Monday, August 31, 2015

Sample Schedule for Smart Dummies

I do not have much done for the event, so I'm going to give you an idea of how I would ideally schedule my time for this event.

A spread is two pages put together (think of it as an open page of a picture book). You might want to think of your story in spreads 12-14 (+2 pages) rather than 24-30 individual drawings. I generally use printer paper (8.5x11 or smaller) for each spread which is far less taxing than using a full sheet of paper for each drawing!

I would suggest setting aside time every day to work on your dummy. I would make it a target to work an hour a day. If you find you only have 30 minutes some days, then use that time to the best of your ability and find extra time later.. This is what my schedule might look like if most tasks took me 1 hour a day. If you finish one task in a day and are ready for another, then feel free to move on. 

Goals for the month:

Day 1: Doodle a lot
Day 2: Create Thumbnails
Day 4: Have character designs for all characters 
Day 13: Finish loose drawings for each of your pages/spreads.
Day 14: Step back (several feet) and analyse your drawings. 
Day 27: Have your finished spreads done.
Day 30: Use your remaining days to polish your finish spreads. Erase stray lines, or trace the drawings so they look clean.

Everyone works at a different pace. For some people this will be too much, and others it will be too little. In reality much of my work will be done on the 5 hours I'm child free on Thursdays. If you get in the habit of working on the hard days, you'll find it easier to keep on task. 

Smart Dummies Starts Tomorrow!

Smart Dummies starts tomorrow. Do you have everything?

Sign up here if you haven't already!

Share Smart Dummies with your friends and win a $20 Amazon gift card:

Here is a quick list of what you'll need:

- Pencils/Mechanical Pencils
- Paper (Can be computer paper!)
- Erasers of all sorts
- Your polished manuscript (or ideas for a story if wordless)
- Access to a computer to see the posts

Things you might want to have:

- Drawing books & books on craft (There are some free here)
- Pre-sketching
- Character Designs
- Thumbnails (tiny drawings to outline your script)
- A critique group for feedback (Contact me if you would like to join a group)
- A scanner (camera) to share your work with your group

I've only got a few sketches done for the event. I will be posting a second time today to show a sample schedule. I will also be putting challenges at the bottom of some of the posts to help keep you on track. The samples and challenges will be based on not having much pre-work done for the event.

What you need to win: 

- Sign up on the sign-up page! The Facebook group is for everyone, but does not guarantee sign up to the event!

- You need at least a 24 page dummy (+ cover). These are often drawn in pencil (though may be done on a computer if you prefer).

- For a few posts you may have to additionally comment or share to win the prize.

Sylvia Liu has told me that many publishers are in favor of the bigger format  which is 30 pages + cover.  The cover can be 1-2 pages and I'm not completely sure if it's necessary, but it is a good introduction to your book.  Tara Lazar has basic picture book layouts so you can plan accordingly:

If you get overwhelmed at any time during the event please contact me! I will do my very best to help you through the situation. There will be a few prizes for those who have signed up and don't win the event. After the event will be more information about finishing and sending out your manuscript.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Akemi Ito Shares Her Technique

Quick note before I start: My internet is currently down until 12:30am tonight. Until then I'll have limited access to the internet. I am likely going to have to post the Gesture Post on the Smart Dummies group on Facebook: I will be making a post tomorrow about the event and how to make a shedule for yourself during the event! I'm setting up some posts for the event so things will run smoothly now. Please contact me here or on any of my social media if you need anything before tomorrow and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.


Akemi Ito is a fantastic Illustrator I met in the Canada West SCBWI. She has a wonderful way with expressive characters and beautiful colors. I asked her on my blog today to share her process with you. I hope that this inspires you, and if you have any questions please ask them in the comments!
The image is done with watercolor, white poster color, sumi calligraphy ink and masking fluid.

1. Draw the background roughly with a blue colored pencil. Apply masking fluid over characters and parts of the background where you want to have some special effects, or different color values.

2. Apply water all over the paper to do Wet on Wet painting. Both sumi ink and watercolor get much lighter in color when it is dry, so keep adding colors to increase values and contrast. 

