Calendars- A Little Gift for You! (March)

This is a little late (should've been posted at the beginning of the month), but I decided to make available (month by month) these little calendars I made for my mom last Mother's Day.  They are 4x6 size and easily printed on the little pre-packaged 4x6 photo paper for home printers. My mom displayed them on a miniature easel on her hutch. But they can be placed in a cute little frame or simply on the fridge. You can even print them on a larger piece of paper, embellish with a bow and use as the front of a card you write to a friend.

If you would like the entire year printed as a pack you can buy for a gift for Mother's Day in May, I will soon be posting a link to that.

I'll try to post the next month's calendar on the last day of each month. So watch for April's Calendar on the last day of March.  Enjoy!

You are welcome to print the calendars out each month and use them for home or school use. Please do not resell these in any form or print for mass distribution.
may be printed for personal use only

Read more »

Conference (Fellowship Opportunity for you)

I just got finished helping with the "Writing for Charity" conference in Provo, UT. It was an amazing event. I started out on an author panel with 25 of our local authors...Shannon Hale & Brandon Sanderson included (we have an AMAZING pool of talent here in Utah). Then we each took a small group of attendees and spent the next 2 hours critiquing their work. We ate lunch and finished up the day with a few breakout sessions taught by the authors. I was on a picture book panel. It's amazing to be a part of something like this once a year. We all donate our time and talents to the conference and all the proceeds from registrations and a silent auction go to getting books in the hands of under-privileged kids.

Now that conference is over. I'm switching gears and preparing for a very intense, highly productive, awesome event I think you all should know about. Even if you don't live in Utah, you'd be hard pressed to find a better conference make the journey. Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers, a conference begun by professional writers 13 years ago, was created to really take writers and illustrators to the next level...publication. I've assisted with this conference off and on and this year will be the illustration faculty member. Honestly, I've attended, helped run, and presented at various conferences over the years, but this is the best conference I've ever seen. Writers get 5 days of invaluable instruction and critiques and illustrators get 3 (for a cheaper price of course). You can choose afternoon sessions only  or reap the full benefit by attending morning classes as well.

This year, for the first time, the conference organizers are offering a Writing Competition & Fellowship Award. The award is $1000 (which would pay for your conference registration more than twice). Find out more about it HERE.

You can click on the penguin button at the right side of the blog to read more about the conference itself.
Read more »

How to make a Picture Book

A couple of years ago I did a series of posts on the steps to create a picture book...kind of a "how-to" consolidated guide. I've combined all those posts into one printable pdf file just for all of you.

It explains the process in 4 phases: Initial Idea, Drafts, Creation, Submission. I hope it helps.
In addition, I posted 10 tips for Illustrating Picture books about a month ago. You can now download that PDF as well...HERE.
Read more »

New Bookmarks Ordered

I put an order in to Overnight Prints for some new bookmarks today to hand out at upcoming conferences and signings. I love handing out bookmarks and passing on my love of reading, books, and art. Here's a peak at the 2 front designs and the back information (the same on both).
please do not print or republish these in any format...I'd love to give you a nice glossy bookmark for free...just come to a signing, conference, or even email me
all images copyright 2012 Julie Olson

Read more »

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers

I am teaching an intensive 3 day illustration workshop at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference in Sandy, UT June 18-20th this year. If you have always wanted to illustrate books but don't know how to start, this is for you. If you are just starting out in the sea of illustrators vying for book jobs, this is for you. I've attended this conference several times in the past as an afternoon presenter. This year I was asked to teach the morning workshop for illustrators.

I've been illustrating books since 1998. I spent the first 10 years of my career working without an agent. I then decided to sign with an agent. I know the pros and cons of both. I don't have any magic success, overnight sensation stories of my own to share. But I can give you the real most of the illustrators in this market strive hard to make it.  I've learned A LOT in the past 14 years and I hope to share what I've learned with you. If you or someone you know is interested, send a link to this page or the attached flyer on to them.

Hope to see you there!

Read more »

Meet Sarah, of Sarah Jane Studios

A few years ago, when I was very very pregnant with my 4th baby, I had the opportunity to assist at a writing and illustrating conference. I was helping in an intensive 5 day illustration workshop filled with 15 attendees. One of those talented participants was Sarah Jane Wright, of Sarah Jane Studios. She had been running an etsy shop filled with BEAUTIFUL cards, stationary, prints, calendars, fabrics (you name it) and was also in the middle of illustrating her first picture book. In addition, she had recently welcomed a third adorable baby into her little family. She was doing it all...and all very well. 

I was her art, her sense of style (which flowed through her in every aspect), and her tenacity. And even though her academic training wasn't in illustration, she brought her knowledge of the theatrical arts into each of her creations...sweet and beautiful storytelling.

