Thursday, September 24, 2015

Visionary of the Arts: Ryan Sias and a Prize!

I have a special place in my heart for people that work to educate children in the arts. It's true that all Writers and Illustrators do this, but Ryan Sias is a special, special. Ryan not only works to develop educational apps for children but he also has created Sias Studios to help keep children interested in the arts. Sias Studios sends out a weekly art project that encourages kids to write, doodle and learn to draw. These are absolutely wonderful projects for kids aged four and up!

There is a prize today donated by Renee Kurilla so scroll down to find out more!


Dani: Who or what most influences your work?

Ryan: My goal is to use my creativity to help others become more creative. I want to find wants to help people unleash their creative spirits. Not just for writing and drawing but in all aspects of life. Problem solving, music, and being able to express yourself however you want.
Ryan and Peter Reynolds

Currently I'm really into Peter Reynolds and his fantastic books. “ The Dot” and “Ish”. I got to hang out with him a few weeks ago and it was inspirational. I'm also really digging Taro Gomi books, especially his Doodle books. They are so simple and leave room to be creative.

Dani: What was it that prompted you to start Sias Studios?

Ryan: Sias Studios free weekly emails are designed to promote creative thinking and foster children’s imaginations. Our original art projects encourage kids to invent their own stories and make art without boundaries. We provide a springboard for you child to dive into artistic discovery!
This is aimed to help kids be creative. With school cutting all arts, this is a serious problem. We are not training our kids for the future. As we move away from the industrial age and move into the information age, the most powerful thing you can have is ideas. Ideas make money, and help change the world. You all know the problem with cutting arts, but instead of just compiling about it I decided to do something to help kids and help their future, That is why every week I send out these free emails with PDF that you can use at home.
Sign up for free:

Dani: Tell us about your new book "SNIFF! SNIFF!"

Ryan reading "Sniff, Sniff"

Many years ago I was at a book convention and dog came up and smelled me. I thought it would be fun to have a book where a dog is following smells, or looking for a great smell. It could be a very different way to tell a story. So I started working on the book, after a few drafts of the dummy, we keep taking out words, and telling more with the pictures. By the end I only had 12 words in the book, the rest was all visual story telling. Kids love this because it allows them to create their own words, and make up part of the book themselves. I do interactive readings, which is tons of fun and after the readings I give out doodle pages so they can create their own stores. (Check out the doodle pages here) 

Dani: How does your work in Children's Entertainment influence your illustration?

Ryan: I create educational apps for pre-school kids. This work is not designed by me, so I have to copy other artist styles. An example would be Sesame street, I follow their style guide and that it LOOKs like Sesame street and not my work. Which means my personal style has to go away and I copy another style. Which is great, because getting paid to learn a new style is helpful.

So when I get to draw my own work, I use pieces of these other successful styles and blend them with my own work. After working in animation for 18 years I've got a little bits from all over the place.

In addition its great to have my job be drawing. My belief is the more you draw the better you get. I am always grateful and feel lucky that my jobs have me draw.

Dani: Tell us your approach to Picture Book Dummies.

Ryan: As an Author/Illustrator my approach is slightly different than some one who only writes or only draws. When starting a dummy I write and draw it at the same time.

1. Normally I have an idea for a story and I talk it out with my fiance and friends. We work out what the major theme is and what the point of the book is. My new book “SNIFF SNIFF” is about smells and going on an adventure with a dog.

2. Then I sit down with a lined notebook from the dollar store and start doodling. I try to draw what I discussed with my friends, but at the same time I let the pencil wander. Something happens when I doodle, things come out that I would never consciously think about. Which to me is the good stuff.

3. I doodle around for a week, then using my iPhone I take photos of all the drawings I like and bring them into Photoshop and start to build up the book. Around this time I sit down and write out a formal draft of the book.
4. Once all the sketches of photos are in Photoshop on the correct page, I use a Wacom tablet and redraw or completely change the drawings.
Then I go back to the script and take out most descriptive words. (this is one major note I give writers, take out MOST of your descriptive words, this leaves room for illustrators to do their best work, and its what editors are looking for. 

My example is if you are writing a cowboy book, DONT say, the cowboy has a yellow hat, a red bandanna, and shiny brown cowboy boots. DONT say anything about what they are wearing UNLESS its important to the story. If the cow boy is going to loose his yellow hat among other hats, then that's important. Other wise leave out all descriptions. That's the job for the illustrator)
I continue to go back and forth with writing and drawings, trying to find the simplest way to say what I'm wanting to say. Then I share it with friends and see what they think.
Once I’m happy with it I send it off to my agent and try to forget about it.

I love making dummies, I work very fast So I can do it in a few weeks. I like the dummies more than the finished book because I like the rawness of the sketches and the discovery of what the book is super fun!

Dani: Do you have any last words of wisdom to share?

Ryan: My advice is keep cranking out dummies! The more you have the better your odds of getting published are. I believe each book you create you get better and better at it. So while your first book might not get published the 4 or 5th might. This market is very competitive right now, so its about determination. Just keep working on it and perfecting you're craft. Join SCBWI, go to conferences, joining a critique group, keep making more books and express your true feelings. You can do it!

Follow Ryan

Sias Studios Website:


Illustrated by Rene Kurilla

One lucky winner will win a copy of "SPF 40" (Zebrafish Book 2) illustrated and kindly donated by the wonderful Renee Kurilla!

Rene is a wonderful Illustrator with a massive list of books she's Illustrated. Her wonderful illustration work can be seen in Orangutanka: A Story in Poems written by Margarita Engle. Coming soon is Burkley the Terrible Sleeper written by Mitchell Sharamat available for pre-order now!

Visit Renee's Website:





  1. Thank you for sharing your adventures, Ryan. It was inspiring to learn about you :)

  2. Thanks for the insight. Sniff Sniff looks like a fun book!

  3. Thank you for helping us all become more creative.

  4. Thank you for sharing! Great inside view!