Monday, December 13, 2010

Cast Your Vote

I'm working on an easy reader called "Otto and Cleo," and I'm at the character development stage. I can't decide which style I prefer, the dot eyes or the more expressive eyes. I'd appreciate any opinions!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Adventures with Esme

It's fun to develop a story through pictures.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Aunt Esme and Me

Here's something just for fun. I've been sketching these characters, developing a fuzzy story as I go.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Importance of Letting Things Settle

I'm still riding high after attending the SCBWI Prairie Writer's Day last weekend, where I met so many inspiring editors, authors, and agents. I came home totally enthused about sprucing up my book dummy for a story I first wrote a couple years ago. Katherine Jacobs, editor at Roaring Brook Press, gave a talk about pacing, and that got me thinking about revising the page turns in my book to build suspense. I was happy with my manuscript, but not with the book dummy, so I tore it apart and started over again, with almost all new illustrations. Having not picked up this project in a while, I had lots of fresh enthusiasm and am really happy with the way things turned out. This is an example of a page that I radically changed, for the better, I think.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Sketchbook Project - A Start

It was two months ago exactly that I received my sketchbook in the mail for The Sketchbook Project, and now I've finally started! I heard about it from another illustrator and it sounded like fun, so I jumped on board. I chose "In Five Minutes . . . " from the list of themes offered, and then I decided to get some kids involved.

My sister teaches first grade, and I'd been wanting an excuse to visit her class, so I decided the sketchbook was my ticket in. Not only is it good research for me to hang out with little people, it's good for my soul too. They're so funny, so generous, so creative. When I told them I needed ideas to fill my sketchbook and asked if they'd help, they were jumping-out-of-their-skin eager to assist.

As it turns out, my chosen theme was probably not the best for this group, since at this age, time is still pretty irrelevant. They live in the moment, which is one of the things I love about kids. (My sister the teacher can tell you there's a downside to that too.) So I decided to jazz it up a little and ask them to brainstorm what they would do if they could have any superpower of their choice for just five minutes. The kids drew and wrote their ideas, and I'm going to steal freely from them. I am the undead illustrator, swooping in to suck the creative juices from unsuspecting fresh young things.

I'm resisting the urge to plan out the sketchbook in advance, because I want this project to be my "free play" time, an antidote to the creative burnout that sometimes comes from drawing on command. I'm just going to pick it up whenever I have spare time and see what comes to me. So far, I've painted the cover and endpages to reflect the superpower idea. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, keep that garlic away from me.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project: 2011
I've got my sketchbook and I have a plan! All I'll say for now is it involves 27 first graders. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to School!

It's that time of year again! Time to meet the new teacher and, hopefully, make new friends! (Click on the image for a larger view.) Good luck to my two sons for another great year. I volunteered at the middle school this morning, helping the sixth graders open their lockers and find their classrooms. It's a big adjustment to a much bigger school, and the passing periods are a zoo! Most of the kids were fine, but a few seemed a little panicky when they couldn't get their lockers open. I did my best to reassure them that they'd get the hang of it in time. I know to a mom of preschoolers, sixth graders look gigantic, but to me, they look so little! It's all relative, I guess.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oh, Baby

I reeeally love drawing babies: their round little bodies, big heads, and dimpled hands. My kids say I have baby radar and can spot any baby within a 100 foot radius.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Welcome, Little One

Congratulations to my lovely agent Nicole Tugeau on the newest member of her family.

"If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle." - Vincent van Gogh

Thursday, July 15, 2010

From the Sketchbook

I drew these at my son's baseball game last night. The good guys were doing alright until one especially painful inning. They ended up losing 14-2, but we'll get 'em next time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


It's fairly common for kids to have obsessions, and for my youngest son, it used to be turtles. He still likes them very much, though there are many competing interests now. When he was younger, our whole family learned a lot about turtles through osmosis, since turtle facts had a way of popping up in the boy's conversations. Sea turtles are especially fascinating, the way the babies overcome ridiculous odds to crawl out of their sandy nests, migrate over a thousand miles, and spend 50 years maturing before they can lay their own eggs.

But now, in addition to the natural predators in the wild, five of the world's seven sea turtles are threatened by the BP oil spill. I've been kind of sheltering my son from pictures of the disaster, because I don't want him to feel what I feel when I look at a brown pelican so weighted down by thick, gooey oil that it can't lift it's head. I feel my own head hang from the weight of despair, rage, frustration, and helplessness.

Illustrator Kelly Light felt the same way, which is why she set up ripple. In her words, "A small sketch - a small donation - each small act helps. Together we can cause a ripple in the oil soaked waters of the Gulf." Artists from all over the world contribute a small sketch. For a $10 donation to help the animal victims of the oil spill, you can have one of the sketches. I purchased this beautiful portrait of a sea turtle for my son. It was created by Carmen Yount, from Spokane, WA.

So check it out. Make a ripple.

Friday, June 4, 2010

You thought we wouldn't notice . . .

