Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Progress? The "Am I Progressing?" Post

Sorry for the late post! I accidently scheduled this for Friday!

I have had a MONTH this month. What does that mean? I've had almost no time to work on any artwork. I've been in all the pain and have a possible allergy? I've also gotten some bad news and I hope things are going to work out. I'm hoping June will be better!

What I'm Creating:

Not enough. Just not enough. I'm hoping that I can get more work done now that I'm feeling a bit better. May was basically a terrible month for me. What it's not over yet? GAH!


My schedule was blown to pieces last month. I was okay with posting my interviews, but sadly I've ran out of people because I've had no time to send out emails. 

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 15th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy. *moved*

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum - Done!
May 11th Katherine Locke - Done!
May 18th Ashley Howland - Done!
May 25th Nick Patton - Done!

I have an IMPORTANT announcement on Friday (if no new interview answers come in) to replace the sadness that is no interview. So Friday will be a good day!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Monday Coffee -- This Page Unintentionally Left Blank

Monday Coffee was unintentionally delayed today. I have an injury that caused me a lot of pain this weekend. I was not able to get any artwork or posts scheduled this weekend. I will be doing "What Progress?" Wednesday, but I'm not sure about the interview for this week. Hopefully next weekend will be better!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Picturebooking Magic with Nick Patton

I don't know about you but I love to listen to podcasts when I draw. It's something that's not too distracting and helps improve my mood while working. I started listening to The Picturebooking Podcast when it first came out. At the time there were a few podcasts created by writers, but only Nick's (that I knew) podcast was from the perspective of an illustrator. This makes Picturebooking near and dear to my heart, because it's great when you are getting started as an illustrator to hear from other people who are in the same boat as you. Nick's podcast is insightful, creative and a ton of fun to hear! Nick isn't just awesome to listen to. His artwork is great as well. Check out his Instagram and Twitter pages to see his practice drawings and original artwork!


Dani: What is your favorite thing about running a podcast?
Nick: My favorite thing about the podcast (by far) is getting to have in depth con
versations with picture book creators who love the craft as much as I do.

I don’t know about you, but the majority of people in my life don’t let me talk for hours about Melissa Sweet’s art or how darn funny an Aaron Reynolds story is. Not only do I get to geek out about this art form, but I get to do it with the people who created it. The whole thing just blows my mind. I’m so lucky.

Dani: How has having a podcast affected your own illustration work?

Nick: Studying and talking to professional illustrators made me want to step up my game. It made me want to toss everything I’d ever done out the window and start over. I have personally done a lot of thrashing and flailing.

For the first couple years of the podcast I’d find myself studying someone’s work and then twisting my own art to their style.

But recently I’ve been listening to some past interviews and I’m finding clarity in what Dani Jones, Ovi Nedelcu and others have told me.

Dani is all about keeping it simple. Just make stuff and show it to people.

And Ovi created his “look” out of necessity. He made sure his art fit into his whole life. This is something I’m trying to do more of. If a piece of art takes me weeks to create, it isn’t a viable way of telling stories.

I still love putting on someone else’s style, but now I just copy the art as a learning exercise … something Amy June Bates mentioned in our talk.

Dani: What is your favorite food?
Nick: Well I did the illustrations for a newly released picture book title SAM AND THE SEVEN POUND PERCH. It’s a funny story about a boy and his dream of catching a record perch. I don’t want to give to much away, but if I was Sam, the story would end with a Friday Fish Fry!

The first Friday of the month a church does a fish fry in our town. They get the perch from the local fish market and they use a recipe that was gifted to them by an old restaurant owner. It is amazing perch! And it’s where we will be this Friday night!

Dani: Do you have a favorite podcast (or podcasts)? Could you share what you learned?

Nick: My first conversation with Dan Santat, days before he won the Caldecott for BEEKLE was special. Vanessa Brantley-Newton singing on the show brings goosebumps. The playful sarcasm of Mike Lowery, the energy of Rafael López and the thoughtfulness of Antoinette Portis come to mind. Asking Peter Brown about peeing was pretty memorable, and just sitting back and listening to Will Terry talk was fun.

