Friday, October 23, 2015


Here are a few photos of some craft pumpkins for sale at a local gift shop, which I had a lot of fun creating. For the pumpkins with images I copied from Webster's Pictorial Dictionary, I experimented with staining the copies to make them look aged. Arranging them was like a putting a puzzle together. I did one for birds, one for creepy crawlies, and a few for spooky and odd things in general. For Edgar, I stained the words of his famous poem The Raven
and pieced together clip art for his image in the frame. The tricky part that required a lot of patience (I had a first failed attempt) is covering the image with three layers of Modge Podge and then (carefully!) getting the back wet and peeling off the paper. That gives the see-through effect so the words show behind him. Then the finishing touch of a little nest on top with feathers and a perching raven! For the two pumpkins with the leaves, I used the Eric Carle method of painting tissue paper and then cutting and collaging them onto the pumpkins.

These are faces that I normally paint on real pumpkins (I did lots for a grocery store this year, another blog with photos of them soon) but this was my first attempt at painting them on the artificial pumpkins. I've been painting these faces for many years, and it is always a little sad to me that the real ones don't last.

While walking through a store with Halloween decorations, I saw this tree and got the idea that my pumpkins would look so cute as miniature ornaments, and it was another way to paint my faces on pumpkins that would "keep." So I got some Crayola air dry clay, a little wire for the pumpkin bucket "handles" to hang them on the tree. I am so pleased with how they turned out!

Cat Party

A new color image from my book dummy Lots of Cats. If you are going to have a party with your cats, this is the way to do it!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Junior's New Head

I've been drawing these "pumpkinhead people" for years, and I always have fun doing them because it gives me a chance to use my somewhat warped sense of humor. There are more here from an older post.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Children's literature is filled with many stories involving enchanted inanimate objects- silver shoes, a giant peach, a magic pebble, or any number of things in the Harry Potter series. While I was going through a large box of old sketches I  came across a drawing of a baby in a crib with fairies hovering above. I thought that this would be great to use with the #scbwidrawthis prompt for this month, Enchanted. I thought about the use of enchanted objects adding mystery and magic to stories, and decided that to have the fairies coming out of a painting of a forest scene instead of through an open window. I also decided that it is probably a very old painting, and this is not the first time the fairies have come out to play with the child who sleeps in the room where it hangs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pig in a Wig

Here are a few more illustrations for my book cover project. I was trying to think of a cover that would look like a beginning reader with easy, rhyming words- so I came up with Pig in a Wig! I hope it looks like I had fun illustrating it, because I did.

I've done a few illustrations similar to this in the past with children riding butterflies, but I thought it would make a great book cover so I made one more! I may go back and do hand lettering on a title for this one as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Lost Bear

This is another illustration for the book cover project I have been working on. I've always loved teddy bears, and have several books about them- mostly the vintage ones. My first attempt at creating a picture book dummy several years ago was putting illustrations to the words of the old song The Teddy Bears' Picnic. This illustration came from the idea that perhaps one of the bears gets lost on his way to that picnic. I think old bears have so much personality, and I would love to work on a book project someday that involves getting to illustrate lots of them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


When I first read the word of the week on Illustration Friday, People, there was Barbra Streisand's voice in my head singing "People who neeeed people...". My brain is very random that way. I then tried to get the song unstuck from my head and brainstorm. This is a word that has many possibilities, but I decided to use it on a sketchbook exercise that I learned a few years ago from a book by Carla Sondheim called Drawing Lab . The challenge is to make light marks and scribbles on your paper, and then look closely at them to see what can be made from the shapes- sort of like looking at clouds and spotting a rabbit or a ship. I took the assignment a step further this time by looking to see how all of the shapes could be faces and then added details. When I can't think of what to draw or I just need to kill time waiting somewhere, this is always a great way to get the creative juices flowing- and maybe even come up with a new character.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


The word of the week on IF, Pointy, gives me the perfect excuse to show an excerpt from the picture book dummy I am working on, POP!, about little porcupine's bad luck of having several "pointy" things pop his balloons. On his third attempt the porcupine, Quill, thinks he is quite lucky to get a special jumbo size balloon until he has to try and fit it through his tiny door:

But his door isn't the real threat to his balloon:

It's this:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


There are so many possibilities for the word of the week on IF, but the first thing to come out of the doodles in my sketchbook was this little character with wild hair. I've just had a haircut, but I usually let it grow so long that it starts to feel a little like this guy's! I also gave him a book to show growth on an internal level, because I think that reading is one of the best ways we can grow to become more empathetic human beings.

It's a simple little drawing, but for me it was important because it is the first time I have sat down to draw in several weeks after having had a difficult summer losing both a dear friend and an aunt with whom I was very close to cancer within a few weeks of each other. My friend Nancy loved my work, and always told me that this piece I illustrated of her as a girl with her father outside their family restaurant was the best gift she ever received. My aunt was very encouraging to me as an aspiring artist and always kept her eyes peeled for opportunities that would give exposure to my work. While going through boxes of things cleared from her home I discovered that she had saved all of my drawings from the time I could pick up a crayon, down to the tiniest doodles on scraps of paper. I know they both wished me success in my goals to become a published author/illustrator, and I'm ready now to dive back into my work and make that happen.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Cover Project Continued...

