting a project.


Do you have a studio in your house?

I do. I call it a studio everyone else calls it a basement.


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

Windows. In our old house my studio was tucked away in a room with no windows. I was so excited when I actually got a studio with a view.


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

I am constantly writing and sketching ideas, visiting the library, bookstores and toy stores. I also throw ideas out to my kids and wife. She loves picture books as much as I do. She is a great to brainstorm with.


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

I rarely take pictures for research. I used to keep magazines or cut things out that I thought would be an excellent reference. Now I use pinterest. My boards are research, inspiration or image boards for ideas I have brewing.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, especially social media. It has been a great way to connect with other artist, clients and agents.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

For a long time I mainly used Illustrator but I am starting to work in photoshop.


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

Yes, that is another thing in my office I can’t live without. I have a Wacom Cintiq that I use for sketching and Photoshop and an intuos that I use when in Illustrator. Those tablets are tools of the trade that I have to have.


What do you think is your biggest success thus far?

“Aw, Nuts!” is by far the biggest. I am so excited for the book’s release. I had the opportunity to share the book at my wife’s school and the kids loved it! Seeing how they responded to the book was probably the biggest reward. My new favorite thing is the letters I received from the children after the visit. The other really cool job I got to do was creating the packaging for a toy that Mattel gave to John Lassiter as a gift. The toy was a John Lassiter action figure/doll the packaging was inspired by the fact that he wears lots of Hawaiian shirt. I had to create pixar characters as tiki idols. I never knew what happened to the toy, but I always imagined it in his office. One night I was watching a documentary on Pixar and sure enough at the end of the show they showed a zoomed in shot of the toy and I can just make out some of my art. That is the 2nd coolest job I ever worked on.


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

I would like to continue writing and drawing my own books and would love to work on chapter books.


What are you working on now?

I have a couple of story ideas brewing. I am also trying out a new style. I don’t want to be just the Adobe Illustrator guy. Aw, Nuts! was the first thing I have worked on where I didn’t use Adobe illustrator. I enjoy pushing myself and moving beyond my comfort zone, which at the moment is Adobe Illustrator.


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 biggest tip is to connect with other writers and illustrators. I have learned a ton from just listening or asking questions. If you can join a crit group they can be super helpful.


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

For me it has been as simple as read a lot and draw everyday. Quit dreaming and start doing.


Thank you Rob for sharing you process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we would love to hear about all of them, so please drop me a line when good things happen.

To see more of Rob’s illustrations you can visit him at: http://seerobdraw.com/ Please take a minute to leave a comment for Rob, I am sure he would love to heard from you and it always makes me feel like Illustrator Saturday should continue. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Process, Tips Tagged: AW NUTS!, Comics/cartoons, HarperCollins Childrens, Rob McClurkan

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Rob McClurkan, last added: 6/10/2014
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13. Illustrator Saturday – Marcelo Elizalde

marceloMarcelo Elizalde was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1953. He is a self-taught, dedicated children’s books illustrator.

At school he considered his drawings as average, but his peers and professors saw a difference that he hardly acknowledged. What really differenciated him from other children was his rather excessive love for cartoons and picturebooks. Pictures, especially those intended for children, made him dream of something that he could not fully understand.

In Argentina he contributed to the most important publishers of books and magazines, and after the year 2000 he started to work for abroad. He began by Spain, but soon he added clients in the USA, Korea, Sweden, Canada and other countries.

A few years ago, he started teaching Children’s Books Illustration at the main art school in Buenos Aires, what made him review all he knew about the craft and conceive a conceptual basis for a criticism of the images intended for children. He is nowadays writing a book about the subject, that has his mind in a state of continuous bubbling, which he says, “makes him look a little absent-minded, or deranged, if you will.”


I work with an iMac 21.5″, 8Gb RAM, OS Mavericks; an Intuos 4 graphic tablet, and an Epson V500 scanner.

The application is Photoshop CS6

Step 1

Step 1

I very rarely draw directly on Photoshop. I feel that the tablet has this limitation and that I cannot move my hand with grace to set the first ideas on paper. There are some illustrators who do not start in paper, to whom I strongly recommend to use the pencil. The sketch comes out faster and dances better.

I sketch on a light semitransparent paper that lets me trace and refine the sketch. When I have it as I wish, i.e. precise where I need and loose where I am more confident, I scan it to 300ppi.

Step 2cropped

Step 2

I always work upon the very layout, to be sure that the image is always in place in relation to the whole graphic space. When needed, I do it on the spread, so that both pages talk smoothly-or at least not fight to death. For that, I open the PDF of the layout as individual PSD files and save them in this format. I paste the scan of the sketch and put it in place and resize it if needed.

Step 3cropped

Step 3

I open a new layer, fill it white and reduce its transparency to a value that lets me trace the drawing with a black common round brush.

Step 4

Step 4

I put a special attention in refining these lines so they have movement and profile and they don’t appear blunt or clumsy. I think that every bit of the illustration must have a beauty of its own and not depend on fellow sectors to look good.

Step 5

Step 5

When I´m done with the black lines, I open a new layer below this one and set a background. It can be any color, as long as it is dark enough to be visible when I “paint” the subject. I prefer dark blue, or red, or an earth hue.

Step 6

Step 6

In the times when the capabilities of Photoshop to build brushes was very primitive, I made this one up for very general painting purposes. And albeit I now have a box full of gorgeous brushes, I still use this one from time to time. I named it “Ancient” in the brush presets box.

Step 7

Step 7

Between the blue Background layer and the black line layer, I open a new one and I paint a background that will belong to the subject and that will give it the desired general hue. I chose a brownish color and set the layer to 50%. This I do so as to help the image have a chromatic coherence, as if working with washes of paint.

Step 8

Step 8

I start the always uncertain process of applying color in steps, using the Ancient and varying the transparency with the pressure of the pen. First darker colors, then the lighter.

Step 9

Step 9

I keep on applying layers of “paint”. You can see the blue background a little through this layer. It may not look like very important, but try otherwise and the difference will be huge.

The application allows me to go back some steps and retry and again and so forth. Luckily, you can’t see my doubts here. See that the borders f the paint are slightly loose with respect to the outline.

Step 10

Step 10

I apply the lighter color in the illuminated parts. By default, I make the light come from above to the left.

Step 11

Step 11

I continue with the other subjects and objects of the scene.

Step 12

Step 12

Added the color to the ground that the subject is standing on. I apply, always in a separate layer, the highlight, generally in white.

I do it in a separate layers so as to control the intensity by varying the transparency of the said layer.

Step 13


Step 13

I open a layer above the blue background and, using again the Ancient, I proceed to “smudge” it to produce a soft, textured new background, suited especially for illustrations that either don´t need a scenery or are requested as standing alone in the blank of the page.