So many good moments that it’s hard to bring one to the top.

But if you want a show about actionable tips to break into the children’s book industry … I did an entire episode on the topic with 19 past guests!

Here is Kelly Murphy’s advice in that episode:

Determination. You have to keep telling yourself that this is important and why it’s important. Self evaluation. What are you doing and how does it work with what the publishing world is doing. Thick skin. Rejection is part of this deal. It’s part of this profession. So a thick skin is important.

Dani: Why did you start a Patreon Page?

Nick: My Patreon page is all about sustainability. Patreon allows listeners of the show to contribute a monthly amount for the content I produce.

I want to continue having these conversations and promoting this medium. The goal of the podcast is to showcase the authors and illustrators behind my favorite books. But I need the show to be sustainable.

I’ve read some marketing books and blogs. I’ve googled “how to monetize a podcast.” And I don’t feel like being a true internet marketer. It’s just not fun or interesting.

So maybe my Patreon page is just me being to lazy to truly monetize the show with ads and such. But I’d prefer to think it’s an opportunity for my listeners to support my art. It’s a simple way to give me the ability and freedom to make Picturebooking my way.

Dani: What's next for the Picturebooking Podcast?

Nick: I’m inching closer to the 100th show! And I’ve been asking a bunch of people why picture books are important. It’s going to be an inspiring podcast and it reminds me why I get up every day and work on this craft.

If you or your readers would like to answer the question and potentially be included in the 100th episode just record your answer and email it to me at Please state your name in your answer … “Hi I’m Nick Patton and picture books are important to me because …”

Dani: What are your goals beyond the Picturebooking Podcast?

Nick: Four years ago, when I started the show I had this self-publishing vision. I really thought I was going to tell and share stories in some untraditional ways. But like monetizing a podcast, this self-publishing path runs headlong into internet marketing.

I’m not interested in doing everything myself. I get tired just thinking about posting on Facebook, let alone setting up an internet marketing campaign.

So my goal this year is to rebuild my portfolio, complete some “smart” dummy books and go fishing for an agent. When I catch one, we’ll have a fish fry … you’re invited!

Follow Nick:

Twitter: @nickpattonillo

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What Progress?

Tufts of cottony death are floating around my neighborhood again. I don't usually have any allergy problems but this form of puffiness seems to be my one weakness. I will breathe much better once this part of the season ends!

What I'm Creating:

Mostly a big mess in Clip Studio Paint! I think I came close to having a full palette to work from last night. More work than I bargained for, but I'm glad I'm done. It will be useful for any artwork I do. 

I found a few people to post on Instagram. I'm still working on getting more interviews. I'm hoping to find more people tonight for both!

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
May 30th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy. *moved*

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum - Done!
May 11th Katherine Locke - Done!
May 18th Ashley Howland - Done!
May 25th Nick Patton 

I will add more people to this list soon!

As promised here is a badge for "What Progress?" I will make a fancier one later, but might as well get this started!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Monday Coffee - May 21

Weird week this week, sorry everyone! I forgot today is Monday because it's a long weekend here. Victoria day messed me up!

So I've been working on a lot of things lately and one of those is working in Clip Studio Paint. The problem is I like making my own colors, so I took a red, blue, yellow and brown I liked and got to mixing! I didn't quite end up mixing all the colors I'd needed but I got a good pallet started. It's one I can use in other paintings, so I'm happy. I got most of the colors of my painting changed and I hope I can continue working on my painting soon! 
What are you working on now?

Monday Coffee is a joint effort between Dani Duck and Christy Illustrates

Friday, May 18, 2018

Interview with Puppy Approved, Ashley Howland

I had technical difficulties with this post today! I had it all set up and ready to go, but when I went to look at the pre-scheduled post today there was no post! 😰 I do not know what happened, so I'm posting this and hoping it sticks.