I have a couple illustrations to add to the book cover project I've been working on. I love anytime I am driving and see a dog with their head out of a car window and ears flapping in the wind. It always looks like they are just having the best time ever. So the above illustration came out of the idea that if dogs could drive themselves, they would be in the car all the time (I have a friend who noted that this dog does not look like a very responsible driver- I don't think most dogs would be, so I guess it's a good thing that they are content to sit in the passenger seat)!

Inspiration for this illustration came from a bluesy children's musician who I adore by the name of Randy Kaplan. Among his many hilarious songs is one called Shampoo Me! about a shark that comes up through the drain while a kid is taking a bath, and he has an unusual request. My particular favorite of Kaplan's is a song called Roaches, about the little houseguests that inhabited a New York City apartment he once rented- but I didn't suppose that would make a children's book cover that looked like anything a parent would buy for their child (but if Kaplan ever decides to make his song lyrics into books, I will buy every one)!

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Vacation is the word of the week on Illustration Friday, and it's also a word that has been on my mind lately. On a shelf beside my drafting table I keep a couple of ticket stubs from a trip that my family took to Disneyland when I was eight along with a little promotional pin that I won for their 35th anniversary celebration and the one souvenir I chose, an Alice in Wonderland tea set. That vacation to California holds a lot of happy memories and it is a place I would like to return to someday, which is why I keep those things in a place where I can see them often. The date on the stubs reads June 15th, 1990- 25 years ago this week. For this illustration I was brainstorming who could use a vacation, and I thought of the worker bee! I suppose I am a bit of a worker bee myself- on top of my regular job I usually spend 60 to 80 hours a month in my studio. Of course, there is so much joy that I get from illustrating that I have never thought of it as work... still, a little time away for a vacation on a beach would be okay with me!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Covers

I've recently been commissioned by a company in Hollywood, California that rents artwork and props to create fifteen (cleared) book covers that will be available for television and film use. The only instructions I was given were to leave room for the titles (which I plan to hand illustrate and add later) and to keep them fairly simplistic because a camera would not be able to pick up on a lot of little detail. The funny thing is that even though these aren't real books, they are giving me real story ideas for what happens to the book cover characters I am creating. This is the first of the fifteen- it will be exciting to see which television shows or films they show up in!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Illustration Friday: Strong

When I saw that the word of the week on Illustration Friday was strong, what came to mind is how strong creative people must be to be able to do what they do. Strength to share their work with the world and make themselves vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure; strength to tune out voices from people who are not supportive or understanding, strength to try an unfamiliar technique or medium, and the strength to spend many, many hours in isolation honing their craft.

When I feel down about a particular rejection or string of rejections, there are people who will tell me not to give up. The thing is, I don't know how to do that anyway. I've never even considered it, because I feel so passionately about the art of picture books and being a children's book illustrator is the only thing I have ever wanted to be (really, I don't know what else I would do). I don't think there is weakness in feeling sad or frustrated when the rejections seem endless. But there is strength in not allowing those feelings to linger too long, in picking oneself up and doing whatever works best to get back in the positive, creative frame of mind. Reading always seems to help me do that, so does music. There is a line from a Jim Croce song I like that goes "ain't nobody ever had a rainbow baby, until he had the rain." They are words I try to keep in mind every time I open my mailbox to find another rejection.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

From the Sketchbook...

A drawing that I found from a few years ago while going through some old sketchbooks, from when my niece was a baby and her big brother liked to take her toys away!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Illustration Friday: Reflection

A couple of characters that are in some stories that I am working on!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Here are a couple of color images from the newest story that I have been working on about a little porcupine who would very much like a balloon of his own, but many unexpected things (bees, birds, clowns, himself) make it difficult for him to keep them from popping.

My nearly wordless book was partly inspired by my love for comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton. Because their films were silent and told mostly through actions and emotions, with only a few words appearing on the screen, I think they are very similar to the art of the picture book. I love the surprise element of their films- when you think one thing is going to go wrong, it turns out to be something else. A perfect example of that is a scene from a Buster Keaton short called One Week, in which Keaton is attempting to move his house on wheels across some train tracks, with disastrous but very funny results. Check it out here.

Jellyman Kelly

Growing up my dad introduced me through his record collection to many musicians of the 60's and 70's, including James Taylor- but Jellyman Kelly was one of Taylor's songs that I serendipitously discovered on my own while watching Sesame Street. I love it's nonsense lyrics (I read that the song came out of a poem that his five year old daughter Sally wrote at school). It came up on a playlist recently while I was working on another project and I started to think about who Jelly Man Kelly and Jenny Mulhenny were, and why is there a big question as to whether she will let him come home? I decided Jellyman Kelly must be a jelly salesman- only he eats more than he sells, and makes a big sticky mess in the process. Jenny Mulhenny is his wife and she likes to boil hot water for her tea. The answer to whether Jellyman Kelly can come home? No! (At least not until he sells the rest of that jelly and cleans himself up)!