Step 14

Step 14

Finally, I apply the heavy Shadows layer. For that, I open a new one and set it in Darken mode, 25-30% opacity. Then I (usually) draw flat shadows with blue C100 M100 Y0 B0.

I set it in Darken mode so the details underneath are not painted over but are modified as if under a shadow. I change the transparency according to the color of the subject and the need of stress or character.

Step 15

Step 15

This is the final picture as I give it in. CMYK, 300ppi, TIFF format.

I hope you like it.

How long have you been interested in art?

I was the “artist” of the family, albeit no one knew what we actually meant by that. It was easy to see that I would drop out from any technical career, which I did.


Did you study art in college? If so, what college did you attend and what did you study?

I assisted for less than a year to the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (National School of Fine Arts) in Buenos Aires. In those days the syllabus was very good but rigidly classical, and Illustration was a very, very bad word. Everyone liked what I produced, but it was just illustration or it looked like such. Nobody knew what to answer to the question “So, what?”. I dropped out and went back home to teach myself.


Can you tell us a little bit about the classes you liked?

I liked especially Sculpture and Engraving, partly because the professors were very talented and open minded, and were of the idea, which I learned then, that you must try to master the technique to liberate yourself from material burden as much as possible. Their message was “do what you want, not what you can“. I forgot about Gravure, but Sculpture is still a blissful place where I want to get someday.


What was the first painting or illustration that you did for money?

The very first were a couple of single-panel cartoons for a sailing magazine. They were funny and I still like them.


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

I did not graduate, as I said, and the things that I did one can hardly call them a “job”. My career started out in the wilderness.


How and why did you start going digital with your art?

In the 90s I contributed to a magazine –that was the dream-come-true of my childhood– and for production reasons they encouraged us illustrators to switch to working with computers. I like gadgets, so I bought a Mac and all the peripherals one Friday, a friend helped me plug everything correctly on Saturday and Monday evening I was giving in my first digital illustration. I felt like I had been illustrating in Photoshop for years and that I could finally perform things that were impossible with traditional materials.


Have you always lived in Argentina?

Yes, except for a 6 month stay at Bogotá, Colombia. I moved with the idea of settling there, availing a publishing boom, but I soon found out that it didn’t smell like books but rather just like paper. That was a vaccine against any will to migrate.


What do you think influenced your artistic style?

I have a straightforward and humorous approach to my subjects, and that I learned from Sergio Aragonés, a Cuban cartoonist that did the little drawings in the corners of Mad magazines. He knew everything about producing funny situations in black and white ink thumbnails. I also learned a lot with Richard Scarry, who conveyed humor and expression to his very simple animal characters. And for the image itself, I always loved and longed for the illustrators of the 50s and 60s, like the Provensens or Celestino Piatti or my compatriot Ayax Barnes, among many others.


What was your first big success in illustrating?

In Colombia I illustrated a cookbook for children produced by Nestlé (the swiss dairy company) to be distributed to supermarkets that sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But this I learned when I was back in Argentina, so nobody even patted my shoulder for that.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for the children’s market?

Nearly always, or at least since I was 17. The trouble is that I didn’t know then that that was called illustration and that doing it for children was a specialty in its own right. I always wanted to produce the kind of images that I saw in the books I read.


When did you do your the first illustration for children? And what was it?

In a sense, when I was 17, an age that I mentioned before, and it was in the most direct and brutal manner.


How did that come about?

I assisted to a secondary school where they thoroughly taught us English language, and the last year we had to make teaching practices within the school, to primary pupils. My first assignment was a first grade, Friday afternnon, last hour; the worst possible combination. To make things harder, the teacher was very beautiful and we were all in love with her.

The subject was The Farm. I could neither refuse nor desert so I produced a series of cutout animals and people and farm objects that the little demons had to stick to a big paper with background field and sky. Though I made this up the night before, the lesson was such a success that I could have the children quiet for 15 minutes. The cutouts were much admired and I thought “Where did this all come from? How could I do it out of nothing?” It took me ten more years to find out.


Do you have an agent to represent you? If so how did you connect? If not, would you like one?

I did have one in the UK, but it didn’t work. I would like to have one. There should be agents to get you an agent. An Uberagent.


I see a few pictures that look like you sculpted a character. Is this something new you are trying out?

I started that back in 1995, blending my untested talents in sculpture and my profession. I did some works with clay, and I even took my models (yes, the very models) to the Bologna Book Fair in Italy, where I got much praise, but no assignments. The market for such technique is very, very small, as one can see in any bookstore. Anyway, my models availed me interviews at Aardman, the makers of the Wallace and Grommit series, and in the Spitting Image studios, both in the UK.


Have you published with any USA publisher? If so, who? And how did you get the contract with them?

I attended the SCBWI’s Winter Conference in 2001, where I made good contacts, particularly with Don Curry at Mondo Publishing, from whom I got my first assignment in the USA. Then came Innovative Kids, MacGraw Hill, Scholastic, Meredith, Klutz, and some more. I was assigned very interesting projects that I enjoyed a lot.


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

Oh, yes.


Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a self-published author?

As long as they pay me my fees, yes, why not. I stumble from time to time upon a request of this kind, but I couldn’t so far find out why these authors assume that you will do it for free, for the glory of it or for an uncertain future reward.


Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, and I particularly enjoy illustrating impossible books, like math books, and make of them a thing worth seeing. So much so that educational publishers in Argentina used to call me when they had one of those unillustratable books. This is where I apply what I learned from Sergio Aragonés.


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, and I am currently contributing to one. But for many years I illustrated for the magazine that I (and everyone else in Argentina and the region) read when I was a kid. That is a badge that still makes me proud. I also worked for newspapers, both for children and adults. I particularly enjoy this kind of quick, concentrated effort, where you have one or very few shoots to make a story. You have to be very efficient.


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

My repertoire is a little limited. I have a subscription to Children’s Illustrators, and I mail the news about my recent work to clients. In fact, I concentrate my efforts in keeping my clients rather than go hunting new ones. That’s not for mere conservatism but simply because I don’t have a bold strategy to do otherwise.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Apart from the computer I love gouache. I started my career with that medium and it made a deep impression in my style. If you look at my pictures you will see that many of them imitate that juxtaposed color planes mode, as if it were gouache. I like the smell of it, too. And I have an unconditional love for the common, old black graphite pencil of eternity.


Has that changed over time?

As I said, I started with gouache, but then I tried everything else. Watercolor, acrylic, color pencils, pen & china ink, crayons and pastels, paper cutouts, plasticine, collage and I even tried baked dough (It didn’t work).


Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, habitually. Not in this very moment. To have the studio at home is both a blessing and a curse, but I have decided long since that it is much more the former than the latter.


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

The radio.


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

No, I’m not that disciplined. I am a very curious person and i have a lot of interests that claim for their share of my time. I am disciplined to meet deadlines, though. As writer Douglas Adams said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by”.


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

Yes, but to a certain point. My style does not support much documentation. It becomes very evident when I stick too much to researched images. Anyway, I do google my subjects, be it a rhinoceros or an airplane, but I usually make it just to avoid horrible mistakes or pick features that will enhance the result.

I have very seldomly taken photographs as documentation. When there was no internet, I used to go to the zoo and take some pictures when I couldn’t find the angles that I needed. Now you type “mouse-deer” and you have loads of photos to choose from.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Not doors but gates! I could write an essay on the favorable changes that the internet brought to my work. It added extra dimensions to the creative process, the professional life, the research, the relation with colleagues, the access to other illustrator’s work, which was very limited before; the delivery of the pictures, the invoicing, the wiring, the meeting of new people from everywhere. I just cannot remember how it was to finish the work, tidy myself, dress up and go bring it to the editor. Do you remember?

marceloseagullsand bread

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes. I love it. They made it thinking of me. Anyway, I would love to meet the crew someday and tell them a couple of things!


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

After my first month struggling with the mouse, my Mac dealer called me and said “You should try this”.

First comes my right hand, second my Wacom, then my left hand.


What do you think is your biggest success thus far?

I didn’t have any big successes that I can think of.


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

I am currently finishing the research for a book I want to write about illustrating for children. Not about technique nor professional development, but about the essence of what we do. I want to give an answer to the question “What is it that we do? For what?”. I never heard of a good answer to that. I think that in reality nobody knows. Well, I think that I am slowly coming to the point and I will struggle to publish it. That is my dream.


What are you working on now?

I´m illustrating the second batch of a series of books whose translation would be The Jungle Gang, obviously about the adventures of a group of animals. They are coming out funny.


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.

Always buy the best material that you can afford. Saving in this matter is like bandaging your fingers, or maybe banging on them.


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

I use to say that I had to navigate my profession looking at the stars. Now, the young illustrators have their GPSs –the internet is one of them– and there are tons of advice everywhere. But there’s one thing that I try to never forget, and that is the children; the children that see my pictures and incorporate them along with the story, and feed something into their minds, or hearts, or souls. In many parts of the world (not in the USA) the child as a viewer is being neglected and the images are becoming cold and distant, as if intended for adults, more concerned about the aesthetics of the matter than the emotions one has to help express.

To say that I mind the child within me is too commonplace and expresses nothing. I’d rather say that I work for the real, average child out there.



Thank you Marcelo for sharing you process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we would love to hear about all of them, so please drop me a line when good things happen.

To see more of Marcelo’s illustrations you can visit him at: www.marceloelizalde.com.ar   Please take a minute to leave a comment for Marcelo, I know he would love to heard from you and always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, picture books, Process, Technology, Tips Tagged: Buenos Aires, Marcelo Elizalde

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Marcelo Elizalde, last added: 6/14/2014
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14. Illustrator Saturday – Craig Cameron


craigCraig Cameron is originally from Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1995 with a First Class(hons) degree in Visual Communication.

After graduating, armed with paintbrushes and guitar, he travelled across to the north of England to pursue a career as an illustrator, working initially as a graphic designer in advertising and Children’s Book Publishing, and since 2002 as a freelance artist.

Over the last decade Craig worked on many exciting projects – with book publishers in the UK and US, also creating illustrations for licensed characters, magazines, greetings cards, and product packaging.

He currently lives in Manchester, UK, with my wife Annette and 3 children, Ellie, Lewis and Joe.

Here is Craig Explaining his process:

The steps I take in my process of creating an illustration

Client – NetJets – International Children’s Day Card / promotional item.

This brief was to create a colorful illustration to celebrate International Children’s Day, which would be handed out to passengers on 2nd June 2014.

I generally start with very small sketchy thumbnails in my sketchbook, thinking about the general concept, layout and composition. From this I then work up more detailed sketches in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet and pen. I enjoy both sketching with pencils and directly into Photoshop. The benefit of Photoshop is that you can rotate, enlarge and move items around easily.

I submitted 3 concept ideas to the client as sketches. I think my sketches tend to be fairly detailed, probably due to my personality and wanting to get them resolved in terms of tone and composition so I have a clear idea of how they will look when I go to final color artwork.

Netjets 1

Rough concept sketch

Netjets 2

Refining sketch

Netjets 3

First concept sketch sent to client.

Netjets 4

Second concept sketch for client.

Netjets 5

Third concept sketch for client. The client liked options one and three best but decided to go with option 1. There were pleased with the design and asked for a few small changes including adding the livery /stripes on the plane and NetJets branding.

Netjets 6a

Although I work digitally primarily, I often like to use painted textures and backgrounds. In a small messy corner of my office I like to create these textures, using canvas boards, acrylic paints, gesso and dry brushing techniques until I get a texture which looks suitable.

Netjets 6b

I’ve built up a library of these which can also be used with the photoshop brushes to give a more hand tooled effect. I scan the texture as a grayscale tiff file, using an Epson A3 scanner at a fairly hi-res (approx 400dpi).

Netjets 7

Once scanned I import into Photoshop and position the sketch on top as a positional guide.


I color the background, often using layer options and adjustment layers, allowing the texture of the canvas effect to show through.



I tend to use a lot of layers, grouping the various items into folders. I paint using the airbrush and lasso tools, blocking out the general shapes before adding shading, details and highlights.










The final stages often take the longest time – adding highlights and extra texture until I’m happy with the overall look and feel.


Recently I have enjoyed trying out new brushes in Photoshop which can give more natural, painted or hand tooled effect. The client was really pleased with the final artwork and asked for one small change which was to make the clouds on earth look less scribbly and more like soft swirls.

spaced out1The Rough Sketch

spaced out2The Final Sketch

spaced out3

Working on tones.

spaced out4

The final illustration.


Backhoe Joe, written by Lori Alexander and Illustrated by Craig Cameron will be released on 16th September by Harper Collins US.


Above is some interior art from Craig’s Debut Picture Book.

3 little pigs

When did you first know you wanted to make a living doing art?

I went to Art College after A Levels, knowing that drawing/art was definitely the direction I wanted to go as a career after school. I attended a place on a Foundation Studies course in Art & Design at Belfast. At that stage I hadn’t made up my mind that I wanted to be an illustrator but my interest has always been in picture books and children’s brighlty coloured artwork. I then went on to an Illustration HND course at NEWI (North Wales). It was during those 2 years that the idea of actually working as an illustrator became more of a reality.


