Illustration Friday: Smoke

Inspired by my son's Halloween costume, I came up with a SMokin' Mad Scientist. This was done quickly in Painter...the sketch and all. I don't like the pencil line's texture. I need to find a better tool for the line work if I'm going to sketch in Painter. But I also just need more practice in it overall. Thanks to illustration friday...I'm getting some more time in the program.
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Halloween portraits

Last Halloween, my photographer husband Rhett began the tradition of taking free halloween portraits for any neighbor or friend etc. who stopped by. This year, I got to design the set. So, I got out the cardboard and cut out a fence and tombstones and quickly painted them. I also stopped by an empty field and picked up a dead tree branch. The leaves were still attached and had the odd appearance of being blown in the wind. A black backdrop, brown tarp, and a paper moon later, we had the set. Here's a photo of my mad scientist son doing a test shot for my husband. It was fun.
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Illustration Friday: Ghost

I did this sketch in my sketchbook while waiting for my son's wrestling practice to end. Being in the school, seeing stinky booger picking boys made me think back to those tissue ghosts my school teacher used to hang from the ceiling. Here's what a little monster decided to do with one. At least she's using the tissue for it's real purpose.
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Illustration Friday: Smitten

This is a sketch from my sketchbook colored in photoshop. Young love...smitten. You'll have to imagine your own pimple-faced boy she's thinking of. Or maybe Guy Francis can draw one up. Guy?
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Here's a sketch I did while my daughter was in the hospital. I finally scanned it and decided to try out the digital painting thing. I need some practice. I used Corel Painter. (watercolor settings) I also did a few assignments for Harcourt this way that turned out better than this but b/c of copyright, I can't show them yet. Any technique tips for Corel painter or painting digitally? I still like the old fashioned brush and paper better.
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Illustration Fridays: Farm and Safe

Last week I didn't get a chance to post. So I'm doing 2 posts in one entry.

I finally broke down and got a wacom tablet this week. I know, you're saying "WHAT?! HOW DID YOU SURVIVE?" Well, let me say I got very adept with a mouse. I feel much less so amazingly with the wacom pen. But, practice makes perfect, right? Any tips for a beginner? Here's my first sketch with the tablet. It's for last week's

And to go along with the topic this week. Here are a few farm scenes from my book "Already Asleep" available online now, in stores October 2006. The first is the dedication page and the second is the final full scene before the last page (when nearly everyone, but the mom, is asleep). These are sketched, scanned, printed on watercolor paper, painted with watercolors, and lined in pen. This is my usual process now. The night scene was trickey as they often are. But I think it turned out well.

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Illustration Friday: Run

I really wanted to get one of my gopher pictures done for this but I have a deadline this week that snuck up on me. And the worst of it is that I started doing the final painting on illustrations that aren't even due yet thinking those were the ones due tomorrow. So, while I wait for the paint to dry on a spot for Highlights magazine, I thought I'd post this.

This is a spot illustration of zack running from the Already Asleep book. (Click on cover on the left bar). I got my advance copies of the book and it can be ordered from the publisher. It'll be available in bookstores in another month. The color matching turned out GREAT in the book. I was glad for that. You never know.
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Groundhog Day

I'm working on writing my own story (as well as illustrating of course). The main character is a groundhog. I just finished the text this morning (my favorite draft so far) but I'm sure it could still use some tweaking. This Saturday I'll be going to a little picturebook workshop with some writer friends of mine and hopefully I'll get some more tips to make it better. Here are the character sketches of the groundhog. (He gets and itch he can't get rid of)

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Illustration Friday: Sklyline (what?)

So being overwhelmed with family reunions, my dad in and out of the hospital and tight illustration deadlines, I've not been a good blogger. I probably could be more creative on this one, but instead I decided to address the issue of handling a skyline itself. I did this color proof for an editor this week for a Harcourt "Big Book" (those huge 20 inch high books for classrooms so all the kids can see it books). The best thing to do with a skyline is to keep it simple and faded. It's far away so make it look that way. This one actually fades for the text in obvious spots as well...but ignore that.

