Thursday, September 29, 2016

Diversity and Misunderstanding

There is a lot of things I just don't understand. They are just beyond me to understand them. Maybe I'm just naive.

Here is a list of things I don't or didn't understand over the years: 

I don't understand why some girls didn't play with me at camp.

I don't understand why my parents never had much money.

I don't understand why most games have male leads.

I don't understand why anyone would dislike a person based on how they look.

I don't understand why many people think that women are strong only if they act like men.

I don't understand why there is such a narrow definition of how a man should act.

I don't understand how you can hate someone that you know nothing about.

I don't understand why it's wrong to be different.

I don't understand why it's wrong for women to act (or dress) like men.

I don't understand why it's wrong for men to act (or dress) like women.

I don't understand what's wrong with being a woman.

I don't understand why kids thought it was a horrible thing to call me a lesbian in school. 

Like I said: There is a lot of things I don't understand. The list is too long and painful to write. With all my misunderstanding in life I feel like I could always use a little more. 

While you are writing your books in October I hope you all will think about all the things that's never said in books. Those are the things that need to be said. Kids need to feel normal and included in things. It hurts being on the outside of everything. 

Now maybe you feel like normal is bad. Maybe you can say that because you've met someone online who is at least a bit like you. It's bad for everyone to be the same, but it's lonely and isolating if there are no other people in the world anything like you. Who wants to live in a world like that? 

My kid's school has this policy where you either invite all the kids to your birthday party or none of them. That way no one feels left out. When making your dummies this October, please remember to invite all (or as many as possible) the kids to your party. 
This illustration was created by David Huyck. It's a wonderfully sad illustration. If I'm having a party, all these kids are invited.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Magic Mask Process

I'm going to put up some process photos so that I can show you some of what you might go through while you are working on your dummy. These are illustrations I did last year for the book "The Magic Mask" by Pamela Stadyk.  I'm going to show you the progression of images of three of my illustrations.


More Thumbnails
 My thumbnail work is really quite crude. Some of what I have here is stuff only I can understand.
Facial Expressions

More Facial Expressions

Character Design
 You'll see by this point that I didn't do as much prep work as I should have. This caused a bit of trouble later because I wasn't as quick finishing up all my images.

A completely terrible start on Jade, but the dolphin is much like the final mammal.

This is very close to the final image here. I hated the positioning of Jade's legs. Also I think I made a few changes to the furniture.

This illustration was probably the most challenging. Trying to get Jade just have her head underwater was difficult. I played with several different angles before I got the right one.

I think of all the images this one changed the least throughout the whole process.

 After I had finished the images at this size I found out the size of the images were wrong and had to adjust all the images.

These are the final images at the time I sent them to Pamela. They weren't quite right. Part of the problem was a mistake I didn't catch. The characters needed auras in some of the illustrations. Thank goodness for digital illustration! I was able to edit the photos to Pamela's liking without having to redraw/paint them all.  

These are the final illustrations as they appear in the book!

It was a long process to get these illustrations from idea to physical illustrations. There were 8 illustration in all. The entire process took 2 months (I think exactly 2 months) Since I was commissioned by the author to do these illustrations there was a lot of back and forth that needed to be done. I'm happy with how the illustrations turned out, and learned a lot in the process.

You can see that I started out with pretty poor drawings. Don't feel bad if yours are bad too. You can end up with a polished book if you work hard!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Smart Dummies Prep and the Story

Start getting into your critique groups now! I will be asking if anyone wants to be in critique groups on Facebook. Feel free to write your own post looking for partners. Also send me a message if you need a group! Facebook Group:

Some of the things you may want to finish before the end of the week (click on the links for more information):

Register for Smart Dummies here: You are NOT registered for Smart Dummies until you sign up at the registration page! You have until October 8th to register.

OMG! I don't have a story!! I'M FREAKING OUT!!!