How long have you been illustrating?

I was fortunate to get my first commercial illustration commissions when I was at University, so have been illustrating for just over 20 years. After leaving University I initially worked in a design agency for 3 years and then for another 3 years as a book designer for a UK publishing house before going freelance in 2002 as a full time illustrator.


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

At school I had 2 brilliant art teachers. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t be an illustrator today. They were very supportive, inspiring and encouraging and I loved working in the environment of the art studio. They both commissioned me to paint their portraits!

My first commercial commission was for Alton Towers theme park here in the UK. It was for a promotional page in a national newspaper and came through an illustration agent who had seen my work as part of my graduate exhibition. I think this was the turning point where I realized that having a career as an illustrator could really happen!



I see you graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1995 with a First Class(hons) degree in Visual Communication. What made you choose Ulster and Visual Communication?

I am from Nothern Ireland and grew up in a town called Carrickfergus, 15 miles outside of Belfast. I had previously studied for 1 year on an Art&Design Foundation course and I liked the University and of course it was close to home, friends and family. The Visual Communication course offered lots of flexibility to try different disciplines, photography, graphic design, art history, film making etc, which appealed me me as I was trying to figure out my possible career direction. Other famous children’s picture book artists have graduated from the same course at Belfast, including the wonderful Oliver Jeffers and Alison Brown.


What types of things do you study with Visual Communication? What makes it different from getting a BFA?

The course offered a grounding across a range of diciplines in Art & Design but then the opportunity to specialise in the final years, so it was ideal for students who were initially unsure of their specialist subject or who wanted a more general Art & design qualification which might be suited to education or similar.


Did the School help you get work?

Prior to my degree at Belfast I did a 2 year illustration HND course in North Wales. (NEWI). This course was extremely practical and designed to help graduates find relevant commercial experience and contacts within the industry. During these years I was very fortunate to do a work placement with Penguin Books in London. Also, our final exhibition was moderated by an illustration agent based in Manchester, UK. She liked my work and asked me to meet her for an interview which lead subsequently to my first commercial commissions and having a artists rep whilst still at University.


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

I’m not sure that the colleges really pushed my work in any particular direction, but certainly the working environment and seeing the work of other students helped to inspire and encourage me to constantly develop and improve my work. The biggest influence came through the illustration rep. The agency I joined was called The Art Collection and there was a studio with about 8-10 in house professional illustrators. I was completely blown away by their talent, humour and professionalism.


Was your after graduating trip with your guitar just for fun or were you on a quest to find a job?

After graduating I moved from N.Ireland over to Manchester, England to work with the Art Collection. I have always loved music and have played guitar in college bands, but never really considered following music as a career – maybe in the future, who knows…!


How did you find your first job doing advertising graphic design?

Again I was quite fortunate. An illustrator friend of mine had been renting space from a design agency in Manchester. They were looking for a junior designer with good drawing skills as they did lots of work for local restaurants and businessess. She gave them my name and I went for interview. The position was really good in that I spent about 50% of my time on illustrations and the other 50% on graphic design, logos, concepts etc. I really enjoyed my time although it was a bit hectic at times and often long hours. I learnt an awful lot in terms of producing artwork for print and using commercial DTP software such as Photoshop, illustrator etc.


What children’s book publisher did you work for and how did that come about?

I have always loved children’s picture books so when I saw an advert for a book designer in Manchester for Egmont Books, I jumped at the chance! I was fortunate to pass the interview and worked there for 3 years, prior to going freelance full time.

It was a small design team, friendly, fun and a great environment to work in, surrounded by toys and books. I worked mostly on educational, licensed character and novelty books.


Was that job the reason you got into illustrating for children?

It certainly didn’t put me off, but I think my love of illustration and books has been there since I was a child. It was a really good platform to start from as I learnt a lot about the business of publishing. I developed valuable skills in layout, design, typography and in producing artwork for print. Also I made good friends, many of whom I still keep in contact with now.


What was the first illustration work you did for children? How did that come about?

In the early illustration agency days, I received a number of jobs aimed at the children’s market, including the work for Alton Towers and a promotional Children’s Book for Boots the chemist. I think my illustration style always tended to fit the chidren’s market best as the colours are bright and playful.


How did you get to do eight early readers books with Stone Arch Readers?

I have advertised my illustration work on the Children’s Illustrators website (www.ccillustration.com) and have received a number of really good commissions through this page over the last 4 years, particularly from the US. I was initially approached by Stone Arch Publishing, through this website in 2012 to do a series of 4 x Early Readers based on train characters. They followed this with a second set of 4 books in 2013.


Illustrating seven books in one year must have been a lot of work? How long did it take you to illustrate each book?

The work fell into 2 sets of 4 books. Each project took around 4-6 months from start to finish with each book taking around 6 weeks to complete.


Are you under contract to illustrate more?



How did you land the contract with HarperCollins to do BACKHOE JOE?

Backhoe Joe came through my agent here in the UK, called Beehive Illustration. I think Harper had also seen my work on the children’s Illustrators website as I had a number of examples of diggers and construction vehicles on there which fitted the look they were going for.


Was this your first book with a US publisher?

This is my first children’s picture book which is very exciting. It’s due to be released in August 2014 so I’m really looking forward to seeing a printed copy! I have worked with a number of US publishers before on early readers, magnet and sticker books and educational illustration.


Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? If not, would you like to have one?

I am currently represented in the UK by Beehive Illustration and also a local agent in Manchester called Monkey Feet Illustration. Some really great projects have come through these in recent years, including a style guide for My First JCB and publishing projects.



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

I would love to!… and have a number of ideas that I have been recently working on.

I’ve always particuarly loved children’s picture books and this is an area I would really love to develop and focus on in the future.



How did you get to illustrate Bob the Builder books?

I have worked on licensed character illustration since my days at Egmont Books as a designer. I worked on a set of Bob the Builder Story Library books and have illustrated Bob for BBC magazines on a monthly basis for almost 10 years.



How many picture books have you illustrated?

Only one so far, although Harper collins have mentioned the possibility of a second follow up title to Backhoe Joe – to be confirmed.



mouse skate

Do you sell a lot of your black and white illustrations?

I have been commissioned to create B&W illustrations for publishing editorial and for the my 1st JCB licensed character style guide. I was approached recently to work on a young fiction title with B&W interior illustrations, which is something I would enjoy doing more of.


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes – lots! I have worked for a number of BBC magazines here in the UK, including Bob the Builder, Cbeebies , Thomas the Tank Engine and The Magic Key magazines. I have been commissioned also for a few editorials including Practical Parenting and Woman’s Weekly!


What is your favorite medium to use?

