The Three Amigos

Carol Lynch Williams, Cheri Earl and Rick Walton...the true "Three Amigos." While they are also friends of mine, they are most importantly friends of each other. For 30 years these three have stuck by each other's sides through everything. They are a wonderful example of what friendship should be.

So who other than Carol and Cheri could speak so truly of Rick at his funeral today. Their words made us laugh, made us cry and made us grateful to have been part of Rick's life in some way or another.

I know there were many people who were unable to attend today. But I think anyone who knew Rick, would absolutely love this tribute to him. Sorry for the poor quality. It was just a quick feeling I had that I should record their words so I hit record in a voice memo on my iphone.

So here it is...

If you cannot see the audio controls or if they don't work, your browser does not support the audio element (I know Safari works but Chrome doesn't)

Thank you, Carol and Cheri...and of course Rick.

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Til We Meet Again, Rick Walton.

Today was a hard day. A beautiful day. A spiritual day. But a hard day. 

Today I attended the funeral of a long-time friend and co-creator. It was beautiful. It was spiritual. It was hard.

I first met Rick at a Children’s Lit Conference at UVU in 2000 while I was working on illustrating my first picture book. Brad Wilcox was the lecturer of a session and the author of the book I was illustrating for Gibbs Smith Publishing. Brad and I had become friends in the process and he asked me to come co-present with him at this conference. After the session was over, Brad told me I should go introduce myself to Rick Walton in the back of the room because he someone who was very prominent, prolific, helpful and experienced in the Children’s Literature community.  
A smattering of Rick's many many books. There were tables and tables full at the funeral services.
Brad pointed to a man in the back row and I made my way to meet him. As I approached, I looked at the man and said, “Hello, Rick. I’m Julie Olson, a new children’s book illustrator.” The man NEXT to him, with a Beatles haircut, raised his pointer finger and said, “Hello. I’m Rick Walton. Tell me a little more about what you’re working on.”

Ever since that first embarrassing mistake, which Rick never mentioned or even joked about, this pillar of the children’s literature community humbly taught me the ropes and helped me dive right in. I think it was at that same conference, I met Carol Lynch Williams... and not long after, the three of us were in the thick of planning a conference, one we worked on monthly and put on annually for nearly ten years thereafter. 

Through all those years and planning sessions and countless meetings, Rick taught me so much about being kind, looking for the good in people, and finding a way to work things out peacefully when opinions differed. Carol and I would sometimes murmur and mutter and growl about this or that concerning the conference planning. But Rick was ever the peacemaker, trying to find a way to work within the university’s regulations AND make it the best possible experience for the attendees. 

A year or so into our friendship, I was contacted by a publisher and asked to illustrate one of Rick’s manuscripts. I readily accepted the job as Rick’s manuscript was like all his others…witty, intelligent, absurd and funny. Along the way, I showed him my sketches, which doesn’t usually happen between an author and an illustrator because the publishers don’t want any drama over the art from the author. But Rick being Rick, would never create drama. He was completely positive, kind and actually excited to see the process unfold from my end. A while later, “Herd of Cows, Flock of Sheep” was born into the book world and I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to illustrate the creative words of this man. 
Our book on the table with all his others today
Back in 2014, we authors had a little night to honor Rick, which author Shannon Hale emceed (in her hilarious fashion) in Amy Finnegan’s gorgeous backyard. 
Shannon Hale starting off the evening. (Hey, Carol Lynch Williams and Cheri Earl...Look at this...documented proof that Rick, the idea man, actually did have a dais) 
My comments to Rick weren’t funny or witty, because I definitely am not those things, but I was able to gift him an original painting from that book we created years earlier. Rick was beyond grateful for it and I only wish I had thought to give it to him sooner.  
The original painting of my favorite illustration in Rick's "Heard of Cows, Flock of Sheep" book
Back in 2007, I put his name on the spine of a book in one of my illustrations in “There’s Always a Way, Annie McRae!” (with Carol’s name on the book right under it) as a small token of my respect and my wish to honor such a great writer and influence in my life. But that, nor words, nor pictures can ever adequately express the influence Rick had on my life and so many others.