If you are feeling like this first take a deep breath and breathe. Let's look into some options now for people who don't have stories. Anything that's not copyrighted is fair game. Old fairy tales, folklore, rhymes and songs can be used in your book. Make sure your story is in the public domain before starting. Here's a short list of book types you may want to consider:

  • ABC 
  • Counting 
  • Nonfiction
  • Old Songs
  • Rhymes (Mother Goose) 
  • Fairy Tales (Such as Grimm's Fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen)
  • Religious Texts (Be sure to have a good knowledge of the religion and practices before starting)
  • Folklore
  • Mythology (Greek, Norse, and Roman Gods)
  • Concept Books (I like the definition I found here to explain concept books:
  • Wordless or Almost Wordless
If you decide to go the wordless route (or want to write your story later) be sure to make sure you know your story inside and out. It may help you to write down what happens in the story even if the words aren't compelling. Be sure to draw a lot of pictures! You may even want to do detailed thumbnails (after creating quick thumbnails) to make sure you are familiar with your story before starting. I had trouble with this last year, and I don't want you to make my same mistake!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Propel" by Whitney Keyes

This week is about to get extremely busy with posts about Smart Dummies. Before I get off on a tangent about what you should be doing for your dummy, I want to introduce you to a book that I love. This book is "Propel" by Whitney Keyes. Before I start I should say that I am not getting paid for this review, and reserved the right to not review this book if I hated it's contents. I should also tell you that I hate doing book reviews. I only chose this book to review because it sounded good. When I opened the pages I was not disappointed.

This is not so much a book about illustration or writing, but this book can help your writing or illustration career. This book is for anyone who needs to do marketing. It's probably for the best that this marketing book isn't written specifically for writers or illustrators. Because this book works for most (if not all businesses) it allows writers and artists to find ways to sell their work beyond just selling books. You can use this book to help increase your book sales. You can also use it to help you sell artwork to a museum, promote your editing service or even advertise your own book store (or any other business you may own).

Who is Whitney Keyes to tell you how to market? Well she's been in the marketing business for over 20 years. She's "worked as a senior Microsoft manager, strategic advisor for American Express and consultant to thousands of businesses around the world". This was why I was so keen on getting this book! Also, she's a wonderful person to talk to. That last bit means a lot to me.

There are thousands of books out there you can buy about marketing. I usually don't buy these, because they aren't practical for me. The steps they have in the book aren't easy to follow or only work for some businesses. One thing I like about Whitney's book is the steps are easy to follow. Each step is specific enough where you can make a strategic plan, and general enough that you can use what you learn for your business.

Who doesn't like stories? I know I do. Whitney uses stories from her actual clients to show the problems each client had, and what she did to help the client out. The stories range from huge companies, to small businesses. Whitney has a love for artists, so she includes stories she has of  indie documentary filmmakers to photographers, and painters.

Check out Whitney's book the next time you are at the bookstore. You will not be sorry!


Follow Whitney:


Twitter: @WhitneyKeyes


Propel: Five Ways to Amp Up Your Marketing and Accelerate Business (Career Press)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Smart Dummies Google Hangout!

I got the information today and I completely forgot to mention the Google hangout on my blog!

Sign up for the 

Smart Dummies Google Hangout!

Friday September 23rd at 3pm CDT.*

Mark Mitchell, Mira Reisberg, Traci VanWagoner and I will be getting together and talking about Smart Dummies! Bring your questions and we'll chat. Hope to see you there! 

Find out more about Smart Dummies here:

Picture Book Summit 2016!

Paul O. Zelinksy, Matt de la Peña and Jane Yolen Headline 2nd Annual Picture Book Summit!

October 1st, 2016

Ticket Sales End September 22nd!

I am sorry for writing this post late, but I couldn't let you miss out this year!

Maybe you've seen people talk about the Picture Book Summit. It seems like a fun event, but why would you join an online event?  The answer is because you will learn so much! 

I haven't been able to take part in the Picture Book Summit. How do I know it's good? Because I've learned so much over the years from Julie Hedlund, Katie Davis and Emma Walton Hamilton (I don't know Laura Backes as well, but if these ladies picked her I know she's great).

Personally I've learned so much invaluable information from the 12x12 Challenge, The Complete Picture Book Submission System, and the Brain Burps About Books podcast. In fact, what I've learned has saved me countless hours and dollars. I believe something I learned from the 12x12 saved me from losing over $3500 worth of work. That's just one instance. Is a few hundred dollars worth saving you thousands of dollars and your time? You tell me.

I highly, highly recommend you take this course. But what about Smart Dummies? You could do both. What you learn at the Picture Book Summit will apply to your artwork for Smart Dummies. This event will give you both inspiration and practical knowledge to create wonderful picture books. 

Check out for more information!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Smart Dummies Shop

For those of you interested I set up a Smart Dummies shop! Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions for products. The money earned from this will help me keep Smart Dummies running in the future!

I included a picture of mug that I love below. I got a similar one for Revimo and I absolutely love it! It's huge and allows for a ton of coffee or tea.