I almost always work digitally now, mostly in photoshop or illustrator, although I love to include painted textures and patterns in the artwork if possible. Working digitally allows so much flexibilty in colouring, designing and making alterations when required – and it’s not as messy! Although I do still really enjoy sketching in my sketchbook.


Has that changed over time?

It used to be that all my work was drawn or hand painted – but over the last few years almost everything is done directly on my Apple Mac. I use a Wacom pen and tablet to draw with. I now also do the pencil roughs on the mac using a style/brush effect that has a sort of pencil look to it.

Over recent years I have intentionally tried to create artwork with a more painted, textured feel.


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

My Wacom drawing pen and tablet.


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

I’m typically busy with commissioned work during the day. We have three children and I drop them off at school at 9am – I then have the remainder of the day to work on commissioned projects.

The challenge I find difficult is to find time to work on personal projects or sketchbook time. I tend to put client work first, especially if there’s an urgent deadline to work to. However, I do really want to focus on some personal projects and development over the next few years.


Are you open to working with self-published authors?

I am contacted quite regularly through the Children’s Illustrators website by self-published authors. I tend to say no, as the work is speculative and I have personal projects I want to concentrate on. That said, I did agree to work with one unpublished author a few years ago, called Giles Paley Phillips, on a project called Balloon and Me. I really liked his writing and we went as far as to collaborate and complete a picture book dummy and colour cover and spreads, which we sent out to a number of publishers in the UK. We received an offer and some advance payments but unfortunately the project fell through shortly after. Giles went on to have a number of successful books published including The Fearsome Beastie, which won The People’s Book Prize 2012 and is currently being made into a CG Short Animation.

CM_Pop&PLay_OnMove_INS_Layout 1

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

Yes – I generally take reference photos and also spend a considerable amount of time online finding reference as the first stage in my process. I also often create a mood board, which might include colours and textures and reference which I find helps me to develop a clearer idea in my mind of the general feel and direction of the illustrations.

CM_Pop&PLay_OnMove_INS_Layout 1

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! 10 years ago all my work was coming from UK clients, whereas in the last 5 years that has changed and I am receiving more interest and commissioned work from the US and Europe. Also It has become so much easier to network and publicise our work through personal websites, the internet and social media. It’s easier to source reference materials and there are fantastic resources available such as podcasts and online tutorials. It’s probably never been easier or cheaper to promote yourself, but with that is increased competition, Global competition! and the challenge of competing in an extremely competitive market.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes – Photoshop is my preferred software for creating illustrations. If I’m putting a book together I would tend to use InDesign and sometimes use Illustrator for logos and flat colour or black and white illustrations.


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

Yes – I currently have a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet which I love, although I have been looking at the Cintiq’s and am considering splashing out on one of those – They look fantastic but are expensive!


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

As I mentioned previously my first love is children’s picture books and I would really like to create my own. I have a few ideas – so watch this space!


What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a fairly large educational project for a UK publisher and also a set of editorial illustrations for Thomas the Tank engine magazine.


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 have really enjoyed working with painted textures in Photoshop. There are lots of really interesting brushes available or you can make your own. That’s an area I’m exploring and enjoying personally. Also listen to podcasts from other practicing illustrators. I tend to listen while I work and it can be very inspiring and encouraging to hear about the experiences of other professionals as they discuss their methods and share advice and expertise.



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

Draw a lot!  When I was at college/university the tutors always stressed keeping a sketchbook and drawing constantly. I didn’t do it enough to be honest. But certainly I appreciate the value of drawing now… it will make life a lot easier!

Also experiment and don’t bogged down too quickly with one particular style. It’s good to be versatile and to be able to work in different ways, mediums. Try some photography, graphic design and computer software too… When you’re working as an illustrator it’s very easy to get recognized for one particular style. That can be good but it can also be restricting. My feeling is that you should constantly be developing and pushing yourself to be the best you possibly can.


Thank you Craig for sharing your process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we’d love to hear about all of them, so please keep in touch.

To see more of Craig’s illustrations you can visit him at: http://www.craigcameronart.com/

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Craig, I know he would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Filed under: Advice, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Picture Book, Process Tagged: Backhoe Joe, Craig Cameron, licensed characters

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Craig Cameron, last added: 7/1/2014
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15. Attacking A Conference


This illustration by Eric Sailer was in the NJSCBWI Art Show and was the winner of the Unpublished Illustrator award. Congratulations, Eric! eric.s.sailer@gmail.com

erikaphoto-45Hi there. Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

Attacking A Conference

This past weekend was the NJ SCBWI conference. It was my first. So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and experiences with you all.

First part of a conference that has to be attacked…

Actually Registering!

You can’t get anything out of a conference, if you don’t go.

Are they cheap? No. They’re not. And to be honest, as a simple farm girl, it wasn’t a small nut for me. But all jobs have their expenses. I buy feed for my piglets. This is feed for my writing. (And remember, even if you’re not published, talk to your accountant about deducting the conference cost, hotel and travel.)

So I was determined to go. A few days after registration opened, I looked at my husband and said, ”I’m going to stop THINKING about registering and just go register.” Then I said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

And three hours later, I had completed registration.

The conference had so many amazing options. On top of choosing which workshops to sign up for, we had the options of which of the amazing list of agents and editors to pitch to, eat with, various opportunities for one-on-ones and even peer critiques.

After researching which agents and editors I thought I was a good match to stalk – I mean be around, I was excited to have registered!

Then, a few days before the conference came the part I didn’t expect:

Feeling like I didn’t deserve to go.

Who do I think I am, going to a “writer’s conference”??? I’m not good enough to be a REAL writer.

To be painfully up front with you all, it’s a good thing it wasn’t something that you paid for at the door, because I may have chickened out.

I have tomatoes to plant anyway, and I have to get that sheep fence fixed!

The excuses were just FLYING out of me. I was nervous and antsy and felt like I had absolutely no business being there.

Putting on my big-girl boots and getting over it.

I got in the car early Saturday morning and told myself… this is one of those times you just have to act braver than you are. MANY writers, published or not, feel like they don’t deserve their acclaim.

But I knew I had to get past that in order to get the most of the weekend.

And walking down the ominous skywalk into the check-in area, I decided to officially leave the frightened, non-deserving part of me completely behind.

And within moments I was swept up into the whirlwind that is the NJ SCBWI conference, with amazingly friendly faces, positive encouragement and more information than you could possibly imagine.

Agent & Editor Interactions

This is my biggest take-away that I feel I can pass on. Here’s the big secret:

They’re people!

Who’d have thunk??

And while I’m not saying not to tell them the concept of your book or the super special twist on your novel, what I am saying is: be able to talk about other things as well.

