Half-way point for PiBoIdMo 2014

ScottieDog_portfolio_coverFBI’ve made it halfway through the month for Picture Book Idea Month. It has been a wonderful way to keep the creative juices flowing. Everyday, Tara Lazar has an inspirational blogger give us encouraging hints and ideas. I am way ahead of myself on picture book ideas, but I may weed out a few as I keep coming up with more and more new ones. Now the real work comes with fleshing out the stories and making outlines, so I don’t lose the ideas when I have a future “idea drought”.

You know we all have these times of drought, when you most need an idea and they just won’t come. I always have a lot of ideas when I’m working on a project and can’t stop to write them down. It’s when all the desktops in my studio and my computer are cleared, that I come-up with a blank wall (screen).

I want all the other children’s book writers and illustrators who are doing this PiBoIdMo challenge to hang in there. We may find we want to do this all year.

I just signed up for PiBoIdMo

piboidmo2014wordpressbannerNovember is Picture Book Month. So Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) was also created to gently nudge (force) picture book illustrators and writers to come up with lots of ideas. In fact we pledge to come up with one picture book idea a DAY! Luckily we don’t also have to write the book. Today is the 5th of the month and I am happy to say I am right on schedule, in fact I have written down a few extras for hectic days ahead. Read Tara Lazar’s blog for more information.

Sign up for PiBoIdMo yourself, you might be surprised by your own creativity.

2014 SCBWI Missouri Regional Conference

SCBWI_banner_SM copyLast weekend was the SCBWI MO (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Fall Conference on the beautiful campus of Lindenwood University in St. Charles Missouri. I love attending these conferences.

Imagine being surrounded by hundreds of people who love children’s picture books and children’s picture book illustrations as much as you do. Two glorious days of attending talks and workshops geared to exactly what you are interested in. Experts from all over the U.S. are there to educate, critique and guide you in pursuing your dreams. I had a critique of my Illustration portfolio by Giuseppe Castellano, art director at Penguin Books and a critique of my children’s picture book dummy by Jodell Sadler, a literary agent at Sadler Literary. There was a peer critique of my picture book dummy, directed by Jeannie Ransom, late saturday night that was also very helpful. I also listened to talks by Jodell Sadler, Dan Yaccarino and Giuseppe Castellano.

I learned a lot from the workshop, talks and the critiques. I now need to digest all the great information and put it to good use. Above is the artwork I entered in the Conference Banner Design competition. Wendy Martin was the winner see her banner and all the other banner entries on the SCBWI website. Congratulations Wendy.


Illustration I am working on for a self-publishing author

Round_page17I have been working on this picture book on and off for two years. It’s a darling story about a “round” little girl who wants to be a ballerina butterfly in the school play. The story by Shervonne Taylor tells about the dreams of a chubby young girl, bullying by classmates, family support and learning to believe in herself.

I want to finish illustrating this book very much, I hope the author moves ahead with the project. It’s holding me up to start new projects for other authors.

Please leave comments, critiques  or your contact information below.


Illustrating a new book I am writing

Penelope_cover_WPThis is the working rough cover for Penelope’s Purrfect House Rules.

Like I don’t have enough to do, illustrating for other authors. I decided to write and illustrate a book myself. I have the manuscript in fair form, awaiting a professional critique and a rough dummy with all the illustrations in place. It’s been an interesting journey working for myself.

The picture book is written in the first person. I had a lot of fun with this direction. The main character is a self-centered, obsessive-compulsive cat. The cat gives her viewpoint in words, the pictures show a far different reality.

It’s not as easy as it looks cutting your words under 500 and still tell a story with action, a story arc and character development. I’m down to 380 words and it probably can be cut more. The illustrations do a lot of the heavy lifting.

Book I illustrated finally printed


I illustrated this 32 page 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ book for Leila L. Leidtke last year. It’s about three little pigs and their adventures in the wild. It’s a rough scary jungle out there! Right now this book can only be ordered from Friesen Press, later it will be available in many bookstores and Amazon. Click here to order.

It seems like I have waited forever to see these books printed. It does give me a good feeling seeing something I worked on so long to finally be completed. I am very happy with the color and the quality of the paper.

I love working with self publishing authors, contact me to talk about your book.

Need a Kick-in the pants to move your career forward?

My best kick-in-the-pants advice to move ahead with your Children’s book, is signing up for a critique with an agent or publisher at one of the SCBWI events. I then have a goal to work towards and a deadline to finish my manuscript. Since I am an illustrator attempting to become an author/illustrator, I have a lot of work to do for my critiques. Not only do I need to finish and perfect my manuscript, but I also need to prepare sample illustrations and a complete book dummy finished for the picture book critique. Nothing like a little pressure to turn on the juice.

I am now working on finishing up illustrations for a 40 page picture book for a self published author that I’ve been working with for over a year. I’m also starting illustrations for a new picture book for a self published author AND working on perfecting my own manuscript and finishing illustrations for my own picture book due for critique mid-July.

I work best when I am working. I thrive on being busy. The more I work the more ideas I get and the more efficient I work (write or draw). My best advice is to work, because only when you are working can you create great stuff. Thinking about it just doesn’t get the same results.