 3. Wait till it is completely dry to remove masking fluid. Look at the whole image carefully to add more colors and contrasts.( I added more clouds with poster color white by dry brushing)

 4. Finally. color in characters, and do some spattering with white and vermilion red to give a finishing touch.

This is the artist who inspired me a lot on Youtube. I am also taking her online class at the moment.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Character Design and Emotion

Initial Character Sketches
Before I start I want to let you know about Doodle Day! Alison Kipnis Hertz will be doing a Doodle Day Challenge in September based around character design! This should help you to create your dummies so I highly recommend you look into this challenge. Don't think of it as a second challenge. Think of it as a way to make the Smart Dummies challenge even easier! Just go to Facebook and join the group. Alison has written a wonderful guest post for early September!

I was going to post about gesture drawing today, but I think since I have so many character sketches on hand I might as well do that first. When starting my character sketching for a story sometimes I'll just need to draw a couple different character designs per character to figure out what my characters will look like. Other days it's just not that easy! It's those other days where I have to do at least one page of initial character sketches just to get things right. The picture to the right is one that I did years ago for a story. None of the characters in the story looked anything like the characters in those sketches! Without these initial sketches I may never have gotten to my final designs.

The best workshop I ever had on character design was Lisa Cinar's workshop at the SCBWI Canada West conference. (SCBWI and Kidlit Conference people get out your checkbooks and hire this woman for your conference now!) If you are in the Lower Mainland of BC you should take her classes. She will be doing a guest post for Smart Dummies in the second half of September.

I like to measure out my characters so I can make sure they are consistent throughout my story. The characters below are for "The Pattern Pals" a comic series I've set aside for the time being. They are measured out in a way that I can see how they would relate to other characters in the story.

You want to know what your character looks at the front, back, side and 3/4th angle at the very least. I did not do the back for most of these characters because they look very much the same from the front and back. The more angles and positions you can put your characters in, the easier it will be to make your characters more consistent in your books. Some people like to make 3-D models of their characters to make sure they are very consistent throughout their stories. Gesture, which I will talk about soon, will help you know your characters better.

Along with knowing how to draw your characters throughout a story it's also important to give your characters emotions. Agents and Editors like to see that you can do a variety of emotions in your drawings. Practice drawing your characters with lots of emotion. Both gesture and facial features come together to show how your character feels.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ed Emberley and Drawing With Shapes

My Favorite Ed Emberley Book
When I was coming up with topics a few days ago I forgot something that was important. The major thing that any artist needs to know is how make drawing easy (or at least easier). When one says they can't draw something, it often has nothing to do with their drawing skills. Even though there are many things I find difficult to draw I can't help but think that this problem is more mental than anything else. The thing (or person rather) that makes me think this is Ed Emberley and his drawing books. This is his website:

When I was young I use to pick up Ed Emberley's books from the library. From these books I learned how to use simple shapes to create anything. In most learn to draw books I would would see something akin to this:
Who can draw anything from a tutorial like this? I sure can't and I created the original drawing! Many tutorials in art books are like this (some better than others). Most aren't that helpful when you are starting out. This is why I highly recommend looking into Ed Emberley's books. Each part of the tutorials tells you not only what you are drawing, but shows the shape you should draw below the image. The tutorials in the book look something like below:

These books aren't just kid's books. Ed Emberley's books help artists get started thinking in shapes. If you can train your eye to see the basic shapes you should theoretically be able to draw basically anything. The images below are drawn so you can better see the basic shapes in a complex figure.

Drawing basic shapes will allow you to better lay out your page. If you start by drawing squares and circles it's much easier to erase than drawing a whole car, erasing it, and drawing that whole car smaller.

The drawing below is created from the image above. When I start drawing a portrait I'll start by drawing an egg shape for the whole head, lay out where the eyes, nose, mouth and ears should be (this is all represented by the grey lines). Then I go in and make sure that each of these features are in the right position before I start going into deeper detail (black lines). If you get the basic shapes correct, then it will be a lot easier to make a more symmetrical and well drawn illustration.