When I was talking to Ashley about doing an interview I was convinced that she had done an interview with me before. I was looking through my blog to find the old interview and I found nothing. Well I found an old blog hop we did, and talked about her more than once on my blog, but there was never any interview! Well time to fix that oversight. Here is the wonderful Puppy Approved Ashley Howland!

Dani: Why did you decide to write for children?

Ashley: I’m not sure it was a decision. My brain is just wired that way. I have children, I work with children. It’s more than that though, I love to read and my favourite books have always been children’s books. They are the things memories are made from. Reading to my children has always been one to the best parts of the day. We still love to read stories together and share these adventures. I write because I love to share stories with my girls and with other children. Naturally I write for children, it’s the best way to share adventures.

Dani: I know you are a dog person, but how do you feel about cats?
Ashley: Ahh the wonderful cats. I love big cats, as in tigers, lions and cheetahs. Now the pet cat, I guess I can see why some people like cats. I just prefer dogs. Partly because my husband is allergic to cats. Mainly it’s a personality thing. The thing with dogs is they need you. They want to be with you, do things with you and be a part of your life. Most cats want you only when they need something from you. I also have issues when people let their cats roam the country without any thought for the environment. No bells, no curfew. That of course is the minority of cat owners. There are of course cats that are great pets, but unless it’s a part of the big cat family I would rather have my dogs.

Dani: What do you do when you aren't writing?

Ashley: I am a teacher, mainly Physical Education now. I teach in a primary school and have taught Science, Japanese and classroom. I have interests in digital technology and love to integrate subjects all together. I often teach through stories, it’s one of the reasons I started to write. When I’m not at work I am with my girls, often on a soccer pitch. That’s all part of being mum. I am currently coaching, but generally I just try and help as much as I can. I love to spend that time with them and their friends. Between work, the kids, the dogs (who also love soccer), and occasionally getting to the gym life is quite busy. Writing is my time out, my release and while I don’t get much time, I try to make the best of the time I have.

Dani: Who influences your work the most?

Ashley: I would have to say my daughters. They are part of all my writing. At times we have worked on ideas together. Each of them has helped develop characters, ideas and even the plots. The places we go, the things we do, our daily adventures, the books we read and the holidays we go on all form part of my writing journey. My girls also help with my editing. Before I sent any of my stories off for editing I read them to the girls. They are fantastic at finding any plot holes and helping to fix any issues. The best critics come in small bodies. They are honest and straight to the point. If they hate it they tell me, if the find it funny they laugh and if they love it they ask for more!

Dani: What's the best job you've ever had?

Ashley: That’s a hard question. There are bits of all the jobs I have had that have been amazing. As a teacher I love to work with students. It’s so incredible to see them achieve their dreams. To be a part of the growth of any person is incredible. There are aspects of teaching that are not so enjoyable, the paperwork, the data, test scores, things like that. If you can put all that aside and just focus on the development of the students then teaching is incredible.
I was also lucky enough to work with at risk youth to train Labrador retrievers as companion dogs. This job was really rewarding. The dogs were always a laugh and the students grew so much from the program. It was an incredible experience. One that has shaped me as a teacher.
I guess I have been lucky and had opportunities to work with some great people. In my spare time I have coached volleyball and now am coaching soccer. The best part about this has been the people in the clubs. That community is what makes it all worthwhile.
As for the best job – it’s all about the experiences and what you make out of all opportunities. There is no perfect job, just what you make of it.

Dani: What are you working on now?
Ashley: I have a few projects going now. I really want to get the second book in my Super Hero series published. I just need to organize the cover and the chapter illustrations. That’s job number one. Then I have books three and four in this series to edit.
As I like to keep busy I have a pirate story I need to edit and I really want to get the second book in my Not So Boring Series drafted. The first one Write Your Own Story was are fun book to put together. In this book anyone can develop their writing craft. What’s even better is in each chapter they get to focus on one story and will have something worth publishing at the end. I love hearing the stories people come up with. The second one is a travel / writing journal with a difference. I just need to get moving with it.
I have lots to work on and not much time, but that’s all part of writing. It’s my release, so I will make time when I can.

