Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dragon Rider Traci Van Wagoner -- Plus a Prize

Traci Van Wagoner is absolutely wonderful. This is Traci's second year contributing to Smart Dummies. Last year Traci talked about the creation of her book "The Mermaid's Gift" This book is absolutely beautiful. Every time I think of Traci I envision the gown in this book.

This year Traci joined me, Mark Mitchell and Mira Reisberg for a Google Hangout. It was great to to see Traci and to talk to her in real time. I was slightly shocked that she didn't have a dragon on her shoulder (her dragon is probably shy). Traci has been so supportive to throughout this whole event. I feel so blessed to have Traci on my blog today!

Check out the awesome prize Traci's offering after this post!


Dani: It's been a year since Smart Dummies. What have you been up to in that time?

Traci: Wow, time flies. It has been a busy and productive year for me. First, I finished the illustrations for the picture book I had mentioned in my post last year and was doing the dummy for during Smart Dummies 2015, Cody and Grandpa’s Christmas Tradition written by Gary Metivier, Pelican Publishing, September 15, 2016. [Link: http://www.pelicanpub.com/proddetail.php?prod=9781455621705#.V92vsIVlGOd]

Over the last year I’ve also illustrated Tameka’s New Dress the second in the Nelson Beats the Odds series written by Ronnie Sidney II, from Creative Medicine. [Link: http://www.creative-medicine.com/]

With my husband and partner at Imagine That! Design [link: www.imaginethatdesignnyc.com], we’ve illustrated 3 books (and we’re finishing a 4th) for Booker T. Bear Let’s Go Series written by Jen Miller, to be published by The Library Store. The first will be released in December 2016, I believe. We’re also working on a new website with them for the series.

I am working on several picture book stories of my own. One of them, Don’t Fret, Fred, I have out on submissions. If time permits, I’m hoping to be creating a dummy for another story along with all of you brave souls.

On a different note but still kid lit related, I am in the last edits for my MG fantasy, Dragon Dilemma (title still in progress).

And on an even slightly different note, but still kid related, my husband and I have designed and illustrated four family games for Roosterfin Games [link: https://roosterfin.com/] this year. They will be released hopefully by the end of the year and early next year.

Phew, it has been a busy year.

Dani: What's changed for you over the last year?

Traci: Let’s see, I’m a year older, I’m still working my butt off trying to make a living but getting to do what I love every day. With all the illustration work I’ve had, I’ve learned a lot and developed my skills, techniques, and process quit a bit, although I still love to explore and always will. I like to shake things up a bit, or, like my husband thinks, make things hard for myself. The best change this year is that I’ve have had more work come to me vs. having to go out and pitch for jobs on freelance sites so much. What hasn’t changed is that I’ve been delinquent in sending out more promotional postcards.

Dani: If you could re-illustrate any picture book (or fairy tale) which would you choose and why?

Traci: Aesop’s Fables because when I was a kid we had a record of the Smother’s Brothers reading them. I have very fond memories of fun times with my family and my older brothers in particular listening to those. Plus the fables are silly fun.

Or Cinderella because there is so much fun and whimsical things happening and a mix of interesting characters. I have sketches scattered through my various sketchbooks, but have never pulled anything together.

Dani: Do you have plans for any changes in your illustration for the future?

Traci: Yes, I need to work faster and with more purpose, and I think to do that best, I need to sketch better, take more time in the sketch phase before rushing to the next stages of the process. I also want to sketch more of different age groups, cultures, characters with a focus on consistency in the characters and style of art for each book and project. I’m always playing around with new styles and different media to tell the stories I’m bringing to life in the best way. I also want, no need, to create more of my own picture books. I’ve got a bunch of stories that are just waiting, calling, begging me to illustrate. I need to hunker down and do it.

Dani: Is there any advice you could give the people working on their dummies?

Traci: Don’t feel like you need to be perfect when you start out. That’s too overwhelming. Go with a doodle at a time to find your characters and your story. Sketch fast, loose, have fun, explore, let your characters free, and don’t rush the initial stages. Play with layout, points of view, angles, shapes, and lighting. Once you have a solid idea of your overall story in thumbnail form (it can be loose as hell), then the sketching stage can go more smoothly, and you’ll be able to set those ideas free. But the most important thing of all is to have fun!