I've also included some sketches that aren't skylines, but deal with the same idea...silohetting the overall shape against the background. This is for a small 5th grade reading book for Harcourt as well.
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Illustration Friday: Jungle

To me, the worst "jungle" can be Middle School or Junior High! This depicts why. Fortunately I didn't have as horrible of an experience as some do. (yes this is a piece not specifically done for this week but if you read my lst post, you'll know why I didn't get to painting a new piece this week.)
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Flat on my back -- But updated webpage

Well, it's been an interesting 24 hours for me. Last night I bent down to pick up a piece of paper and my back went out on me. I couldn't move to standing or anything else. I dropped to my hands and knees keeping my back in the same bent position and scooted to the phone on my desk to call for help. After some muscle relaxer pills and advil, I could crawl up the stairs to bed. This morning I went to see an orthopedist/sports therapist. Apparently one of my vertebrae had popped out and was locked in the bent spine position. Also, my right pelvis was severely tilted out of place. Who knows what happened! I'm only 29 but this sure made me feel like 80. After the doctor visit, being popped back into place, and some prayers on my behalf, I can slowly walk upright now and function without excruciating pain. They say it'll be a week or two until I'm back to normal...this should make painting the 16 pages for the Harcourt "Big Book" interesting. Fun, Fun!

The real reason for the post is that I've updated my webpage with more recent info, links and art. Check it out at And here are 2 pieces of art from a recently finished chapter book for Harcourt called "The Adventures of Ordinary Girl".
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Got the Proof - BUY THE BOOK

So, I saw the final color proof of the "Already Asleep" book. They are pretty close to the originals. I don't know of any that match the originals exactly 100%...have any of you had your books match your originals completely in every aspect? It's just the way it goes. Watercolor is always hard for the scanners to pick up all the gradations too. But I'm pleased with the turnout. Now, I just hope it all looks good trimmed and bound. It's scheduled to be on bookshelves in October but available from the publisher sooner if you go to Now, off to paint a "big book" for Harcourt. Sketch approvals/changes came back last week. Pleased to say there weren't a ton of changes.
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Illustration Friday: Portrait

This is drawn from a picture of my oldest exactly (nearly 8 now) when he was 11 months old. He was so cute.

I used black and white prismacolor pencils on beige canson paper.I love toned paper.
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Illustration Friday: Cake

Wow...a month has gone by. I'm definitely seeing myself as a fair-weather blogger. My basement is now completely finished and illustration jobs are still going well. I thought I'd finally take a moment and at least post a sketch for this week's topic. It hearkens to that fateful cake exchange between bride and groom at wedding receptions. I just attended one on Saturday night (an old college illustration friend). But they refrained from the smash even though we were all chanting for it. I threatened my own husband if he were to smash cake on me at our reception. He refrained. Now I wish I would've loosened up. So here's how I WOULD'VE been had he not refrained.
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Illustration Friday: Spotted

I'm in the beginnings of working through the design of a new PB character...a groundhog. I've written a manuscript and want to get a dummy put together. So I thought I'd continue in that vein and use the character in this week's post. Nothin' fancy...
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Illustration Friday: Speed

So I'm a little late on this. But hey, I got all the reader sketches finished, the finals for one finished and the finals for another reader finished. Plus, I caulked and painted our whole basement we're finishing. Now we just need to do the laminate floors in the offices and the tile in the bathroom. Anyway, that doesn't have anything to do with illustration but has everything to do with why I've been a posting slacker.
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Turning down jobs?

So, for the first time in my illustration career, I had to turn down a job offer I actually WANTED to do. The money would've been good to add to the income, but I just couldn't fit it in. I just am too busy working on other illustration jobs at the moment. I've turned down a few before but those were ones I just wasn't interested in. I hope this is a sign that I'm starting to actually "make it" as an illustrator. It's kind of exciting for me.

I got the comments back on my "One Clean House" reader. Just so you know, when you work for the educational market, you often have many people to please as far as the art goes...kind of "art by committee." It's just one of the slight downsides to educational work. However, it's no big deal (click the picture to read comments)

Here's one of the 16 sketches for another reader I'm working on called "My Saturday Cat." I had to draw lots of kittens throughout (and wheelchairs...worse than drawing bikes)!