If you are at the library or bookstore be sure to pick up Ed Emberley's books! Jack Hamm "Drawing the Head and Figure" will go into this in much more detail about drawing the figure. In a day or two I'll talk a bit about gesture. Happy Drawing!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Starting With Thumbnails

When my mom taught herself to draw she started with the simple things: portraits and still lifes. Her favorite by far (and mine too) was portraits. She learned to draw the right eye first and draw the rest of the figure in proportion to that -- a method that's not wholly wrong, but proves problematic when applying to illustration.

The good part of this method is that one learns how everything in the body relates to everything else. Using the eye's width one can determine the width of the nose, the distance between the eyes, and the basic shape of the head. Read Jack Hamm's "Drawing the Head and Figure" to learn more about this and other important aspects of drawing the figure. It's very inexpensive (about $10-$13 usd) and is an excellent reference.

There are many problems with starting with the eye in Illustration. For one, you usually don't have a perfect model to work from. Even then, if you start with something as small as the eye you won't be able to place the figure correctly on the page. To correct this I start by creating thumbnail sketches so I can get an approximation of where everything goes on the page.

If you are a writer think of a thumbnail as a story idea you get in the middle of the night. You scribble it down quickly so you can go back to sleep. Thumbnails aren't perfect -- especially mine. It's okay for these to be sloppy since no one will ever see them. Unless you write a blog post and display the sloppiness on your blog! Note: I have much sloppier thumbnails for my dummies, but couldn't show them here.

Check back soon for more information about how to make laying out the page and making better images. I will be writing about gesture, character design/emotion, and anything else I can think of this week. I will also be having a few other people with posts to help you get thinking about Smart Dummies!

Sign up for Smart Dummies here:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Akemi Ito and Suzanne Del Rizzo Join Smart Dummies!

Akemi Ito is joining the Smart Dummies to give a wonderful step by step process post so you can see how she does her work.

Suzanne Del Rizzo will be joining us with an interview. I asked her all the hard questions. I forgot to ask her about ice cream, but that will have to wait until another time.

I'm sorry I haven't been posting as much as I should! My brain is leaking out my ears right now. Know I'm working on making this event spectacular. I should have a few good art posts up soon!

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Great Illustration Post and an Update

I'm hoping through this event you will all learn a lot! I just wanted to point out Patricia Pinsk's new post Keep this post in mind as you work on your dummies and come back to it once the event is over!

I am having a problem with the feed for my blog. I'm not sure why, but all my posts are not being emailed  until 9am PST the next day. At least this is the case for me. I'm trying to get this resolved before the start of the event.

I have also had a bit of problems with the $20 Amazon Card giveaway. I do not know what's going on, but please let me know if your entries don't show up! I can enter them in manually if I have to. There is still tons of time to enter this contest:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New Prize - Dummy Critique by Lauren Eldridge

Lauren Eldridge just let me know that she is generously donating a Dummy Critique for the Smart Dummies challenge! This is a fantastic opportunity for you to get feedback on your work. This challenge is getting more exciting every day.

I thought that Stephen Macquignon was donating 2 post cards as prizes. I received them in the mail today and was pleasantly surprised to find 6 post cards! I'm not sure if I'm going to pair them up or give out 6 to separate people.  They are gorgeous and anyone will be lucky to get them.

If you haven't signed up for Smart Dummies yet go here:

I decided that I'm putting the Paper Dolls on pause as well as my weekly updates until after Smart Dummies is over. I need to focus more time on the event and hope you will understand!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pre Smart Dummies Giveaway!

Note: If you do enter this contest, please comment below so I can make sure your entry is counted. For some reason Rafflecopter is not registering all the entries right now and I may have to enter people manually!

I have a ton of work left to get Smart Dummies set up for September and I just don't have all the time for advertising. I know there are a ton of people who just haven't joined the event, but are planning on joining. So I'm hoping that there are lots of people out there who can help me out! I'm giving away a $20 USD Amazon Gift card to one lucky winner in this giveaway.

I have put the most emphasis on people who get someone they know to join. If you have talked about the event already in any way (no matter the link you've used), then you have earned the 3 points for Sharing the event. This giveaway runs now until the 30th of August. Please help me out by sharing this event! I will post the winner on August 31st. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Meg Miller and Julie Hedlund Join Smart Dummies!

