Monday, August 25, 2014

Not So Accidental Blog Tourist Hop!

Yes it's Monday and normally I post my Ready. Set. Write! post today, but I've got something else important that I need to do first. I was recently tagged in the  Not-So-Accidental blog tourist hop by Julie Rowan-Zoch! This blog hop is to celebrate for artists of all kinds. Illustrators, writers, photographers, sculptors (the list goes on and on) will be featured on this blog hop, so follow the links and you'll find some great people to follow!  The Not So Accidental Blog Tourist hop was originally started by Crystal Collier! Thank you Crystal for starting this and thank you Julie for tagging me!

Julie Rowan-Zoch

JRZ a reformed graphic designer, concocting and sculpting story ideas and illustrations – every day

You can find more about Julie on her blog:

Now for the questions Julie asked me!

1.What am I currently working on? 

I always, always a huge pile of things I'm creating! *takes a deep breath* My most pressing project is working on illustrations for the VCON art show. These illustrations have to all be fantasy (or sci-fi but I'm not doing sci-fi) and most of my current work doesn't fit into this category. I'll be working on 8-10 pieces in the coming weeks for this. 

Pattern Pals Web Comic Coming Soon!
The most recent thing I've added to my pile is a colouring book that I will be collaborating on with other illustrators. I'm really excited because this will be something I can give out to people for FREE! I still have a couple of picture books that I'm developing. One is almost finished and the second is just getting started. Other than that I'm still working on my webcomic, but that's on the back burner until I can figure things out. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

That's a tough one. I would say that my work isn't too far off from other picture book artists. I think my style has some quirks that are uniquely me. Maybe the thing that is most uniquely me is my treatment of colour in watercolours -- for better or worse.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

In the end it's because I have create. Yes I do it for my family, and yes I'd like to change the world. I don't think that I could keep creating if I wasn't passionate and didn't feel this urge to keep creating.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

There are some days that I honestly think my creative process is broken. I have a 3 year old to contend with right now so every bit of creative work starts with a pot of coffee and the nagging fear that I won't get anything done. It's the same for both writing and art for me. 

When I write I basically try to get everything down on page as fast as possible. I feel I write better on paper first (and edit better on  paper as well), though often I'll go right to the computer just to get everything down faster. When I do something longer than a picture book I tend to write the whole thing out of order. I usually know the events I want in my story (though I have yet to write a summary), but tend to focus on the chapters of the story that are most interesting to me. I don't start editing until I have enough words for a first draft.

For art I start with a general idea of my picture. My better pictures usually start with a thumbnail drawing (really useful for placement). There is often a bit of research involved. Sometimes it's looking online to find out what a certain animal looks like, other times it's taking a million pictures with my cell phone so I can make sure an arm or leg looks someone anatomically correct. 
After I finish my drawing in pencil I'll transfer it to watercolour paper (either with my lightbox or with tracing paper). After the pencils are done I'll ink the drawing (often with micron pens). Finally I'll paint the whole thing with watercolours. Once I have a finished pencil drawing it's usually not that long to finish the drawing -- which is good for when I make mistakes!

Okay, now that I have completed my part for the blog hop I pass the hat off to three other illustrators! They are Telaina Muir, Kim MacPherson and Sylvia Liu. You can see their blog hop posts next Monday (September 1st)! I've got mug shots, bios and links for everyone below!

Telaina Muir

Telaina Muir is a mother, wife, cook, chauffeur, artist, art teacher, illustrator, children’s book writer, very bad gardner, bunny hutch maker, and dog wrestler. She lives in the most amazing place in the world, Alaska, with the most amazing family in the world. She writes about her mischievous adventures and gives tips and free art lessons so that you too can write or illustrate, and follow your dreams on her website,
Kim MacPherson

Kim MacPherson is a children’s author, illustrator, and editor. Her favorite book as a kid was the original (and gorgeously illustrated) Golden Book of Fairy Tales. She was also obsessed with Dr. Seuss, but some of Sendak’s early drawings creeped her out. (Sorry to say.) She blogs about writing, drawing, and reading children’s books at and also edits PBs at

Sylvia Liu

Sylvia Liu is a recovering attorney, Sylvia Liu writes and illustrators for kids. She won the 2013 Lee & Low New Voices award and her winning manuscript, A MORNING WITH GONG GONG, will be published as a picture book. She is inspired by aliens, cephalopods, bunnies, and pigs who want to fly.

You can visit Sylvia's blog here:
She helps run the kidlit resource website

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why You Didn't Win!