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Educational Reader #1 Finished

Well, I finished the first educational reader on my list of 4 to illustrate. Now, just 3 more for Harcourt Educational Division. This one was for another publisher. Anyway, I thought I'd post a couple of the final illos. If you couldn't figure it out...this is a reader to be used in the math classes.
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Janet Steven's Visit

Sorry to any of you who've been expecting posts. I've been living in a whirlwind this past month. Every spare minute is spent on illustrating and finishing our basement. I need my art desk OUT of my bedroom. It's chaos.

This week I had the opportunity of hosting Janet Stevens (Caldecott honor medal winner) at a Children's Literature conference at UVSC in Orem, UT. I had a great time getting to know her. She is HILARIOUS, fun, energetic and SOOOOOO talented. She was an inspiration to all who heard her. I snuck her away from the hectic conference for a few hours and we shared a wonderful lunch at Sundance Resort just up the canyon. I loved hearing about her story writing and illustrating process and was even inspired enough to come up with an idea on the way home from the airport. Now I just need to get started on it.
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Educational Readers

Well, I finished all 32 or so sketches for the 2 educational readers I'm illustrating and I got them emailed off so I'm waiting for client approval. One is for Harcourt and the agent on that one called me this morning saying she liked the sketches and wants me to do another reader for 1st grade. Yea! Here are 2 from each book.
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Illustration Friday: simple

It's a good thing this was the topic for the week...too bad I didn't post til today. Here's something simple, drawn, scanned, and filled in with photoshop. My kids are better but I'm now hurridly trying to finish sketches for 2 educational readers due Tuesday morning. one is to go (about 16 illustrations).
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Illustration Friday: Chair

Here's the final illo in color and changed a bit from the sketch. I made her hair frazzled (straw included) and put other things from her day by her on the floor. So, she plopped down and says "GOODNIGHT!" (for goodness sake). And look, it has a chair. And guess what....I'M FINISHED illustrating the book! I just need to get it all scanned in and packaged up. My oldest son is recovering well from the strep throat but now my poor 2 year old has a fever. The doctors say it's not strep and not an ear infection, probably just a virus. But the poor thing has a fever of 103 and isn't too comfortable. She's napping at the moment. Maybe I should go take a nap as well. Whew!
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Work, Work, Work

Well, life is busy here. My oldest son woke up at 4am screaming about his throat hurting and burning up with fever. Yup, strep throat. We are also in the process of finishing our basement where my studio will be. AND I'm trying to finish the "Already Asleep" picture book and just accepted 3 more jobs: workbook illustrations, and 2 educational readers (16 page books). I decided to change the last page of the book to include the mom instead of just the cat and mouse. Here's the sketch...what do you think? The text reads "Goodnight!" she's finally getting to sleep after a long day of being a mom.
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Illustration Friday: Glamour

I've been very busy finishing the Already Asleep book...2 more illustrations left to paint. This is a spot from the interior which reads..."A day of dolls, dresses, tulips and treats. That's why Bess is already asleep."

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Hosting a winner!

I had the marvelous opportunity of hosting Caldecott Award winner, Eric Rohmann this weekend at a conference. He wrote and illustrated My Friend Rabbit, Time Flies, The Cinder-Eyed Cats, Pumpkinhead, and Clara and Asha. His work is inspiring, creative, dynamic, beautifully crafted and ever-evolving. As a person, he is very friendly, kind, charismatic and generous. He was always ready to give advice when solicited, offer insights and any help to aspiring illustrators and writers alike. Below is my little sketch of him as he answered questions in a breakout session and a picture of him and I in our writer friend's (Rick Walton's) office. I learned so much from him from the moment I picked him up from the airport, to clicking the button on his slideshow presentation, to chatting at Starbucks, to saying goodbye to him and his wonderful writer friend,Candace Flemming at the airport. Thank you, Eric. By the way, if any of you meet him, be sure have him tell you about the pussy willow incident.

I did get to meet, but didn't get to quite rub shoulders with another WONDERFUL writer you all should know...Katherine Patterson (Newbery Award winner). Her keynote speech at the conference was inspiring. She spoke of beauty being achieved through truth. She said beauty has 3 elements...Simplicity, Harmony, and Brilliance. You could just feel her wonderful spirit emanate from her as she spoke. What a wonderful lady...friendly, kind and full of life.
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Illustration Friday: Cats

Everyday, my 2 year old comes to me with her mini-Magna Doodle and wants me to draw her a kitty. Here's today's kitty. Give me a break...the drawing surface is about 3 inches or so wide so there isn't much detail.