Hi everyone. Just wanted to let you know that Meg Miller (head of ReviMo) and Julie Hedlund (head of the 12x12) have agreed to be guests for the Smart Dummies challenge! I will keep you up to date on new people who join this event.

If you would like to write a guest post for the pre or post event please contact me here: I would like some small posts about art & design techniques, things about submitting (for the post event) and anything else relating to picture books or dummies.

Smart Dummies - Official Badge

Here is the official blog/website badge for the Smart Dummies challenge. I asked my friends and made some great changes. I hope you like it! If you haven't signed up yet go here. If you want to join the Facebook group click here.

If you do use this on your blog, please link it to the sign up page: so people can find the event. I'm going to announce a contest next week to help get more people signed up for the event!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bumblebee and Butterfly Paper Doll Costumes

My son originally asked for me to make a bumblebee costume. Bumblebee meaning the Transformers Bumblebee. I'm aiming to do my own work, so he "allowed" me to do a bumblebee (insect). He also chose a butterfly for the girl. These costumes are different because you put the wings on first, fold the tabs forwards, then put the rest of the costumes on normally. 

Don't have the Paper Twins? Click here! Need some more clothes for your paper dolls? Click this link! The dolls are 100% free to download, print and use. I only ask that you don't put it on your blog/website without permission.

Edit: I did a small edit on the tabs so that the costumes will fit better with the wings! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dani's Updates - August 5th

I'm working on the image for Smart Dummies. I struggled at first because I was trying to rush the watercolors. You can't rush watercolors. I'm happy with what I have now and just need to put everything together. I'm hoping to have it done before the weekend. The Facebook group for the event is here. I will be picking up the activity on my blog over the next few weeks!

Shh! We Have a Plan. By Christ Haughton. So funny and cute! My son has finished up his Summer reading program. We've read a ton of books this summer (and it's still not over yet). I just need to take his card in and get his medal!


Every Day Possible
Working on Smart Dummies

Wed 07/28 Write Dani's Updates...done! Did a lot of work on that portrait and got the painting done for the Smart Dummies badge. 

Thursday 07/30 - 

Friday 07/31 - Finishing up anything I haven't gotten done this week!

Saturday 08/01 - Working on a new project or making an old project new again. 

Sunday  08/02 - Painting something.

Monday  08/03 -  Hoping that my son doesn't scream today. 

Tuesday  08/04 - Coma day!

Wednesday  08/05 - Update Day!

Patience. Now to get some. 


Child Minding 
These days I know that David Shannon understands my boy a little too well. 

Some people at Peter's work liked my cake so much that they are going to see if I can do cakes from now on.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Smart Dummies - A Picture Book Challenge

Hi Everyone! Picture Book Dummy Month has been changed to Smart Dummies. 

Here is the list of guests (in no particular order). I also listed the prizes I know. There are a couple prizes I haven't listed, because those haven't been determined. There aren't quite 30 guests yet (if you're counting), but I will have at least 30 guests before September! I do not have the badge quite finished yet, but I'll get it up in a few days.  

Ready to sign up for the Challenge? Go here:


Ed Shems
Rubin Pingk
Mira Reisberg
Nicky Johnston
Dani Jones
Mary Reaves Uhles
Alison Hertz
Patricia Pinsk
Cyndi Marko
Matthew Winner
Stephen Maquignon
Lauren Eldridge
Stephanie Ruble
Russ Cox
Lisa Cinar
Jami Gigot
Traci Van Wagoner
Joel Cook
Diandra Mae
Ryan Sias
Andi Butler
Anna Todaro
Ovi Nedelcu
Tara Lazar
Neesha Hudson
Maple Lam
Nina Crittenden
Sue Frye


Photoshop Course - Mira Reisberg
Portfolio Review - Mary Reaves Uhles
Book by Nina Crittenden
Two Girls Want a Puppy - Maple Lam
Two art postcards - Stephen Maquignon
Book(s) - Renee Kurilla
The Mermaid’s Gift - Tracy Van Wagoner 
Dummy Critique - Lauren Eldridge