(I’m not sure what the protocol would be to mention names here, so I’ll just say:) I had a great time chatting with an agent, an editor and a fellow author during a social time Saturday night after the comedian. I wasn’t pitching. And I wasn’t looking for an opportunity to pitch. We were just talking. It wasn’t an agent, an editor and two authors. It was four people.

I’m going to call myself out here:

Before this, I had seen agents and editors as these all-knowing, powerful beings that step in and make exciting things happen, or not happen.

While I’m still in awe of their wealth of knowledge, and grateful for all I learned from them, I think I broke down the mental wall in my mind. They’re people.

And (at least the ones I met) REALLY nice, laid back, fun people. They like books! So we have at least some similar interests.

And they have HARD jobs. A few of them confided in me that they don’t love the level of spotlight attention they’re given at conferences sometimes. But they all handle it with grace. When the editor sat down at our lunch table, people stopped mid-chew and all 14 eyeballs darted up towards her. But she introduced herself (even though we all knew who she was) sat down and seamlessly laughed at the length of the line for food.

I can honestly say that I had a wonderful time getting to know some of the agents and editors at the convention on a personal level. And I truly think that’s important.

But of course, when you are pitching…

Be honest. Be specific. Be READY!

Have the CONCEPT readily pitch-able. I learned a great way to think of concept in Jill Corcoran’s workshop. It’s not just the plot, the story, the characters. It’s why should someone read it? The same way you’d try to convince someone to go see a movie. People say, “what’s it about?” But really, what they mean is, “why do I want to see it?”

Cut the fluff.

Words like “adventurous” “mysterious” or “changes everything” (ALL of which were in my pitch on Saturday morning) don’t hold any real meaning.

I guess what it comes down to is that we need to be showing and not telling in our pitch, just as much as in our manuscript.

Everyone thinks their book is a “page-turner”. So that doesn’t give them any information. Tell them WHY. Use specifics. Use adjectives that matter. “Memorable” doesn’t cut it. Use an adjective that describes why she’s memorable instead.


I don’t just mean be ready to pitch. I mean be ready to hear the feedback, positive AND negative. And embrace them BOTH.

These are high-level professionals. I was very lucky to have their feedback. They’re not pointing out fault for their own sake. It doesn’t matter to them in the least. When they pointed out my faults, they were doing it for my sake, so I could improve.

And improve I did.

I had more “ah-ha!” and “I never thought of that” moments in those two days than I can count.

An example you ask? Well, I learned about the importance of drawling the reader in at the end of every chapter.

So I’ll give you a few examples of some of the most important, tangible things I learned in my next post. 

Erika, another great article, so glad you are on my team!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: article, Conferences and Workshops, illustrating, inspiration, Kudos Tagged: 2014 NJSCBWI Conference, Eric Sailer, Juried Art Show

9 Comments on Attacking A Conference, last added: 7/4/2014
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16. 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.

0 Comments on An Evening with Patricia Polacco as of 1/1/1900
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17. 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.

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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

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Hazel Mitchell – Book Give-a-Way, last added: 9/14/2013
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18. 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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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. Illustrator Saturday – Eric Freeberg

ericpicEric Freeberg discovered the Tolkein art of the Brothers Hildebrandt in high school. Their influences were N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle, who are enduring influences. The illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration continue to resonate with him after decades of studying painting and making pictures as a professional.

He studied painting at the New York Academy of Art, and also at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, and at the Art Students League.

His hope is to combine the gallery quality of fine arts representational painting with the magic and narrative of childhood. His art straddles the fence between the fine arts and the commercial.

Eric has illustrated many books for children, in addition to work for magazines and ad campaigns.

He has exhibited at the Society of Illustrators in New York, and at the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles Annual. He is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Wendy Lynn & Co. represents his artwork.

Eric forgot to take process pictures, but he has given us a lot of information about both his painting process and his black and white illustrations. Here is Eric explaining his painting process:

This is the typical process with a color illustration.



(1) Color study

Once the sketch has been approved by the publisher/client, I make a rough color study based on the sketch. To make the study, I print the sketch onto quality paper with a copier. I seal the surface of the paper with acrylic medium so the oil paint won’t soak into the paper. Then I do a quick painted sketch in color on top of the copy to give myself an overall feel for a possible color harmony. In addition to a painted color sketch, I might do a value study as well–same method– if I have time.

ericTug of War Value Study2

(2) Enlarge drawing to painting surface

I then have the approved sketch/drawing enlarged onto a sheet of quality drawing paper. Strathmore Bristol Board 2 or 3 play is a favorite. I do this at a printing place. This allows me to work fairly large while retaining the detail of the drawing, and removes the step of having to transfer the drawing.

ericTug of War Color Study

(3) Mounting

Next, I mount drawing paper(with drawing printed on it) onto 1/2 inch plywood. I briefly soak the paper in water. After patting the paper dry with a cloth, I brush acrylic medium onto both the plywood surface and to the back of the drawing paper. I then position the paper onto the plywood. The acrylic medium acts as a glue. I then use a brayer(a roller) to smooth out the paper on the plywood, to make sure the paper adheres completely and without bubbles. Once that’s done, I brush on a layer of acrylic medium onto the surface of the drawing, to seal the paper so oil won’t be absorbed. Once that layer dries, I sand it and apply a second layer of the medium. I might do 3 layers with sanding between.

When that’s all done, I have an underdrawing upon which to begin painting, and a nice, large, solid and relatively smooth surface for painting.

erictug of war

(4) Underpainting

The first layer of paint is usually an underpainting of a solid color in acrylic paint. I often like to use raw sienna or something similar as an underpainting color, because I like the feel of the the warm color. It seems to work well, and sets the tone for the painting to come. Sometimes I’ll mix the sienna with opaque titanium white in order to lighten some of the dark printed blacks of the underdrawing.

ericKudu book 1 page 7

(5) Painting Block-in

Next, I start painting full color with oil paint. I try as much as possible to get the final intended color in the first try. I refer to my studies, the color study and possibly a value study, as I paint with oil. I use the studies as a guide, but usually expand on the color and value in the final work. When I’m painting I’ll usually paint area by area. For example, I might just work on painting a character. Typically, I’ll glaze (a transparent color diluted with painting medium) over the area to be worked with. Then I paint directly into the glaze with opaque and thicker paint. The glaze, if done with a fast drying medium like alkyd mediums, will quicken the drying of whatever is painted into it. Plus, the glaze improves the flow of your brushstroke.

ericMoving Day Color Study

(6) Detail

Next, I repaint and work detail into the picture as needed. Sometimes I’ll glaze, sometimes I’ll paint opaque visible brushwork. A word about glazing–I have been using walnut alkyd medium. It dries quickly and is nontoxic. One thing to know about alkyd painting mediums is they dry a bit dull and matte. You’ll need to either “oil out” the painting after its dry, or varnish it. I find oiling out works pretty well when I’m in a hurry. What that means is, you brush oil onto the painting’s surface, rubbing the oil into areas that appear dull. It should bring out the richness of the oil paint. Ultimately, varnishing is needed.

