I almost forgot I had this unfinished watercolor painting of a cozy dragon on a sunny windowsill from back in art school, and I now just finished it digitally!
When I went to the New England SCBWI Conference this year, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow illustrator Nancy Meyers! I loved seeing her fantastic art, it's incredibly cute and expressive! She lives in Minnesota, and it was so much fun meeting someone who knows about my old neighborhood around MCAD!
She invited me to participate in a blog tour, where children's book authors and illustrators answer questions about their creative process and then pass the baton along to someone else! You can see Nancy's entry from last week here, and I have my answers below...
What am I working on now?
I’m working on a picture book based on the above drawing that I made a while back, which has also become popular on Tumblr! The story takes place during the time that the whale and the mermaid are growing up together! The dummy (illustrated mock-up of the book) was recently a finalist for the Connecticut Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children’s Literature!
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
I make art and write stories based on what I’m personally fascinated with. You’ll see a lot of animals in my work (especially imaginary creatures and sea life!), fantasy mixing with the natural and everyday world, and diverse characters. My digital art is very painterly, and I like playing with the light in the picture with that medium. I also like working in pen and ink, using a lot of contour lines to build up texture, and I often use watercolor to add color and a loose feeling. Overall, I just love creating pictures and making up stories, and my work is a reflection of me, both as an illustrator and a person!
Why do I write what I do?
I’ve loved illustrated picture books all my life! I caught the art and storytelling bug from my wonderful art teacher in elementary school. She was creative and nurturing, and let her students make whatever they wanted, with any of the materials in the art room, as long as we wrote about it. I never wanted to stop making pictures and stories, and I never did!
How does your writing process work?
In the case of my current picture book, it started when I wondered what the mermaid’s and whale’s lives were like as children! I wrote out a very rough first draft, and when I got to a point to where I liked where it was going, I started making thumbnail sketches to generate ideas on how the illustrations may look. They were very very messy!
This first draft was literally the size of my thumbnail!
Picture books are a give and take between the illustrations and text, so I went back and forth between working on the pictures and the words. I often found that I could cut out a lot of the words because the pictures could tell the story! I also liked making tiny rough dummy books to see the flow of the story with the page turns.
An early dummy held together with a rubber band!
At this point, I started bringing my work-in-progress to my SCBWI critique groups. Using what I’ve learned from one group on what needed to be improved, I started on a more finished-looking dummy book. I then brought it to a larger SCBWI group, where I recieved more feedback and made more revisions. After more critiques (including one from a literary agent at the New England SCBWI conference!) and revisions, I’m starting to submit my book to people in publishing! I’m excited to work more on this and see it come to life!
Up next week is Marcela Staudenmaier! She's an amazing illustrator in my SCBWI group!
Marcela Staudenmaier is an architect who worked on projects both in the US and internationally for more than twelve years before embarking on a second career as a children's book illustrator. She is a recent graduate of the Children's Book Illustration Certificate Program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD-CE) and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Marcela has been the recipient of the Tassy Walden Award: New Voices in Children's Literature and the Ann Barrow Illustrator's Scholarship for her children's book illustrator's portfolio. Her work has also received accolades from the Danforth Museum of Art, 3x3 Magazine of Contemporary Illustration, the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles and the New England SCBWI.
Learn more about her at
I have some very exciting news!
I was also interviewed for it! We discussed the thought process behind my work for children and adults, diversity, why I love fantasy, and my drawing of the whale and mermaid, which is becoming popular on Tumblr!
Thank you, Apex Magazine, for featuring me! Everyone should check them out, they do great work!
I came back home from the New England SCBWI Spring Conference in Springfield, MA a couple of days ago, and WOW! It was such an amazing experience! I loved meeting and reconnecting with everyone, and I was inspired by how kind, thoughful, smart, interesting, and SUPERCRAZYTALENTED everyone was! I loved browsing through all of the cute and gorgeous artwork in the portfolio show, and trading stories and promotional cards with fellow illustrators! The panel discussions, keynote speakers, and workshops were great! I took workshops on topics such as: how to use improv acting techniques to improve your character development, understanding the publishing industry, how to incorporate hand-lettered typography into picture books, thinking about gender and sexuality issues in books for young people, understanding the Common Core in American education, and finding the right visual and narrative pace in picture books. If you are a children's book illustrator or writer who is considering going to one of these conferences... GO! You'll love it!
About the illustration above: I was excited to bring my work to the Conference, but I had a piece in my portfolio that was giving me trouble! I drew it a few years ago as part of my college senior project, and I loved the dragon in it... but nothing else! At the time when I first made it, I was still figuring out the ropes in how to lay out double-page spreads. When I tried to incorporate it into the dimensions of my portfolio, it was rather awkward. To avoid dividing up the poor boy between pages, I had to cut through the dragon's nose!
So I went back and reworked it! The original piece was done with watercolor pencil, and the new version was edited/painted in Photoshop. I changed the story in the picture too, because I wanted the smaller character to be more expressive, and as silly as this sounds, I wanted to have more unicorns in my portfolio!
I'm happy with the way the newer piece came out, and I honestly like both pictures for different reasons, visually and sentimentally. It's fun to sometimes revisit old art again! It helps me see how I've grown as an artist, and it makes me excited to work on my next project!
I'm very excited to be going to this year's annual New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Spring Conference! I can't believe it's only in a few days!
This is for the illustration challenge, where we got to illustrate a passage from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum!
Chapter 11: The Wonderful City of Oz
Even with eyes protected by the green spectacles Dorothy and her friends were at first dazzled by the brilliancy of the wonderful City. The streets were lined with beautiful houses all built of green marble and studded everywhere with sparkling emeralds. They walked over a pavement of the same green marble, and where the blocks were joined together were rows of emeralds, set closely, and glittering in the brightness of the sun. The window panes were of green glass; even the sky above the City had a green tint, and the rays of the sun were green.
There were many people--men, women, and children--walking about, and these were all dressed in green clothes and had greenish skins. They looked at Dorothy and her strangely assorted company with wondering eyes, and the children all ran away and hid behind their mothers when they saw the Lion; but no one spoke to them. Many shops stood in the street, and Dorothy saw that everything in them was green. Green candy and green pop corn were offered for sale, as well as green shoes, green hats, and green clothes of all sorts. At one place a man was selling green lemonade, and when the children bought it Dorothy could see that they paid for it with green pennies.
There seemed to be no horses nor animals of any kind; the men carried things around in little green carts, which they pushed before them. Everyone seemed happy and contented and prosperous.
Ink and watercolor
You can see a few "making-of" snapshots here!
The weather was super gross out today, so I drew a whale to brighten things up!
This is a commissioned piece based on the song "She Loves You" by The Gaslight Anthem!
Watercolor and India Ink on paper
This is sort of an "update" to this drawing I made a few years ago. I'd like to think that we are meeting the bookish lady's daughter, and the girl is just as creative and day-dreamy as her mom!
This piece is dedicated to the kids I met as a visiting artist last week at the Free Arts NYC after-school program! They are such an amazing group of kids, teachers, and volunteers, and I feel so honored to have played a part in their program! The kids are incredibly smart and imaginative, I can't wait to see what they create in the future!