You can connect with me here:
Obi Facebook:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What Progress?

Crazy days have been happening lately my friend. I'm thinking most of these are because it's so close to summer! My children are feeling it and are determined to drive me crazy. They might do it too if I weren't already there!

What I'm Creating

I finished my post sticker for Monday Coffee this past Monday. You can join me for the linkup. I have Christy helping me with this project so it should be twice as fun. There are a few kinks to work out, but I'm sure we'll smooth them out over the coming weeks! I will be making one soon for What Progress, so you can join me for this too (or just choose one)!

I am still working on my draft for my dummy. I got distracted with using Clip Studio Paint lately. I finally found a paint tool that I feel comfortable using! So now my brain wants to work on all the digital work while also trying to get to work on a dummy and sent out work to publishers. FOCUS BRAIN, FOCUS! Slow down, work on one thing at a time. If you work on too much at once nothing will get done. Okay, I think I'm good now.


Ongoing - Find more people to interview.
May 19th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy.
May 30th - Have at least one of my dummies finalized.

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum - Done!
May 11th Katherine Locke - Done!
May 18th Ashley Howland
May 25th Nick Patton

I will add more people to this list soon!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Join Me for Monday Coffee!

Here is your chance to join me every Monday for Monday Coffee! Every Monday I'll be posting my regular Monday Coffee posts with one little difference: A link-up so you can share your own Monday Coffee post! You will have a couple days to add your name, but do it right away so everyone can see your link!

What is Monday Coffee? Monday coffee is literally anything you want it to be. You could post tips for artist, what you did for the weekend, how you are feeling or anything you want! There are no wrong answers here. 

The Monday Coffee badge is below, and under that is a little button for you to put in your own link to your blog! This may take a few weeks to get going, but I'm hoping this becomes a fun thing to help creative people connect! Be sure to include the badge below (linked back to my blog) in your post.

I will be creating a badge for "What Progress?" soon as well. Might as well get this one started!  

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dreamer, Katherine Locke

I love Katherine's Twitter feed. Kathrine is funny, interesting and just plain fun! I love how she shares her journey with her followers. She also shares some of her favorite books on her feed, so be sure to follow Kathrine! My words are failing me today, because I feel like I'm not communicating all of Kathrine's awesomeness, but believe me when I say she is awesome. 

Dani: Why YA? 

Katherine: I love the precipice of change, liminal spaces. And adolescence is one of the best liminal spaces: you're not a child, not quite an adult. You're forming your own independent opinions about the world, but you're usually reliant on your family for basic needs. It's a really neat time in which you're growing and expanding really rapidly, but everything can feel like you're just holding your breath, waiting for real life to begin. I remember feeling that way and I love writing characters who feel that way too. The other reason is that teen readers (and really all kids) are the most open-minded about what they read. Whereas adults sometimes struggle with the types of books I write because they don't fit neatly into one category or another, teen readers just care if you're telling them a good story. I love that. 

Dani:  What are the most important aspects of your job as a writer?

Katherine: To me, the most important aspects of my job as a writer are to tell a good story, and to always be growing. First, I don't have an audience if I don't tell a good story. I'd be failing at the most basic part of being a writer! But I also want to be growing as a writer. I never want to tell the same story twice. I never want to dip my toes into the same pond. I want to learn as I go, and I want my writing to improve as I go. 

Dani:  How did you know your agent was right for you?

Katherine: I'm represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency. She challenges me to always be improving and leveling up with each book that I send her, which is great and definitely what I need. But I knew she was the right agent for me because I'm a flighty, anxious, dreamy sort of person/writer, and she's very grounded, no-nonsense and business-focused. She makes sure that I don't get too carried away with my emotions and that my dreams are always grounded in reality. Publishing can be a rough industry on one's emotional and mental well-being, so I appreciate that she's there to support me. 

