Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What Progress? Don't Forget the Logo Contest and Giveaways!

There is a Logo Design Contest going on until July 6th! Also you have 5 days left to enter my Portfolio Webpage Critique giveaway. The details for the giveaway are here: and there is a link to the logo contest as well in this post! 

What I'm Creating:

I have the Smart Dummies planner in a good place right now. All the pages are there. I need to add some things and adjust what I have. The planners will be available for download at the end of July!

Things are going to be off until the end of the school year. I'm hoping to finish the planner this week, but things happen. We'll see if I can get it done!

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 30th - Finish up the Smart Dummies planner (at least enough for a pre-sale on printed copies).
July 15th - Drafts for Dummy (Hoping to finish this sooner).

Next Interview:

TBD - I'm a bit busy with the end of the school year. It's not going to be over until July 13th (summer school), but I'm still looking for more people to interview. I have several interviews sent out into the world, and hope to have a lot more soon. Unfortunately this Friday will have no interviews. 

Share your progress here! Don't know what to do? 

What Progress? is created by Dani Duck. It is a Wednesday event for you to share your progress!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday Coffee

There is still time to enter the Smart Dummies Logo Contest! Since I haven't gotten a lot of entries to the contest yet I'm going to extend the deadline until Saturday, July 7th.

We need something quick because I'll be finishing up the Smart Dummies' workbook soon here and I'll need a logo for that. You can let me know that you are entering so I can keep an eye out for your email!

If you need something that's a bit easier to enter, then be sure to enter my giveaway for a free website portfolio critique. This review will include a full review your portfolio images on your site (with the option of showing me anything you are thinking about adding). I'll tell you what's working and what's not working in your portfolio and what you can do to improve it in the future. This will include a critique on your entire website as a whole including layout, content and other mechanics.

If you are a writer you will get a critique on your blog instead of a portfolio critique, and I'll include lots of blog posts ideas and ways to get your blog seen. If you don't have a blog I will help you get started!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Join me with your own Monday Coffee post! 
Monday Coffee is a joint effort between Dani Duck and Christy Illustrates!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Wendy Martin Illustrator Extraordinaire!

Wendy Martin's art is absolutely enchanting. I adore her Art Nouveau style and her bright, beautiful colors. She does everything that I want to see in an illustration. I hope that I can one day make in a similar fashion!


Dani: What is your favorite art style? 

Wendy: Art Nouveau specifically in the style of Mucha. You can see it in my own art.

Dani: If you could only choose digital or traditional art which would you choose? 
Wendy: Neither/both? I work in what I call mixed media, both traditional and digital tools. I think it’s silly to try and be a purist when it comes to your tools. After all, art is created by one’s soul, so what does it matter which materials are being used. I know some digital artists whose work is so amazing, you’d be hard-pressed to say what media they created it with.

Dani:What was your favorite freelance illustration job? 

Wendy: That’s a hard one to answer. I’ve been freelancing for over 30 years and I honestly can’t remember many jobs at this point. I think the flying sneaker I created for Kraft is up there.

Dani: Which mythical animal would you like as a pet? 

Wendy: A wyvern. They are very wise and not too big.

Dani: Do you have any advice for people who are struggling with their art? 

Wendy: Part of being an artist is the struggle. I was amazed when some of my idols admitted to having creative blocks and feelings of ineptitude at their craft. The struggle is what drives us to improve, to get better. Once we are comfortable with our art, we stop growing as an artist. Embrace the struggle. And draw all the time.

Dani: In 5 years, what do you see yourself doing? 

Wendy: I recently had to go back to the corporate 9-5 world. Health insurance – quality major medical has become a necessity until I can retire and qualify for Medicare. I’m still pursuing my art, and hope to grow my fan base enough to support a basic standard of living. Freelance pay has stagnated or even gone down from the 80s when I first began. So much so that the full time job became the only viable option if I wanted to be able to pay rent and have enough food to eat. I’m developing my own IP and will be crowd-funding it on Patreon (and eventually Kickstarter.) At some point, I hope to earn enough to be able to go back to freelancing full time. So, pretty much the same as now. I think I will be doing what I do until the day I die. LOL

Follow Wendy:

Twitter: @WendyMartinArt

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What Progress?