A quick note before I get started: This week has been really bad for me. I haven't been able to post at all. I'll try to make up a bit for the lack of posting. Monday I will be attempting two posts: My regularly scheduled Ready. Set. Write! post and a special post that's part of the "The Not So Accidental Blog Hop"! Today I'm going to post a bit about contests in general.


I had meant to make this post sooner. This post is partially in reference to the Tomie dePaola award (or at least the award sparked the idea), but mostly to address contests in general. It's been a while since the Tomie award has been announced so this post is a bit late that way. It may be for the best, because I think by now the sting of losing is getting easier for those who didn't win. This is not a post for me to complain about losing. Judging a contest is really hard, so I hope you will all respect Tomie in not bashing him or his award. I respect the decisions he made. Any comments that attack the Tomie dePaola award, Tomie dePaola or any other contest (or judge) will be immediately removed by me.

I keep forgetting to post my entry to the Tomie dePaola contest, so here it is:
You can view many (but not all) of the entries here and the winners here. I totally should have won, right? Ha, ha! Any artist who has put their heart and soul into their work will say they think they should have won a contest. No one is wrong for thinking this, but there are many valid reasons why an entry isn't selected. I've compiled a list here. Some of these apply to the publishing world as well as contests.

1. Art is Subjective Chances are if your entry was put before a different judge your entry would have been chosen. Actually, I can almost guarantee it for almost everyone. Everyone has their own idea what makes a good work of art.

2. The Guidelines Weren't Followed It's the same with submitting to an editor or agent. They have guidelines for a reason. Sometimes a really good piece of work that will skirt the guidelines, but this is the exception not the rule! More often than not a contest judge will nix an entry because it didn't follow one or more of the guidelines. Sometimes work is slightly outside of the guidelines, and even these risk disqualification.

3. It Wasn't What the Judge Wanted This is much like point #2, but it's a bit more individualized. There is no such thing as an unbiased judge. I don't mean this as an insult. All judges bring all their past experiences into the contest and use that as criteria to judge artwork. Every judge has their own unspoken list of guidelines. Judging artwork isn't an exact science. Unlike math you can't have 10 people judge the same artwork on the same criteria and still come up with the same outcome. 

4. The Characters Looked Licensed I can not say for certain that this was the reason that anyone didn't win the Tomie, but I did notice several entries that looked like they used licensed characters. My artwork would fit into this category. I can completely understand why this would cause an entry to be thrown out. Using an licensed character would be cheating. There is no judge out there who would know all the licensed characters out there, so it would be perfectly reasonable if a judge threw these out to save on future difficulties this would cause.

5. The Artwork Wasn't Seen First The first entries to any contest are partially responsible for the judging of subsequential entries. This doesn't always mean that the entries received first are seen first. This also doesn't mean that later entries wont be judged fairly, but they wont set the standard (though they can raise the bar for those seen after).

6. There Was Just Something Wrong This is for the whole list of random things that could have gotten your piece disqualified. It could be that the artwork didn't look finished, the skill wasn't quite there or any number of things that looked wrong with the artwork. Something in the piece could seem offensive or it could be misjudged. One of the worst things that can happen is your work just isn't received on time! 

What was wrong with your entry? In most cases I'd say "absolutely nothing"! It certainly does not mean you are a bad artist (there is no such thing) it just means you weren't selected. It certainly doesn't mean you wont win any contests in the future. If you learn anything from entering a contest then you have already won! Congratulations on your entry, and good luck in any future contests. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Interview With Helena Juhasz

Helena Drawing
This week I'm interviewing Helena Juhasz. It's an extra special interview because I know Helena (in person)! She is the fantastic Illustration Coordinator of the SCBWI Canada West chapter. The SCBWI Canada West chapter is very lucky to have Helena. She has put so much time and effort into sharing vital information, coordinating meetings, and working towards strengthening the Illustrators group as a whole. She does this while working on her own career and taking care of her four year old. I'm not sure how she gets so much done.

Helena has a wonderful artistic style. She is a kindred spirit because of her love of the graphic novel genre for kids. Some of her work is just down right hilarious. I'm sure we'll see her artwork and writing grace the pages of picture books and magazines alike in the near future.

Dani: What do you think is the most important part of you being an illustrator?

Helena: The most important part of being an illustrator is going back to my childhood: whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered "artist". This is in my DNA. This is what I was born to do.

Dani: Sleeping in or breakfast in bed?

Helena: SLEEPING IN! I'm still recovering from the sleepless nights of my daughter's infancy and toddlerhood.

Dani: What made you want to take over as head of the Canada West Illustrators?

Helena: I simply fell in love with SCBWI and all that they have to offer. I wanted to be part of the organization, at least at this small level, and to connect with people. I love talking illustration, art and design and meeting like-minded people.