And now, many years,
many conferences... 
many dinners...
and many friendly visits later...

I am so sad to have to say goodbye to my friend, Rick Walton. He literally and figuratively has held my hand and the hands of many others in this children’s publishing industry. He paid it all forward every day of his life and taught us all to do the same. He wasn’t in competition with any of us. He only wanted to help us each become better.

I want to be better because of Rick. A better writer. A better creator... A better person. 

Til we meet again, Rick. Much love. —Julie Olson

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Radio Interview

A while back I was asked to do a radio interview at a local university broadcasting station... #byuradio

I had a great time and spent about an hour answering all sorts of questions about my career and process as an author/illustrator. The host was kind and I was even able to refrain from saying "um" between every sentence. They then put my interview, another author's interview and a fun poem into one episode for their weekly program called "Worlds Awaiting."

Worlds Awaiting

A weekly program for grownups who care about children, with topics that will help the rising generation discover literature and experience the world around them. Hosted by children's literature expert, Rachel Wadham, Education and Juvenile Literature Librarian at the BYU Library. Guests include authors, experts, teachers and parents. New episodes Saturdays at 1:30 pm Eastern.

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More Valentines - Greeting Card Style

Sometimes you actually give a valentine to an adult, right? So this year I'm including my bunny valentines in a more adult friendly format...Greeting Card Style.

Click on the link below the image to download the pdf printable file for free. But please please please only use for personal use. Do not resell or repurpose in any format. Do not digitally alter the art.


Click HERE for red pdf. Click HERE for pink pdf. Click HERE for blue pdf.

If you still need valentines for your kiddos, click on the PRINTABLES tab above for valentines from years past or go to my previous post for the kid sized bunny valentines.

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Valentines Day Cards

As promised, here are the kids valentines day card free printables for this year. I kept with one character that I've developed and fallen in love with. I hope you do too.

Just click on the link below the image and it will take you to a pdf file. Then print on 8.5x11 cardstock, cut and pass out to all your little one's loved ones.

If you don't find these to your liking, click on the PRINTABLES  tab above and scroll all the way down for valentines from years past.

Please do not redistribute or resell these in any form. These are for personal use only. Do not digitally alter the image in any way.
 Bunny Loves You Valentines
click HERE for the pdf file

click HERE for the pdf file

click HERE for the pdf file 

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Happy New Year and Happy New Books

Of course the holiday season is busy for everyone, myself included. Besides the normal hustle and bustle, I had quite a few Christmas gift commissions to complete and mail off. Here are a few examples....
Parade Portrait of an entire family...7 people

Empire State Bldg commission

An entire 16 page picture book commissioned for a guy to propose to his sweetheart

several mini watercolors for Thanksgiving and Christmas

Another parade portrait of 4 kids
After all these I took the week of Christmas off to spend time with my own family. It was wonderful. However, as the new year has begun, I've come down with some sickness I can't shake and am feeling quite miserable. Honestly it's only been 3 1/2 days now of being sick, but as a mom and a working illustrator, I don't have time for it. My brain is in a fever fog and has nothing creative to produce.

But on a more positive note, I received a box of my author copies of two volumes (out of four) of the Princess Twins Books I illustrated for Harpercollins/Zondervan. They sent paperbacks and hardcover. It made me smile through my sickness today. These two volumes are available now online and in stores. Finding them on Amazon is tricky but possible, click on the softcover link and you'll see an option for hardcover too if that's what you'd like (try this link amazon Princess Twins), but they are all here in one place on the publisher's site... Harper Collins / Zondervan Princess Twins

Princess Twins and the Puppy is about two little girls, Abby and Emma, learn about God's added strength and love for them when they lose their puppy and pray for help and courage to find it.

Princess Twins Play in the Garden shows through a cute story that we don't need to be worried about appearances and will be much more happy if we concern ourselves with others instead.

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I'm a freelance illustrator working in the children's book industry. I love kids and raising my own 4 children. They are the inspiration and the passion behind all I do in art and in life. See my website at

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