I need all the naps!

What I'm Creating:

Still working on the Smart Dummies planner/guide!


Things are going to be off until the end of the school year. I'm hoping to finish the planner this week, but things happen. We'll see if I can get it done!

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 30th - Finish up the Smart Dummies planner.
July 15th - Drafts for Dummy (Hoping to finish this sooner).

Next Interview

Wendy Martin

Share your progress here! Don't know what to do? 
What Progress? is created by Dani Duck. It is a Wednesday event for you to share your progress!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday Coffee - I Knew There Was Something I Forgot

I completely forgot about Monday Coffee today! Nothing in particular happened last night, but there was craziness. I was on my phone looking through social media and then realize OMG I FORGOT TO POST! I'm not sure if the last link-up was set correctly (dates were wrong when I logged on), so I've made sure that people can add their links this time!

Anyway just wanted to know your feelings on something. I've had a lot of people ask me for advice lately. Eventually I'm going to start charging for this advice, but why charge when I can give it out for free?

If I started doing portfolio website critiques would you be interested? I've done several so far, but would love to do more. Every other week I'd be giving them away. If you don't have a website/portfolio I can give you suggestions on how to start one. If you are a writer I can give you feedback on your website as well (let's not leave anyone out here).

I have had over 18 years of experience as an artist. I have a BFA in Fine Arts and an Associates in Graphic Communications. I have experience in both digital and traditional media.

Edit: Don't forget about the logo contest:

Join me with your own Monday Coffee post! Monday Coffee is a joint effort between Dani Duck and Christy Illustrates!

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Extraordinary Jade Johnson

Jade Johnson is a Artist, Teacher and Cartoon lover. I love how Jade always has wonderful things to say and share on social media. Her style is very cool and I love how she's constantly working to improve her craft. I'm happy to share this interview with you!


Dani: What was your favorite illustration project?

Jade: My favorite project is usually my most recent! I’m particularly proud of my Imaginary Friend piece, made as a guest artist for Square Carousel. The theme was “extraordinary”.

Dani: Where do you find inspiration?

Jade: Inspiration strikes me in the strangest places. A nicely colored advertisement, a cute stationery pen, a funny line in a book I’m reading; they all can ignite that spark. More than anything though, my work is driven by character and story. Wanting to put them onto paper is what sees me through to the end of a project.

Dani:  I know you like cartoons. Which cartoons are your favorites?

Jade: I do love cartoons! Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball, Craig of the Creek, and Bob’s Burgers are some of my favorites. They all have quirky and unpredictable storylines that keep me coming back for more. I also like Steven Universe but I’m behind. I need to catch up!

Dani:  How did you get started as a teaching artist?

Jade: Before I applied for my current position, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I felt the draw to teach but wasn’t confident in my ability to command a classroom. Initially I’d been interested in teaching adult workshops but thought kids would be more fun and engaging, so I took the plunge. I got the job at my program, Upturn Arts, teaching 3-12 year olds and as it turns out, I love working with kids! It helps that I’m a big kid myself.

Dani: What's your favorite thing to teach?

Jade: Any type of printmaking! I taught basic foam printing techniques to my after school class and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hope to teach block and screen printing this summer/upcoming school year.

Dani: What is your dream job?

Jade: To find a home for my children’s book We Found An Island, in which a band of researchers crash-land onto a strange island. Little do they know it was no accident! The story struck me while on a walk and has stuck with me ever since. I hope to have the dummy completed for querying soon. Wish me luck!


Thanks again for including me, Dani! Everyone can find me on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and more recently YouTube as @jadejohnsonillo. Find my portfolio at!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What Progress? - I Think I'm Awake

I was out all Saturday. Exhausted, in pain and just not feeling great. It's thrown my week all off so I'm trying to catch up now.