This was the book she was working on when we met, a sweet Christmas story.
I recently have been able to get to know Sarah Jane a little better and am constantly impressed with what she creates. I think you will be too. So I thought you all should meet.

Everyone,'s Sarah. 

(interviewed March 2012- I wanted to limit this to only a few questions...a mom's life is too busy for more)

Julie: are a few people you may not have met yet. Can you tell them what made you decide to start focusing on visual arts? What was the tipping/turning point?

Photo from
Sarah:   Well, the truth is, my interest in the visual arts began as far back as my earliest memories. I was a natural artist, always making and drawing on anything I could get my hands on. I was always writing stories, making books, and by 3rd grade, had no doubt that I was going to be a mom and an artist when I grew up. It was just such a part of me. 
I also had a love for theater and music, and it was the perfect outlet for me to express myself in a way that pushed me...I was forced to overcome my natural shyness, interact with people and engage in storytelling. Art was always a part of me through my years in junior high and high school, but as I went into my teenage years, I can really say that my time was split 50/50 between both interests. It was a great training for me on all levels, but I really gained a lot of experience through pushing myself in an art where I was always "out there" and it really helped me to become self critical and get a strong backbone...two very important things I'd need later down the road. 

After a summer at Interlochen, where I studied both fine art and vocal performance (two completely different schools!) I realized that in order to really grow, I'd need to choose one. I couldn't do both in college, and while it tore me apart, I spent my senior year in high school really digging deep as I decided which I wanted to pursue. My first love was art, but I also knew that I'd never do much performing once I became a parent, and I also knew that mastering the performing arts can't come through independent study, like most of my visual art training had been. I needed to be involved, and get training, and so I majored with a BFA in musical theater. 

Once children came, the performing naturally slowed and I lost the bug to be on stage. I was able to pull my paints out and really create art in the late nights after children were sleeping, and I finally was able to start what I knew would be a lifelong engagement with illustration. 

Julie: Do you ever imagine what your life would be like if you couldn't do what you do...create?

Sarah: I have. A lot. Being an artist, and always having your hand in a project isn't easy with the needs of a growing family. I say that because artists and creatives are crazy people...and we get a little wonky if we aren't balanced out by creating. When i was married and not yet working as an artist, I spent a good 2-3 years in agony not being able to quit my job and start working as an artist. I wasn't in a position to do so, and it was literally depressing and heart breaking for me. It's such a part of me, that now I don't even think about the separation. It's such a part of daily life now and I've been able to structure my days to that it enhances our family, as well as myself. 
Julie: What are your dreams, goals, aspirations in regards to your art now that you've come this far? 

Sarah: Oh gosh. I dream big, and hope to really keep learning and growing! I have so much I want to learn, and be able to say in my art...but it takes time and years and maturity. I really just hope to keep illustrating the way I see the world of childhood, and hope to be able to keep telling that story, in various forms, for a very long time! 
Julie: What advice would you give to the illustrators reading this post (being the wise YOUNG artist you are)?

Sarah: Well, I know it sounds cliche, but it's really true: Be yourself. Know yourself. Know what makes you YOU and your art unique. Know what you want to say, and learn how to say it the best you can. With so much visual information out there now, it's very easy to catch on to what is admired, interesting or getting the attention. Or, it's easy to fall back on what has already been done. Know what has worked in the past, and add on to it with your own voice.  As an artist, you have to tell your story, and do it the best way only you can. 

I'd also like to say that as much as you work on your art, you'll need to work out a plan on how to get your art out there. I had a simple, very naive plan, and it worked enough to give me the education I needed to make more plans. There is no ONE right way to get your art out there....know what your options are, but then don't be afraid to think outside of the box. You never know what doors will open! 
Julie: Thank you for being willing to answer these questions. And thank you for creating such beautiful, lovely art.
Read more »

Happy 108th Bday, Dr. Seuss!

Who didn't read Dr. Seuss Books as a kid? If you grew up in America, especially after the mid 60's, Dr. Seuss was pretty much a staple in every home or library bag. So, whether you think Seuss's books are great or not (I think he was a prolific genius), you have to appreciate his ability to speak to children and create a boom like never seen before in a market that was flooded with the adorable but boring Dick and Jane readers. He helped make kids "Wild about Reading."

I'll never forget the little rhyming phrases: "One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish...", "Left foot, left foot, right foot, many, many feet you meet," along with millions of others. They make you want to sing, chant, and even dance along to their quirky words and rhythm.

So go to your bookshelf, your library, or online and read your favorite Dr. Seuss book today. Maybe even light a candle on your PB&J and sing Happy Birthday to the children's book icon that is, Theodor Seuss Geisel.
Read more »

Happy World Book Day

Did you know today is World Book Day? What a wonderful kind of holiday. I love love love books, as I'm sure do you. So I've created a little treat for you in celebration...some free printable bookmarks.

Read more »
My photo
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

Blog Archive