Almost finished the line work for the “Round” Book

I mentioned earlier I was working on a picture book called “Round” by Shervonne Taylor. At first it was going to be a picture book app, but now it’s a picture book. It’s about Olivia, a round little girl who wants to be a ballerina butterfly in the school play. I now have all the rough pencils finalized and I am working on the finished line work. I usually do this in charcoal pencil on paper. Even though I color digitally, I like to do my line work in charcoal pencil and scan it in. I feel I can get a more expressive line working this way. For this book I’m trying something different, I am working with a digital charcoal pencil on my new Wacom Cintiq. page1WPpage11WPpage5WP It always tickles me when people say, “Oh you work digitally, so it isn’t real art work.”  I do my line work, just like anyone who is getting ready to do traditional watercolor. The difference is, when the time come to color it in, I use a computer. This way I can make changes, which clients always want to make after the color work is finished. When I used traditional watercolor or pastel, I would have to start all over again. Now I can move figures around and change background colors without destroying entire piece of art. It takes the same skills as traditional watercolor or pastel, it is just more flexible. Computer painting programs like Photoshop and Corel Painter are only tools, in the right hands there should be no difference in the final product. It takes me just as long to do a digital painting as it does a traditional media painting. This book has taken 7 months so far, I probably have another 3 to 4 more weeks work. Illustrating a 27 illustration children’s book takes time. I work closely with the author to illustrate a book they will be proud of.

Vacation is not a good time to work on illustrations

Round_rough_illustrationsOnce again, an illustration job is taking longer than I expected. This time I must take some of the blame. I have been on vacation for the last 17 days. I took everything with me and intended to work on the illustrations while I was gone. I thought working in a warm place by the pool would be more fun than working in a cold place looking out the window at snow. But vacations are supposed to be…well a vacation. Even though I love what I do, I still need a vacation away from working once in a while.

My vacation was over before I knew it. I am now very much behind schedule. There is still snow out my window. I have a deadline of May 9th. Which sounds far away, but I am also putting together the iPad App for this book, so I have to allow time for that process.

All 31 of the rough pencils are done, I need to do the finished line work, then start on the color work (my second favorite part after the character studies). All illustrations must be done in layers with any moving parts for the App to be on separate layers. It will take a lot of planning.

2014 Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustrated picture book goes to…

LocomotiveBrian Floca, is the 2014 Caldecott Medal winner  for illustrating the most distinguished American picture book for children: “Locomotive,”  http://www.brianfloca.com/Locomotive.html The book was written by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Beckerand published by Candlewick Press; “Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idleand published by Chronicle Books LLC; and “Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesnerand published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

 John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: “Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” written by Kate DiCamillo, is the 2014 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Candlewick Press.

Congratulations to all the winners.

The Winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola Award

Every year the SCBWI and Tomie dePaola have a competition for illustrators. The theme for this year was the poem “Sneeze, A sneeze Is a breeze In Your Nose. Square format illustrations, for a young child’s book (2 months to 2 years). Before I entered this competition, I thought long and hard about the poem and how best to illustrate it for a young child. My idea was to use an elephant, who else has spectacular sneezes? In Tomie dePaola’s introduction, he mentions that there were far too many elephants. I guess I was not very original. He also mentioned that there was too much “stuff” flying out of nostrils. Whoops, my bad again! Visit the SCBWI website to see all the runners-up.

winner 2014 Tomie dePaola awardThis year the winner of the Tomie dePaola Award is Akiko White for a wonderful creation in “cake.” Congratulation Akiko! Your illustration is perfect, I love it!

It looks like icing  or Sculpy to me, but the SCBWI announcement says cake. The subject of the winning illustration is surprisingly–an elephant! I really like the composition and the colors. The surface texture and lighting  are wonderful. The mouse stopping the sneeze is priceless.

nina_goebel_smFirst runner-up is Nina Goebel. Her illustration is applique on a vintage handkerchief. Tomie didn’t like the lace edging on the handkerchief. Loved the bi-racial family and the simple imagery. You really should see all 5 of the runner-ups on the SCBWI website, there is a short critique for each one. Alice Ratteree was 2nd runner-up, Anne Dawson was 3rd runner-up, Jacob Grant was 4th runner-up and Lisa Cinelli was 5th runner-up.

It is so generous fo Tomie dePaola to take his time to have this award each year. It gives all illustrators a chance to work on an assignment and see our work with some of the best in the business.

SNEEZ_SMThere is another website set up showing ALL the entries for 2014 that the illustrators choose to share, winners and non-winners all together. What a great opportunity to see a lot of creative work. You can even leave comments on each entry. Thanks to Diandra Mae for all her work.

My entry, not a contender, also shows an elephant. He has “stuff” flying out of his nose which Tomie say this is a real no,no, considering flu season and all. I really needed to take more of a risk on subject matter and technique. It’s fun to see what other artists come up with. Next year I will go all out.

Thanks for the opportunity Tomie

Snowed in & Working on Pencil Sketches for Children’s Picture Book App

I love being snowed in. When everyone else is trying to shovel their way out and fretting about being stuck at home, I’m happy. My studio is now in my home so I always have so many fun things to do. Today I worked on some full size pencil roughs for the book “Round” by Shervonne Taylor. I will be doing a picture book app first, then a printed picture book with the same art. So all the art must be made larger than it normally would for a picture book application for iPad. When I do the final illustrations everything will be on different layers, so the characters and backgrounds can move separately.Illustrator_pencil_roughs

I worked out the character sketches and the dummy earlier, so I know what each character will look like and what happens on each page, but it is so much fun seeing the main character doing her thing in each scene.

I love working with Children’s book authors. Each book is so different and so much fun to illustrate.

Once Upon a Sketch is BAACK!!!

Logoonblue_OUASAfter Wilson Williams Jr suddenly passed away last August, there were questions as to what would happen with the popular blog. Norm Glock was looking for a new partner or partners. Norm has found six wonderful illustrators to share the website’s workload and to add their unique perspectives.

The new blog posts are by: Donald Wu,Jennifer Zivoin, Mary Reaves Uhles, Jannie Ho, Chris Jones, Kevin Cross and Norm Grock.  The topic is:
Visit the once Upon a Sketch Website. It is a very fun and informational blog site for anyone in the children’s publishing business.