Friday, October 7, 2016

Once Upon a Joy Steuerwald

Pigs are far from my favorite animal. I usually don't think they are cute at all. Joy Steuerwald's work made me love piggies. In fact, the illustration of pigs in Joy's portfolio is my favorite. Someone who could make me love pigs so much is someone whose story I needed to hear. A wonderful story is just what Joy sent.


A Dummy’s Story…

When I first started working with my agent, Teresa Kietlinski, I gave her a list of different ideas I had for stories. We went over the list and discussed some options. The idea we decided on first was actually not even a story at all yet. I had sketched an image and had just one line of text.

She felt it was a pretty strong image and that I should work out a story for it. While figuring out the story, I also considered the number of pages and the format for the book. I settled on 32 pages and thought I’d stick with a pretty standard size to fit shelves.

Ok, writing the story was HARD! Of course! Anyone who has actually tried to write a decent picture book knows this. This was really the first time I was working toward writing my own book as well. It was daunting for sure. I’d always thought of myself as an illustrator wanting to bring other people’s stories to life. So, of course then my approach to writing was different. I thought more in pictures.

Who is this little pup and what do they look like? What is her story? Oh, is it a her? Needless to say, I did a BUNCH of sketches of the characters in the book. Some of course were main characters and some secondary.

At the same time I was making revision after revision on the story. Figuring out the ending took the most effort. I had figured out my “voice” for the story somewhat early on. The resolve for the conflict was another thing. My agent was a great help during this stage and when I got it to a point that I was pleased with it, I worked on breaking down the pages and creating what I thought was the best page turns.

Simultaneously to the page turn, I was thinking about imagery. Spreads verses vignettes and also still figuring out my characters, LOTS of drawings and thumbnails.

My agent and I also discussed how to present this as a dummy to editors and art directors. We decided I would create a pdf to submit. Some publishers prefer printed dummies that they can manipulate, but Teresa knew what her contacts would accept. If you don’t have an agent, research is going to be a great help in what you decide to submit and what they accept.

As far as drawings, I ended up submitting pretty tight sketches, almost final. My backgrounds where a little looser, but the characters and their expressions I wanted to be clear. This isn’t really necessary, especially since there will more than likely be revisions! I was comfortable with that though and knew it would be the case. I also completed 2 pieces to accompany the dummy so the publisher could see my finished/painted look.

Teresa first sent out proposal letters asking if she could submit my dummy to editors. She received responses within a week or so and sent the dummy, painted pieces, cover letter and manuscript. I’m happy to say that we sold the book to a pretty awesome publishing house and I will be able to announce the release soon!


Follow Joy:


Blog: The Sketchables

Twitter: @joystewy


You should have your Character Sketches done and starting to do some loose sketches of your characters in different positions. If you haven't already -- start making those thumbnails bigger so you can start to see your illustrations come together.


  1. Arghhh running late on the challenge it seems. Must get drawing. And those piggies really do look adorable !!!

  2. The challenge truly does begin! It takes more time than I realized to sit with my character and really get to know her.

  3. Thank you for sharing your process sketches with us, Joy.

  4. I'm having so much trouble really getting to know my characters. I'll have to keep drawing then! Thanks for the post!

  5. Congrats to Joy on the sale of her book! It was informative to read about her process of creation.

  6. Thanks for sharing your story and congrats on your book!

  7. These sketches are so useful. Thanks for sharing, Joy!