Here is a link to James Taylor singing the song on Sesame Street. I give you fair warning if you take a listen- it is quite infectious and you will most likely be singing it to yourself the rest of the day!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Illustration Friday: Sleep

I am willing to admit that sometimes my bed looks like this when I fall asleep at night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cat Support Group

Last year a single friend of mine turned 30 and made the comment that maybe it was time to give up and get a cat- it gave me the idea for this.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

Every year I have the same one wish for Christmas- snow. It's hard to get into the holiday spirit when you look out the window and see lighted trees and decorations surrounded by dead grass and dirt. Growing up in Iowa, most years I have gotten my wish. This year it has been rainy and gray, and with a few days left till Christmas I am still hopeful!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Little Dogs

I have been drawing these fluffy white dog characters in one form or another since I was a kid. As I was cleaning out a drawer in my studio recently, I came across some light sketches of them that I had started a few years ago. Since they fit the theme of the holiday season, I decided to finish them!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Illustration Friday: Sea

The word for Illustration Friday this week fits with a couple of illustrations that I have done that were inspired by the Robert Louis Stevenson poem My Bed is a Boat.

My bed is like a little boat;
Nurse helps me in when I embark;
She girds me in my sailor’s coat
And starts me in the dark.

At night I go on board and say
Good-night to all my friends on shore;
I shut my eyes and sail away
And see and hear no more.

And sometimes things to bed I take,
As prudent sailors have to do;
Perhaps a slice of wedding-cake,
Perhaps a toy or two.

All night across the dark we steer;
But when the day returns at last,
Safe in my room beside the pier,
I find my vessel fast.

Monday, November 17, 2014


I don't remember the first time I was introduced to Oz, perhaps age three or four. The story of a Midwest girl like myself who goes on an amazing adventure must have captured my imagination, however, because I have been intrigued with Oz ever since.

When I was seven and old enough to read on my own I checked out the book by L. Frank Baum from the library- and as much as I loved the movie and Judy Garland, I loved the book even more. Quickly I went through Baum's 13 other stories about the land of Oz and it's many wonderful inhabitants. Jack Pumpkinhead, Tik Tok, and the Patchwork Girl were a few of my favorites. I spent quite a bit of time as a child thinking about how much I would like to go to Oz and visit these characters.

Here is photo of me in the first grade wearing a Dorothy costume for Halloween:

And here is a photo of me in the second grade, wearing the same Dorothy costume for school picture day:

Recently I read a biography of L. Frank Baum called Finding Oz, which detailed the events in his life that led him to the eventual success of his American fairy tale The Wizard Of Oz when he was 43 years old. Pieces of his failed careers as a chicken breeder, traveling playright, castor oil salesman, and store owner/ newspaper man in Aberdeen all found their way into his story. There were also inspirations for The Emerald City from the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and a strong female protagonist in Dorothy from his famous suffragist mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage.

As an aspiring author/illustrator I found particular inspiration in Baum's optimistic outlook that endured through his many failures- he never stopped telling his stories to children and he never gave up hope. I had heard from different sources over the years that initially Oz was rejected by fifteen different publishers. This is a story however that Baum most likely embellished, because the book explains that he only had one handwritten manuscript (where is that now?!) and it would have been highly unlikely that it would have been sent to so many houses. He had success the previous year with Father Goose, His Book and his publisher was ready to take a chance on Oz.

I'm glad they did.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lots of Cats

I wanted a color piece from my book dummy to add to my portfolio, and I thought this scene would be perfect for the season we are headed into.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

IF: Journey

The word of the week for Illustration Friday is Journey, which is great because the newest story I've been working on has to do with an imaginative little mouse who embarks on his own adventurous journey. I loved using rich, earthy colors on this little fellow and it made me wish that fall was here already!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tomie dePaola Award

I was thrilled upon hearing the news that I was chosen as one of the fifteen finalists for the Tomie dePaola Award! I am very thankful to Tomie dePaola and SCBWI for the honor.

In other years the prompt has been to illustrate a passage from a book or a poem of his choosing. This year the task was to create characters and a story from our own imaginations in six panels, so the possibilities were wide open! I think it was a wonderful assignment because for illustrators aspiring to make picture books, creating consistent characters and an interesting story involves so much more than creating one nice picture. I have experience with telling a story in a 32 page book dummy, so the hard part for me was figuring out how to tell one (with no words) in only six panels. After doing several thumbnails to work the story out, I decided to do the final panels in black and white with the only color being the red string to really emphasize it.

Once again, the inspiration came from personal experience. Not long after I adopted my cat, Dino, I gave him a big ball of yarn to play with. Because what is cuter than a little kitten with a ball of yarn, right? My mistake was leaving the ball of yarn out when going to bed. When I woke up in the morning the very long string of yarn was wrapped around all of my furniture winding through my living room, dining room, and kitchen. My immediate reaction was to laugh. Though it took much of the morning to clean, it looked like he had the most fun ever. Also, I never left a ball of yarn out unsupervised again.