The internet is a wild and wonderful thing, but as everyone knows, it has a dark side. That's why it's good to have friends to watch yer back. Fellow illustrator and PBAA member Maurie J. Manning got the support she needed when she found herself going up against an unethical website that was ripping off her ideas for digital stamp designs. Mo went for help to a wonderful blog that every artist on the internet should know about called You thought we wouldn't notice . . . and pleaded her case. Although the offenders originally went on the attack, the pressure and condemnation directed at them from visitors to the YTWWN blog seems to have convinced them to back down. It's hard enough making a living as a freelance illustrator without people ripping off your art. (Incidentally, Mo is an amazing illustrator, and if you'd like to see more of her art, check it out here.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Fruits of Our Trees

Thanks so much to everyone who showed up Friday night. The silent auction was a big success, bringing in $1,420 for the Art Creation Foundation for Children in Haiti. Every piece sold and a good time was had by all! You can see pictures of the event here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tonight's the Night!

Our illustrators' group is having a silent auction of our Tree of Life art to benefit the Art Creation Foundation for Children in Jacmel, Haiti. You can see the whole beautiful forest here. The show starts tonight as part of the Oak Park Art District's "What's Blooming" art show. There's lots to do and see and hear, which you can read all about here. The silent auction concludes on Saturday at 6:00, so c'mon down and make a bid! If you can't make it to the show, phone bids are accepted at 708-848-4062, toll free 1-888-269-0693 during auction hours.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Tree of Life

Here is my Tree of Life, painted for the show to benefit Haitian children (see previous post). I had a lot of fun doing it, playing with design and symmetry. Go ahead and click on it for a larger view. If you like it, c'mon down to Ridge Art on May 21 or 22 to make a bid!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Save the Date!

This is so exciting! Our illustrators' group is having a show to benefit a wonderful group called the Art Creation Foundation for Children in Jacmel, Haiti. Click on the image for details. This is a great chance to purchase some beautiful art for a beautiful cause!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

This may sound weird, but I love my clothesline. It gives me an excuse to go outside and enjoy the sunshine and birdsong while still feeling productive. And sometimes the five (yes five) little kids who live next door come to the fence and visit with me. Other times I just get to eavesdrop on them playing at the swing set. And then there's all that other good stuff about saving money, helping the planet, and the fresh smell of clothes from the clothesline. Yup, I love my clothesline.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Easter!

We had our annual egg dying party last weekend. Always a good time. A couple things I've learned: food coloring works way better than those little tablets, but you have to use more than suggested on the box for really vivid colors, and the dyes wear out after a few eggs. Which means I'm always busy mixing new dye.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Keys to Color

Color is an area where I've always felt a bit insecure. Many's the time I've sat with my paint brush hovering over my palette, paralyzed with indecision. But I recently stumbled on a very helpful color lesson from children's illustrator Mark Mitchell. You can find his free lesson here. I look forward to playing with the things I learned from Mark, and maybe I'll post some of those experiments here! (If they're successful, that is.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tribute to Tibor Gergely

The other day I stopped in a used book store called Top Shelf and picked up a book called "Wheel on the Chimney." I was intrigued by the title, and when I saw it was by uber author Margaret Wise Brown, I was even more curious, though the cover art was pretty dull and unpromising. Then I opened it up and saw this spread. (click on it for a larger view.) "I'll take it," I said. The book tells the story of bird migration through a family of storks, with bold, colorful illustrations. When I got home and googled the book, I discovered it was a Caldecott Honor book in 1955. Then I googled the illustrator, Tibor Gergely (pronounced gare gay.) (I know, I was wishing it was pronounced "gurgully" too.) Turns out that aside from six months studying art in Vienna, Gergely was a self-taught artist. Born in Hungary, he fled the Nazis during WWII and came to New York, where he found great success illustrating many classic Golden Books. You can see more of his wonderful art here.

Hooray for self-taught artists! Hooray for used book stores!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Be Still My Heart!

Happy Valentines Day! May you share a sweet treat with someone who sets your heart all a flutter.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Here's another little something from a beginning reader, this one called "At Night." It's a tale of revenge, believe it or not.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


This is for a beginning reader story called "Bad Witch." I've discovered that I like drawing frogs.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Return to the Sketch book

I'm trying to get back into daily sketching. Any stationary family member is a viable subject, and they know it. They see me coming and think, "uh oh." Actually, they're all pretty supportive (and very honest with their opinions, i.e. "you made my nose too big"). By the way, if you're looking for inspiration to sketch, pick up a copy of Danny Gregory's book, "The Creative License."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy New Year!

OK, I'm a little late with this, but I'm still getting up to speed after a very relaxing holiday break. I'm very grateful to be starting the new year with a few projects from educational and religious publishers to keep me busy and pay a few bills. This illustration comes from an early reader, and it illustrates the word "LOUD!" I hope to make more noise in the publishing world this year, starting with a new website that I hope to get up and running soon. Up until this point, my main "web presence" has been on, but that site was attacked my hackers and has been down since November! Isn't that strange? I can't figure out why, of all the websites out there, a hacker would choose this one to attack. Anyway, this incident has given me incentive to finally create a website of my own. I'll let you know when it's ready to launch! Meanwhile, wishing you all a happy, healthy 2010!