Dani: What are some of the challenges you face in this position?

Helena: Some challenges are finding enough time and energy to do what I'd like to for the group ie. finally set up a gallery show! I would also like to get a Twitter account up for the group, and even have a shared event with the Western Washington group. It comes down to a couple of hours in the evening, and I have to decide: am I going to read through all of my social media? am I going to write? am I going to draw? am I going to crash and burn and watch a movie?

Dani: I know you attended the SCBWI New York conference recently. What is the greatest thing you learned at this conference?

Helena: The SCBWI New York conference is incredible. So much information. So much inspiration. It was my main wake-up call to be more professional. Seeing the work out there, the ones that really stood out had cohesive portfolio books and good-sized art cards that show their illustrations well. Their websites were equally cohesive and organized. WAIT! No... I mean that's all good, but what really surprised me was how much EMOTION plays a part in how your illustration is evaluated. In the Illustrator's Master Class, Arthur A. Levine, of Arthur A. Levine Books, went through 30 illustrations, and for every one, he asked himself: how does this make me feel? The industry folks don't just want a pretty picture, they want to see how the characters interact on the page, how convincingly did you convey a world for these characters.

Dani: What changes would you like to see in either the SCBWI as a whole or the Canada West Illustrators?

Helena: I think for Canada West Illustrators, I'd love to see the group grow. More people in a variety of states of their publishing career - seasoned pros sharing with newbies. I'd love to see a regular gallery showing - perhaps coupled with a book launch. I'd love to see our annual conference grow to a two-day event and attract publishers and agents from Canada and the U.S.

Dani: What are some of the personal projects (illustration or otherwise) you are working on right now?

Helena's Tomie Entry
Helena: I regularly submit my work to agents and publishers for consideration - graphic novels, picture books, illustration, art cards. Really, the challenge is to give some ideas a chance to become something. Some ideas you write down, then forget just as easily, but others are good little gems that need to be polished bit by bit. I'm working on my second graphic novel now, which is in thumbnail and writing stages. BUT, there are a handful of picture book ideas that I feel deserve a voice. It's all a juggling act...

Dani: If you could choose any written book to illustrate in your own style, which one would it be?

Helena: Watership Down by Richard Adams is my husband's favourite book. I'd love to adapt it to a graphic novel and make it more accessible to the kids that can't digest that much prose.

Follow Helena:


Monday, August 11, 2014

Ready. Set. Write! Week 10

I got my nerves tested today. It was a shocking experience... they literally sent tiny jolts of electricity through my body. It wasn't painful... about like a static electricity shock. They didn't find anything. It could be early Carpal Tunnel syndrome or it could be something else completely. 


My goals for last week:

Work on Illustrations for the VCON art show.
Send out interview questions. 
Write some articles for the SCBWI Bulletin.
Continue to work on dummies and layout illustrations.

So I didn't get to any dummy work this week or send out questions (have to do the questions this week). I did a bit on the articles I have for the Bulletin. I did start on several illustrations for the VCON art show. Hoping to have a few more days this week to work on artwork. Oh, also I officially reserved 2 panels (a panel is 4x4 square) and 10 print illustration slots in the VCON gallery's art shop!


Work on Illustrations for the VCON art show.
Send out interview questions. 
Write some articles for the SCBWI Bulletin.

I'm just taking the dummy off my "to do" list for now. If I get time or inspiration I'll work on them. I'd rather focus on the three things on my list right now. I found out that I don't really need to frame my artwork for the art show, so that leaves me with more money/time to work on artwork.


I drew more dragons this week than I have in my entire life!


Lack of sleep and exhaustion!


That I can use some of my old drawings as ideas for new work. Some of them are rendered better than others, but I can adapt everything to my current style. I have at least 5-7 drawings I have started. My whole art display wont be Mermaids!

This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerKaty UppermanErin Funk, and Jamie Morrow. Please visit their blogs to help continue great events such as this!

And the Winner is....

The winner of the Mythological Brownies T-shirt Contest is:

Tara Santoro

@JerseyGirlDraws on Twitter

I will be contacting you later today for your information Tara! Congratulations and thank you everyone for entering!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ready. Set. Write! Week 9

I meant to write more in this space last week and it seems as though I cut myself off early. No idea what I was going to say, but it was going to be amazing! I received word back from the Dr. that I have no damage to my spine (at least not my neck). Now I'm just waiting on word to go in for another test. 

I've been having trouble the last few weeks working on anything. Between the low iron, nerve problems (my arms are going numb) and not having my usual toddler free day... well I've just not been able to do much. I'm hoping this week is better.  