The painted illustration is from a post I posted a week ago...I guess I should've waited for the topic. Anyway, I'm reposting it under illustration Friday. Sorry for the repeat to anyone who's been here before. (That's why I added the Magna Doodle)

Here is the final page of the "Already Asleep" book, the words of which say, "goodnight." All that cat and mouse game playing and look where they end up.
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When I grow up

I just thought I'd share this with all of you.

My mother was going through old boxes and found a newspaper article she'd saved about me (when I was in fourth grade). I had been nominated to be the Evansville Courier (local paper) "All-Star Student." I can't believe that when I was only nine years old I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up...and I'm doing it. How lucky am I? Just in case you can't read the text in the article, this is what it says.

Julie (blanked out maiden name) is a cooperative and dependable student who excels in all subjects. Julie, who will be a fifth-grader next fall at Highland Elementary School, does especially well in art. "I would like to be an artist when I grow up," she said. "I like to spend a lot of time drawing pitures." Julie's teachers say she also is a talented writer who enjoys working with her classmates. She is a member of the school choir and plays the flute. [it was actually one of those Recorder Flute things] One of Julie's favorite pastimes is catching lightning bugs in the backyard. Julie is the sixth of nine children of Karen and James [blanked out last name]. "I like being in a big family," Julie said, "but sometimes I don't like having so many brothers (six)."
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Belly in the Mud

Here's the double page spread for "my pig Lynn" from the Already Asleep book. Any critiques? I think we need more of those honest critiques on these blogs. So how about it?
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Illustration Friday: "E" is for...

"E" is for Entomologist. My cousin's husband is an entomologist. So in tribute to him...maybe little John here will grow up to be one too. Although, which of us didn't put a few bugs in jars. (This is another illustration completed for "Already Asleep.")
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Finding the time

So there was a comment posted to my cat picture below asking how I find the time to illustrate and raise 3 kids (7 and under). Let me tell you...this week it's been hard. 2 of the 3 came down with colds and ear infections and ultimately RSV. On top of that, my husband has been at a conference for 3 days during this. I usually work during naps and at night after 8pm. I'm up late and up early. I also find time when they are playing happily. My 4 year old and 7 year old play pretty well by themselves, with friends or together. But my youngest just turned 2 and is getting into that notorious terrible 2 stage. She likes to get into things. Most of the time she's in my "office" (currently my bedroom while the basement is being finished) while I'm working...even on my lap at times. I give her a dry brush and an old painting and she thinks she's painting. It's definitely not easy, but somehow I find time and keep it all going. I think I have a little help from above most days and luckily my husband isn't gone ALL the time. He's a big help at times too. So, for all those illustrators with kids at their heels...kudos. And go read them a book (but don't forget to point out the pictures).
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Double Page Spreads

After completing all the spots for the Already Asleep book, I've been working on the double page spreads. On every one I've put a cat and mouse playing "cat and mouse." In this one, I've put things from the preceeding spot illos in the double page spread b/c that is what little John has done all day to make him so tired...balls, bugs, trucks and trees. In each double page spread I've also put the mom (who is never mentioned in the story) working and cleaning up after the busy day everyone has had...but you never see her face. Isn't that how motherhood is...the silent partner in all the busy goings on of the day? Moms do so much and it's just expected. But it's all worth it. I hate the mundane tasks of being COO (cheif operating officer) of the household, but I'm proud of the way my family turns out as a result of it.
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Illustration Friday: Sea (of people)

I was trying to think of a non-traditional way to look at the word "sea." The only thing I could come up with was the phrase "sea of people." Being a somewhat vertically challenged person myself (only 5'1"), I've always had a slight phobia of being in large pushing crowds. (I had a little crushing incident in 5th grade when I went to see the US President speak at a stadium and they let the balloons go...everyone just HAD to get one...beginning of my phobia?) So, this is just illustrates that slight fear. Um, I'll shut up now b/c that's probably more than you all needed to know. Just look at the picture 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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