Dani:  Do you prefer coffee or tea, and what are your thoughts on the other?

Katherine: I drink a lot of chai tea lattes. Like, a lot. It's a problem. (Says my bank account AND my kidneys.) Coffee's too acidic for me, so I end up putting tons of milk and sugar in it, and that defeats the purpose. And I do drink regular tea, especially if I'm just looking for a hot drink and not necessarily a ton of caffeine. 

Dani: What's one book you can read over and over?

Katherine: Emery Lord's Open Road Summer. I bet that comes as a surprise to people because it's a straight, contemporary YA romance but everything about that book is my catnip. I love the enemies to lovers, I love the fierce female friendship at the heart of it, and I love prickly girls in YA books. Reagan is prickly. 

Dani:  How much research do you have to put into "Girl with the Red Balloon" and "The Spy with the Red Balloon"?

Katherine: A lot of research. For GIRL, it was a lot of internet research--listening and watching interviews, movies, TV shows, using all sorts of different resources on the web to research East Berlin and the Holocaust (which I had a great deal of background knowledge in.) For SPY, I read a lot of books about Nazi science programs, the Manhattan Project, spies in WWII, parachute troops in WWII, etc. People often ask me if I research before or after, and the answer is I'm pretty much always researching. I do a surface level dive, then begin to map out and sketch out the book's main plot/conflict and characters, and that as I'm writing, I'm also reading and tweaking and researching and checking. I really like the research though. I'm a Ravenclaw through and through. 

Dani:  What's one thing that readers should know about your books? 

Katherine: Hmm, this is a hard one! I guess readers should know that I trust my readers, completely, to think and carry and question, and to be comfortable with being uncomfortable sometimes, to be open-minded and hopeful. Though my books deal with fairly dark times and topics, I like to think that they're ultimately optimistic and hopeful books. 


Katherine Locke lives and writes in a small town outside Philadelphia, PA, with her feline overlords. She writes about that which she cannot do: ballet, time travel and magic (though not yet all in the same book.) She secretly believes most stories are fairytales in disguise. When not writing, she can be found horseback riding, tweeting, or browsing the aisles of a bookstore, buying more books than one person can reasonably read in a lifetime. The Girl with the Red Balloon was her Young Adult debut and a 2018 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. The Spy with the Red Balloon releases October 2, 2018 and is available for pre-order now. Katherine can be found online at 

Follow Kathrine:

Twitter: @Bibliogato


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What Progress? May 9th

I'm really exhausted right now. I've just had a busy week running around. I worked on my garden over the weekend so that alone was enough to make for an exhausting week. 

What I'm Creating

When I'm tired I get bored easily. It's hard to focus on certain tasks. Especially if the task is sitting down and working. If I were polishing or painting my illustrations it's not hard to stay on task. 

In any case I've put my kitty dummy aside to work on a new project. Part of the problem with the kitty project is that I finished it and reimagining it is probably a bit more difficult than starting over. Especially since the story is wordless to begin with. I'm working on a new story with a baby in it. I also have another idea for a mermaid story. Hopefully I can travel between these and previous stories so I don't get bored. 


I'm not sure how far I'll make it with my schedule. Here is an update!

May 13th - Find more people to interview.
May 19th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy.

May 30th - Have at least one of my dummies finalized.

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum - Done!
May 11th Katherine Locke
May 18th Ashley Howland
May 25th Nick Patton 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Monday Coffee

It's a late Monday Coffee today. I've been busy for most of the weekend. I delayed this post a little because I want to post some pictures.

All the grass and weeds removed.

Toddler is sick so I was a bit queasy this weekend and also exhausted because he messed our sheets at 4:30am Saturday morning (too much cleaning needed for that time of day). It was one of those things were I was better off getting up and doing things rather than sitting and working on my art! So I did a bit of gardening.