My goals for last week:

Continue to work on dummies and layout illustrations.
Write some articles for the SCBWI Bulletin.
Work on new black and white spot illustrations.
Send out interview questions. 

The new dummy is kind of on the back burner right now while I come up with new inspiration. I started laying out the illustrations for my book, but haven't finished with that yet. I didn't get a chance to work on any new illustrations for the bulletin or work or send out new interview questions. I did work on editing the articles, but need to do some fact checking to finish one up. All in all it was a meh week.


Work on Illustrations for the VCON art show.
Send out interview questions. 
Write some articles for the SCBWI Bulletin.
Continue to work on dummies and layout illustrations.

I'm changing one of my goals this week and reordering them to prioritize. I've been accepted to the VCON art show so I need to do a few more pieces that fit into that genre. My dummy isn't really less important, but I need to set it aside so I can think about it more. 


Killing the "you"s in my articles was hard.


Iron, nerve stuff and a crazy kid. Same as last week!


Well it's not my WIP, but the art director at VCON loved my artwork, so I love that she loves my work! 

This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerKaty UppermanErin Funk, and Jamie Morrow. Please visit their blogs to help continue great events such as this!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Talia Haven and Sytiva Sheehan

I'm doubly lucky today. Not only do I have Writer Talia Haven of the fabulous book "Ten Busy Brownies", but the Illustrator, Sytiva Sheehan as well! What could be better? A prize! There is a T-Shirt up for grabs with a lovely Brownie Illustration by Sytiva Sheehan. The rafflecopter entry form is after this post!

Dani: Please tell us how you both got started in Children's books! 

TALIA: I got started when my children moved out. I had plenty of time on my hands to learn how to write. 

SYTIVA: I have always known that art was here to stay, started making little illustrated stories as a small child, but took children’s book illustrating seriously in 2004.

Dani: What were both of your favorite toys growing up?

TALIA: A great big panda bear that I would sit on and beat on its nose in every time I had a temper tantrum. (Sigh… I miss that flat nosed bear.)?

 SYTIVA: A stuffed animal named doggy, he was in my band where I used any object that made sound. Loved all kinds of rocks and crystals they were all friends.

Dani: Why Brownies?
TALIA: I have always had a fascination with mythical creatures. Brownies are workers, when I was younger I always thought I would like to have one. Just to keep mom off my back about my bedroom.

SYTIVA: Love magical art stories as well as creating a magical place in the mind that one can revisit.

Dani: Did you two work together or separately on Ten Busy Brownies?

TALIA: Separately. Sytiva is so talented I always wanted to be surprised.

Dani: Sytiva please tell us a bit about your process in creating the illustrations for this. I'm particularly interested in the beautiful lighting you did for your book.

SYTIVA: The journey creating the mythological brownie characters was colorful fun and bonding. Each character has a different personality, which reflects human behavior in some way or another creating a sense of community. Some are smaller and some taller, chubby, older, shy or bold. There is even Allen the spider. I have grown to know these personalities and so my job is never boring.

The story takes place in the evening when brownies are awake and working. In night scenes it important to follow the path of light so you don’t loose the depth of the background and merge it with the foreground. So first I drew the sketches out starting from the source of light and where it was coming from and how far in distance, then shadows.

Because it is a counting book the images in the beginning have close up and medium-shots, where you can see the personalities. As you move through the story where there are more characters, they become distant long-shot illustrations exposing more of their world.

The sources of light within the illustrations are Old fashion street lamps with an orange pink glow. Moon sky light which has a tint of blue. The fireplace, which is at an angle and has a yellow light which only travels so far. Swinging lamps on a chain and coffee table lamps. Then yellow orange shiny smiley face buttons to go on the clothe of all the characters. This is to reflect light on and off and bounce it around to give a chance to compare the presence and absence of extreme light. The buttons themselves are fun because they are looking in different directions or looking at the subject of the illustrated page. Everything was drawn in permanent pen and ink and highlighted with a white color pencil. The buttons which were also drawn in pen and ink were added in the end using photoshop.

Dani: Do you have any advice for writers and illustrators that may be reading this?

TALIA: Keep at it. Sometimes things don’t work out until you team up with someone. 

 SYTIVA: Think the advice I would give to another illustrator would be to stay inside of the story when illustrating, do not stay on the outside of the page. It is much more fun to be involved.

Dani: What does the future have in store for both of you?

TALIA and SYTIVA: Right now we are working on a mid grade book of fables. Our most current project is a New Adult Short story entitled “MAMA CRIED”. Sytiva is the cover artist, it is edited by Ingrid Hall.

Follow Talia and Sytiva:

Their Brownie Blog:
Sytiva on Google+:

a Rafflecopter giveaway