Newest Books

The Mermaid’s Gift, Pelican Publishing, September 2015

Nelson Beats the Odds, Creative Medicine, September 2015

Tameka’s New Dress, Creative Medicine, July 2016

Cody and Grandpa’s Christmas Tradition, Pelican September 2016

Booker T. Bear Let’s Go Series (4 books), The Library Store, Winter 2016 / 2017


Follow Traci:
website: www.tracivanwagoner.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TraciVanWagonerIllustrator/

Twitter: @tracivanwagoner

Instagram: TraciVWcreations

children’s illustrator: http://www.childrensillustrators.com/illustrator-details/TraciVanWagoner/id=2876/

Celebrate the Little Things blog: http://tracivanwagoner.blogspot.com/

linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tracivanwagoner


One lucky winner will win a Full Dummy Critique from Traci!

In order to win this prize you must comment on this post.
It would also be lovely if you shared this post with your friends.

Winner will be chosen from those who win Smart Dummies.


  1. Thanks, Traci. I love how busy you are - so many projects, and it's great that you are always working to improve. Inspiring.

  2. Your advice: "Sketch fast, loose, have fun ... " sounds very encouraging, Traci!

  3. It's nice to see how you balance everything when you're so busy. Trying to keep it loose and not be perfect in the early stages of ideas -great advice.Thank you Traci.

  4. Thanks Traci! Your illustrations are beautiful and I loved hearing how many things you are balancing at once!

  5. You are so right....I find that trying to achieve a level of perfection before submitting is an absolute killer of my ideas and drive. It can be overwhelming. I've printed out your advice as a reminder to let go of perfection and enjoy the process!

  6. Yay for being busy! And thanks for the reminder to allow ourselves some imperfection.

  7. It is so fun seeing how much you can do in 1 year if you put in the time!

  8. Thanks for your inspiring information! I adore your postcard!

  9. Very helpful, Traci. Thank you so much!

  10. Traci has been super busy and productive! I think Aesop's fables would be super fun to illustrate. :) I need to remember to loosen up when I start on the dummy.

  11. I'm going backwards on the posts this month. Been uber busy working on my dummy for an up coming conference. I liked hearing that Traci isn't on top of everything. I feel the same way. Trying to do everything: promoting, submitting, learning new things, and creating is like juggling many balls at once, pretty challenging.

  12. These are such opportunities to grow and develop your style. And I thought I was years behind, but I see you're still working on sketching. That makes me feel better :)

  13. Thanks for the inspiration and congrats on your recent illustration success!

  14. Wow! Thanks very much for the interview :) It's inspiring to see all the things that can happen during a year--thanks especially for being transparent with the the things you didn't like or feel that you could do better. I also think it's super-cool that you're business/creative partners with your husband ^-^ Thanks again!

  15. Thank you, Traci. I love this!: "go with a doodle at a time . . . explore, let your characters free." And I love your illustrations, especially the granddad and Tameka!

  16. Such beautiful work! Thank you for the advice about keeping things loose and free - something I need to be reminded!

  17. Thanks Traci, You are very inspiring. I love your phase "let your characters free!" I would love a dummy critique.

  18. I am working on my dummy and found this information useful. Thanks

  19. Thank you Traci, I remember reading this a couple of weeks ago. It helped me a lot. I love the part on "having fun" "Don’t feel like you need to be perfect" "Go with a doodle at a time to find your characters and your story. Sketch fast, loose, have fun, explore, let your characters free, and don’t rush the initial stages. Play with layout, points of view, angles, shapes, and lighting."
    This was so true. Once I tried it I could see the playing and the mood of the book. Thank you


  20. Dear Traci, I'v'e been a Play Therapist in trauma and oncology units for decades. It is so heartwarming to see the books from your team addressing those children's challenges. Winning a full Dummy critique from you will be invaluable. Thanks again for the lovely sharing.

  21. Thanks Traci, very inspiring.

  22. Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I'm glad I was able to provide a bit of inspiration. Congratulations to everyone for your hard work this month and for completing a dummy book. Even if you didn't manage to pull it all together, you put your butts in the chair and made progress. Well done!

  23. Wow, Traci, you've had an incredibly busy year! This is precisely the work I want to be doing, so a dummy critique from you would be of great help, and hopefully not too scary. (You don't seem scary at all, despite being friends with many dragons.) I figured out yesterday that my thumbnails were not planned out enough, so the dummy sketches were taking too much time. I was trying to rush it. So, I went back to the planning before sketching the bigger compositions. THANK YOU for your post.

  24. I love the sketch fast and loose and HAVE FUN bit, as I often concentrate on only the result. I also love yoyr dragon-drawinga, the are spectacular and I was wondering how you do them, as they really have a shine to them!
    Will be charing your post on google + !

  25. Definitively bookmarking all these wonderful posts so I can come back to them. Thanks for the inspiration Traci!

  26. I love your advice, too--play, have fun--that's how I finally got through this challenge--letting go of the need to be perfect (ha--like that will ever happen!) I enjoyed looking at your illustrations, too--love the dragons! Thanks for sharing.