Creativity, do you have what it takes?

Creativity is the spark of magic that turns the ordinary into the amazing.

Children’s book authors are very creative people. They have the ability to take a fragment of an idea and by just using their imagination fabricate a completely new world filled with unique characters. These characters will have dreams, a past and a new story to tell.

My main job as an illustrator of children’s books is to take that wonderful fantasy world the author has created and expand it even more. My job is to take their story and tell a little bit more about each scene. What happened just moments before the written action or what happens just after the action. My job is NOT to just illustrate the written action or repeat what is written on the page in a visual form. I must bring another dimension to the story.

To keep my mind flexible, it helps to exercise my creative muscles every day. I like to participate in online challenges to help me stay on schedule. I just finished Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm. This is a friendly challenge to come up with 30 new ideas for picture books one each day in January. My idea list this year has 36 ideas, last year I had over 40. That gives me a head start coming up with the perfect idea for the next picture book I want to write.

12 x 12 is another challenge by Julie Hedlund and Kelli Panique, that encourages authors to write 12 picture books from February to November. That’s more than one a month folks. I’m a fast first drafter, but my rewrites and editing take forever.

There are also challenges and competitions just for illustrators. Inktober by Jake Parker is every October and SCBWI has a monthly prompt called Draw This! for members. SVS Learn has monthly prompts at Critique Arena with personal critiques by Jake Parker, Will Terry and Steve Light. It’s a lot of fun to join in and have fun with other creative people.

I encourage you to participate:,,,

St. Louis Magazine Online Feature Story.

Dayne Sislen children's book IllustratorI must be the luckiest person alive. Just last week Jen Roberts,  a writer for St. Louis Magazine emailed to ask if she could interview me. I don’t know how she got my name. Life is full of surprises. She interviewed me on Monday and today the article was live online.

You can read it here. I am very pleased. Thank you Jen Roberts and St. Louis Magazine. Sometimes I feel like I work each day illustrating quietly in my studio and no one notices. It’s nice know someone cares. I love to talk about and share stories about my fun career.

Just in time for “Talk Like a Pirate Day”

Ahoy, me hearties! Blimey, I had to batten down me hatches to do this wee Sea Dog lad just for fun. Just a wee loose sketch, No time t’waste this fine day to color it in. I love Talk Like a Pirate Day! PIrate_Day

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.

Black and white illustration for Tom Sawyer.

Dayne Sislen IllustrationI’m a bit late showing my entry to the Tomie dePaola Illustration competition for 2013. Here is a link to all the entries for 2013. The winner was Sandra Ure Griffin for her wonderful illustration for the Yearling.  All illustrations for 2013 had to be in black and white and greys. I love to use color, so this was hard for me. There were 300 illustrations entered this year.

I decided to illustrate a scene from Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, a book I had not read since grade school. I loved reading it again and chose part of the scene in the cave with Tom and Becky as my inspiration. I wanted to keep it as simple and dramatic as possible in black and white with very little grey.