For brushes, I block in big areas with bright bristle brushes. I like the Princeton 6300 Series for this. They’re a hog bristle, synthetic combo that I find works well. But for smaller areas and detail, I use softer hair brushes. Right now, it’s Dick Blick’s Red Sable Filbert size 10, along with a pointed round for fine detail. I keep trying new brushes though. It’s good to experiment.

ericMoving Day-Eric Freeberg

Drawing Process:
When I’m asked to create black and white drawings, the following method is typical.

(1) Value study in charcoal

I like working with pencil in the final drawing. Before I begin the final drawing, though, I’ve found doing a study in charcoal to be helpful in helping me get my dark values appropriately dark when I later work with pencil.


(2) Transferring

I have an opaque projector that’s great for enlarging sketches onto larger drawing surfaces. I project the approved sketch onto my drawing surface and then lightly trace the lines of the sketch with an HB pencil.

(3) Darks

Once the lines of the composition has been lightly traced, I like to take a 3B graphite pencil and decisively knock in the darks of the composition.

(4) Detail

Once that’s done, I use a variety of pencil lead ranging from 4H to 8B, in order to get subtle modeling of value, and the soft leads between 4B and 8B allow me to get fairly dark darks.

More black and whites further down. 

ericfrogsWhen did you first know you wanted to make a living doing art?

I was lucky in that I had very encouraging and supportive parents who probably planted in my mind, very early on, that art could be a future career for me. The first “drawing” I did was when I was 2 years old, supposedly of a witch; I think it looks more like a mosquito doing yoga, but I’ll take my mom’s word for it.
But I’d say, by high school, I was thinking of pursuing art as a career.


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating for 6 years.

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

When I sold some paintings in a college scholarship exhibition.

I see that you attended the Academy of Art in New York City and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Which one did you attend first? Did you transfer or branch out in a different direction?

I went to the Pennsylvania Academy first. I’d already had 4 years of art study at a state college, so after a year in Philadelphia I’d decided I needed a break. I went to New York a couple of years later and, while it wasn’t a transfer, it offered a similar traditional academic training for artists that included drawing from cast of classical sculpture, lots of figure drawing, that sort of thing.
The New York Academy also had a Masters degree program, which was a factor in my choosing to go there. And I wanted to live in New York.

How did you decide to attend these two schools?

There’s a Salvador Dali quote, “Learn from the masters, and then do what you want with it.” The illustrators Greg and Tim Hildebrandt (The Brothers Hildebrandt—from New Jersey, by the way) said the same thing. That was my attitude as well and it influenced my decision to study at both PAFA and NYAA. They both had, and have, a respect for the old masters and value representational painting. Nowadays, there are more options for a student who wants to study that kind of painting.

What did each school bring to the table?

I only did the foundation year in Philly, so it was mostly basic drawing and painting. In New York, the focus was the human figure, so there was plenty of figure drawing and figure painting, along with painting techniques, etc.


What type of painting did you study?

If you mean media, it was oil painting. Painting of the figure was the emphasis.


Did the school help you get work?

Ultimately it did. You hear respected illustrators say “learn the figure.” In the children’s genre, I think that skill can get you jobs illustrating history and biography,etc. Also, a knowledge of anatomy and rules of the figure is hugely helpful when you’re creating figures from your imagination. When I’m illustrating in a goofier style, I have to let go of some of my fine arts education(laugh). It’s about what’s appropriate for the job.


Did you go right into a job after you graduated or did you immediately start freelancing?

After I graduated, I actually moved to Ireland for a year with a girlfriend. With the help of 2 arts grants, we were able to live there and travel around Europe for a year. I was able to see a lot of art in the museums there.
After that, it took me a few years of trying different things and building a children’s book portfolio to finally arrive on my current career path.

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

They have. Whether I’m working in what I would describe as a goofier style or more realistically, there’s an element of representationalism. For example, if I’m painting orangutans playing volleyball (as I did for this current job) there are still elements of realistic painting, of light falling on objects, as a fine arts painter would do. But the characters are, as I said, goofy, and hopefully appropriate for a young age group. I switch back and forth stylistically as needed; I think it’s good to be able to change gears. It’s fun too.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

Toward the end of grad school, I already had a few portfolio pieces completed, so I guess I’d been thinking of it even before then.

What was the first illustration work you did for children. How did that come about?

My first illustration job was Jack London’s “White Fang,” which was a fun way to start out. My agent got me the job. I would speculate that the publisher saw my portfolio piece for Goldilocks and the Three Bears and decided, based on my paintings of bears, that I could paint wolves (laugh.)

How did you get to work with Compass Publishing on the Classic Starts Readers?

“White Fang” was a Compass title.

Then you illustrated the Classic Starts Series for Sterling. The names are very similar. Did Compass sell this line to Sterling?

No, there’s no connection. It’s just a coincidental similarity of titles. Compass is I think primarily for the educational market, and Sterling is owned by Barnes & Noble.

I counted a total of 24 books between 2009 and 2014. That is a lot of books for each year. How long does it take to illustrate one of these books?

It depends on the contract. The Compass books, if I remember correctly, had to be done quite quickly—I remember I had to compete a painting every 3 days, which works out to a little over a month per book.
For the Sterling books, as another example, the contract spread over several months, so there was a bit more breathing room. For 4 titles, that’s roughly 3 months per book. I think, with most illustrators, they’d agree that more time is always welcome, if you can get it, to better be able to raise the quality of the artwork.

Is the interior art done in black and white?

How many is usually in each one? For the Sterling jobs, they required a full color cover painting, plus 10 black and white interiors. Compass was a color cover plus 10 color interiors. It will vary from publisher to publisher.

Are you under contract to illustrate more?

Not with Compass or Sterling. The last thing I did for Sterling was “The Iliad” and “Roman Myths” last year.
But I am currently under contract to illustrate 3 books in a chapter book series about a turtle character named Kudu. Also, my agent is currently negotiating another book contract for the coming year.

How did you connect with Wendy Lynn for representation?

I found Wendy in “The Children’s Illustrators Market,” in the agents listing. I sent my work to a few agents and chose Wendy.

What was your illustrating first success?

Well, I would call my first job, “White Fang,” my first success, as I was happy to have begun illustrating. I would also say, it felt good doing the Sterling jobs because they were my first non-educational job and would be widely available in the Barnes & Noble children’s departments.

