Sample Cover Art for Martha Rago at Harper Collins

I attended an SCBWI illustrator's conference in the area yesterday. Usually I'm involved in running these things but it was really nice just to attend for a change...relax and soak up information and ideas. As part of the conference, the visiting art director, Martha Rago, ran an intensive workshop where we were given an assignment to complete. She looked at initial sketches prior to the conference, gave feedback and we were supposed to bring finals to the conference. It was a good experience and a good opportunity to show work to an Art Director in a more direct setting. In addition, the attendees could chose to participate in a portfolio display. I did and was pleased to see the art director take time to look through each one. I recommend taking those opportunities whenever you can.

The assignment was to create character sketches and a book cover for a hypothetical (probably forthcoming) book called "Cupcake Princess." We got a brief description of the girl and were instructed to go at it. I posted my initial images for the cover previously. The art direction given once I turned in those sketches was to work on expression and choose a scene which would show more action and intrigue...make the reader want to know what happens. I took it to heart and redesigned.

Here is my process...

wet and tape down paper. block in background color
paint the girl and bearded dragon

water wash over background to soften and mute

Add details
digitally composite, adjust, enhance, add textures, etc.

added a pseudo title and bylines
Martha Rago's only suggestion in the final critique was to make the baker more distinct. (too much blob of hat showing...needs a little more of the face showing). She seemed to like it and had other good things to say.

So the moral of the story is...take the opportunity to go to conferences, show your work, practice your craft...whether you are a working professional or a beginner. GOOD LUCK!


  1. Such a cool process! I always love to see how different artists work and their take on the same assignment... Not to mention how cool it must have been to soak up all that info and participate in a critique! It's always wonderful when you get the opportunity to better yourself, no matter the skill level. :)

    Quick question since you may know the illustration conference circuit pretty well... I've been trying to find an illustrators conference around my area. I recently google searched and found out that I just missed the SCBWI winter conference and it was right in my own backyard!! So do you have any recommendations of illustration conferences happening within or a few states over from the state of NY radius?


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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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