Have to get some of this clover out of the rosemary/spice pot
I've shown my window gardens already. They are getting quite big now and most (if not all) need to be transfered. For one thing I've got some naughty things going on in my window garden. The spinach has somehow spread to the lettuce, and there are CARROTS in the same container. WARNING: You may not want your child to see such smut. I'm ashamed that it happened in my own kitchen! Here is the shameful scene in picture form:

I know, it's almost too racy to show!

It's dirt overturned!

I know, I know, I need to do some more art right now. I'm taking a bit of a pause so I can get this garden up and going. I have until May long weekend to get everything planted and I want to get as much in the ground as possible! The plants in storage are falling over because they so want to be outside.

Anyone else working on a garden this week?
My other garden.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Fuzzy Tiger, Benson Shum

I'm not sure where I met Benson online, but I can't resist his art! He has such a range of cute characters that he creates. My favorites include his He-Man, seahorse drawing, tiger illustrations and really anything fuzzy (which is a lot of what he does). Who am I kidding? I love them all!


Dani: What was your education like?

Benson: I studied 2D animation at Capilano University in Vancouver, BC for 2 years, then worked locally for tv studios doing design and animation, but decided to go back to school to learn the computer side of things, and attended Sheridan College in Ontario to study Computer Animation.

Dani: How did you get started working for Disney?

Benson: It took me about 12 years to get to Disney. I got opportunities to work at various studios in TV, games, and VFX, which was amazing, as I believe every studio and friends I made and worked with got me here. In the fall of 2011, I attended an animation conference in Burbank called CTN Expo. It's an amazing conference where there are like minded artist, animators, illustrators in the industry. You can walk up to anybody and just start chatting with people that just got or getting into the industry, students, professionals and veteran artists. Disney had a booth there and was doing portfolio reviews, so I got in line. Luckily, they liked my demo reel and two months later, hired me for Wreck-it Ralph. It was pretty crazy. Luck and timing!

Dani: Do you have a favorite snack?

Benson: I love nuts! I can eat them any time, any day. That or a peanut butter sandwich, crunchy, not smooth! lol

Dani: What are some of the skills and ideas you bring from animation into your illustration?

Benson: I try to evoke emotions into my poses and story in my animation. We always try to get into the characters we animate, so I try to do the same when I'm illustrating.

Dani: What is your favorite thing to draw?

Benson: I love to draw cute animals, well every animal is cute, so just animals in general! And also diverse cultures and characters.

Dani: Where do you go from here?

Benson: I would love to keep writing, illustrating and animating and keep being creative. I get inspired by all the work I see on instagram, twitter and my colleagues. It's overwhelming, but in awe everyday.

Thanks Dani for this opportunity!

Here are a few of my social media links:
Instagram: @bshum79

Twitter: @bshum79


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What Progress? May 1st

I thought my cold was heading out, but it seems to be holding on. May be a second cold. I'm glad we are getting warmer weather now! Hoping to add some soil to my garden this weekend and get the garden party started.

What I'm Creating

Still working on the kitty story. The MC is getting changed, but I'm not changing a whole lot of the layout of my story.  I feel like 85%+ was good, but it was more like 50% done story wise (basically because the story didn't make sense in a couple areas). I'm feeling good as I move forward with this! 

I did a drawing for a Monday Coffee badge. It's not quite done but I posted it here. The color is a bit different on Instagram. Hoping to finish this soon! Perfect timing for #MerMay, but I don't know if I'll be able to create daily mermaids. We'll see, because I love mermaids. 


I have lots of people signed up for interviews now. I have at least one person I haven't sent questions to, but if I've said I'll send out questions feel free to bug me! I forgot to make a list of interviewees and I want to make sure I have everyone down! 

May 4th - Interview with Benson Shum: Disney Animator and Picture Book Author/Illustrator

May 5th - Have drafts for all the new/changed pages of my dummy "finished".

May 19th - Have reasonably good pencil drafts for my dummy.

May 30th - Have kitty dummy finals finalized.

Interview Schedule:

April 27th Jardan J. Scavone - Done!
May 4th Benson Shum
May 11th Katherine Locke
May 18th Ashley Howland