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

Yes, I’d love to. I did a book dummy for the Grimms story, “Iron John,” which I know wouldn’t be my writing, obviously. But its a picture book project I have in the works. I’m not happy with the first run through, but I think I could eventually come up with a fresh new take on the story.. I would like to write something of my own some day.

Have you done any illustrating for chldren’s magazines?

Yes. I’ve illustrated for Humpty Dumpty magazine, and for Spider magazine, part of the Cricket Publishing Group.
For Humpty Dumpty, I illustrated a story called “Fit for a King,” about a Lion (who’s a king) and his cook, an Orangutan (Orangutans again). I got an honorable mention from SCBWI’s Magazine Merit Award in 2013 for that work. For Spider magazine, I illustrated “Nelly’s Sweet Song,” a story about George Washington and his niece. I also illustrated “Samuel Peppard and his Windwagon,” another American history piece for Spider.

How did you illustrations become considered for the Holbein Prize for Fantasy Art? Is that something an illustrator can enter? How did it feel to win that prize?

It felt great! I don’t recall how I learned of the competition, but anyone can enter. Their definition of Fantasy Art included fantastical illustration in any genre.

Then in the same year you won the London Book Fair’s Illustrator’s Competition. How did it feel to win those two prizes?

Well, it was a good year (laugh.) London was the most exciting thing to have won because it’s such a major venue. And it involved traveling to the Book Fair and staying in London. I love travel.

What is your favorite medium to use?

My favorite medium is oil.

Has that changed over time?

Yes. I used to work exclusively in acrylic, when doing color work, because of the quick drying time. But I learned a way to work in oil that’s quick drying as well.

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

My Madmen-era drawing table. It’s a wooden, swivel drawing table that is, as far as I can tell, the style of drawing table from the 60’s.

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

I usually work 40 hours a week. That’s the goal for each week. Some days I’ll work fewer hours, other days more, but I make sure I work about 40 total each week. I find, if do that, the work usually gets done. Granted, with deadlines, the number of hours a week can go above 40.

Are you open to working with self-published authors?

Yes. To date, I’ve worked with one self-publisher author.

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

I use lots of reference photos as part of my process. As for research, I illustrated “The Iliad” last year, as an example, and, in order to get a certain level of authenticity, you need to research the period. What type of armor and helmets were worn? What were the methods of warfare, etc.? Those are the kind of questions you have to answer. Even for a project like the current one I’m engaged in with anthropomorphic animal characters, you still need to look at a lot of photos of animals to decide the look of the various characters, and to help with convincing detail, etc.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. It basically opens up the whole world to your work. I’ve had clients from Ireland, Korea, for example, and was approached to do a painting demo by a children’s literacy council in Dubai. Then there’s London and the various competitions that are easier to access. It’s so different from just a generation ago, when an illustrator usually had to live in proximity to New York. So, yes, I think the Internet’s existence has a definite upside for an illustrator.

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop for creating digital files. The only time I’ve altered an illustration with Photoshop is if the values need punching up when a scan doesn’t come out as well as hoped. So, the short answer is, I work traditionally—it’s just traditional painting. I’d like to develop my digital painting skills when I can find the time.

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

No, but I’d like to try.

Do you find exhibiting your artwork gets you jobs?

I think exhibiting may help—it raises your profile. I would say, the major venues in big cities, or at conventions would be potentially bigger audiences. I’ve exhibited at the Society of Illustrators in New York, and at the Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles. I got a job offer from being in the New York show, but couldn’t do it because of timing. I think, sometimes, you’ll be seen by someone but it won’t bear fruit until later on when the person has an appropriate opportunity for you and your style.

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

Probably I’d like to have a career that eventually shifts more into picture books. I wouldn’t mind crossing into other genres too. I think I’d be happy to just have a long and varied career illustrating. I’d like to show my illustrations in gallery shows. That’s something I’ve yet to delve into.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the first book in the Kudu the turtle chapter books that I mentioned earlier. Nearly done.

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.?

Best paint—I currently use Winsor & Newton paint, mainly. I like to try lots of different brands, but I’d like to try Old Holland.

Best paper—Strathmore 500 Bristol

A new product I’ve tried—I tried Walnut Alkyd Painting Medium a while back, and have been using it regularly to thin my paints.

The best place to buy—Dick Blick online is a good place to find a range of art supplies. I check Pearl Paint as well.

A how to tip: I’ll share 2 tips I’ve found useful.

erichectorTip 1:

The typical process when creating illustrations for a publisher is to create sketches first for approval. Once the sketches are approved, you move into completing the final art. Because I like to make sketches that are detailed and comprehensive, I don’t like to redraw/transfer the whole drawing to the painting surface. Instead, a method I use is to have a printing service enlarge my sketch onto a large sheet of high quality drawing paper (I like Strathmore 500 bristol board 2 or 3-ply). That way, you don’t lose any of the detail put into the sketch, and it can be enlarged to a size of 20 by 30 inches or thereabouts. I then mount the paper to plywood panel and seal the surface of the paper with acrylic medium. I do 2 or 3 coats of the medium with sanding between. The medium prevents the oil paint from being absorbed into the paper and therefore should be archival. Sanded, the painting surface will be quite smooth. That’s my method of transferring a drawing without having to redraw. It saves time and allows me to work on a fairly large scale, which I like to do.

Tip 2:
If you paint in oil, drying time is an issue for an illustrator who needs to make
deadlines. A way I work to ensure all the paint dries quickly is, using an alkyd resin painting medium, I lay down a glaze (a small amount of transparent color diluted with medium) of color over the area I’m going to work on. I then paint wet-in-wet into the glaze. The quick drying alkyd medium in the glaze ensures that everything you paint into the glaze will dry quickly. No need to add the medium to every brushstroke to quicken drying.

Any advice on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

My advice is: The portfolio is the first priority—take time to develop it. Don’t dabble, go in all the way. Be patient—slow and steady wins the race. Have a career model—ask yourself what kind of career you imagine for yourself, what illustrators you like and do a case study of them. Become an expert in your field. Read the SCBWI Bulletin, Publishers Weekly, etc. Utilize the resources that the SCBWI has to offer—it’s an excellent source of information and support. Take ownership of your career—every decision has an impact. Understand the market and where you fit into it. Don’t follow trends, but be aware of them. Be flexible and have a good attitude—forge good relationships with publishers. Be nice. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t abandon ship—stay positive, stay on course.
Do the kind of work you love to do—there’ll be an audience for it. Enjoy the ride.

erocwalkinh horse

ericChicken Ribbon spot

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

You can visit Eric at http://www.ericfreebergillustration.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: illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process, Tips Tagged: Eric Freeberg, New York Academy of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Art, Wendy Lynn & Co.

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Eric Freeberg, last added: 4/27/2014
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