What I'm Creating:

I am going to be finishing up the Smart Dummies planner soon. I've had some eye strain (still do) which is a problem for doing things on the computer. The plus side is I can type without looking at the computer screen so I can do 90% of it blind if I have to. I think that's a good thing!


Is there even a schedule anymore? I'm not even sure. In any case this is my closest approximation!

Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 15th - Finish up the Smart Dummies planner.
June 30th - Drafts for Dummy (Hoping to finish this sooner).

Next Interview

Jade Johnson

Share your progress here! Don't know what to do? 

What Progress? is created by Dani Duck. It is a Wednesday event for you to share your progress!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday Coffee -- Why Haven't You Killed Your Darlings Yet?

Picture 1: Spinach and lettuce all jumbled together.
You've probably heard it over a hundred times: Kill your darlings. It's practically beat over every new writer's head. You have to kill your darlings for your story to survive. I'm not going to tell you anything new today, but I'm going to tell you why these darlings must be killed.

I learned an important writing lesson from my garden. There are several things you grow that grow best with lots of similar plants around it. Kale, spinach, lettuce and carrots (to name a few) are all great when grown with other plants around them!

Picture 2: Thinning out these plants from
Picture 1 will allow them to thrive!

After a few weeks it becomes an apocalyptic situation. Spinach starts attacking spinach. Brother attacks brother. Okay, no, what happens is they run low on resources so they continue sharing them. Having to share these resources the plants stay small.

A couple years ago, when I first started growing my plants from seed, I found out that I need to thin them out so they can grow. I grew them from seed. I gave them life. AND NOW I'M BEING TOLD TO KILL MY LITTLE DARLINGS? I was crushed. Yes I know they are plants, but it takes a long time to grow these things. SO MUCH TIME AND EFFORT!

Picture 3: The middle two plants (under the big plant from
Picture 4) never got big because they stayed too close
together and too close to that big plant!
Much to my dismay, I killed my darlings. Of course I tried to save as many of my darlings as humanly possible. I put them in little pots hoping to find a place for them in the garden. I have a fairly large garden (you are just seeing pictures from my small garden here) but the space is still finite! I was able to give some away to a friend, but it still wasn't enough. In the end I had to let my precious little darlings die.

It isn't a sad story. In the end I had the best kale and lettuce crop I've ever had! All summer long I was able to go to the garden to get a range of salad greens and I didn't have to worry about having to buy any of these things all summer. We actually weren't able to eat it all, so I've changed what I put in the garden this year.
Picture 4: This plant has grown this size because it
 grew strong with other seedlings around it and then it's
mates were killed violently so it could grow.
(Same plant as Picture 3.)

Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that you also have to kill your writing darlings. Maybe your darling is a beautifully descriptive paragraph, or maybe it's a character that you love. Once you've established that these darlings are of no use to your story then get rid of them! You may give them to another story, or find another place for them in your current story (or series). I'll say it again: IF YOUR DARLINGS AREN'T HELPING YOUR STORY THEN KILL THEM FROM THE STORY.

Though, never kill them from your mind. Put them in their own special file and maybe one day they'll grow into their own little garden. Or maybe they'll die in that file. Either way your story will be allowed to flourish!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Jen "Book Guru" Robinson

Today on my blog I have book blogger Jen Robinson on my blog. Jen's Twitter feed is interesting because you can tell Jen does her research when she talks about books. This research really shows when she shares her feed on her blog, except on her blog she sorts everything into subjects so books are easier to find. I love her articles. Her recent post about summer reading is great, and is a great read for parents!


Dani: How did you get started book blogging?

Jen: I always loved reading children’s and young adult books. I also cared very much that children, those I knew and those I didn’t, would grow up with the chance to love reading. I was always talking about that (giving people copies of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook when they had babies, buying picture books for baby shower gifts, etc.). In late 2005 two different friends said to me, independently, “You should start a blog.” The message that I took from those suggestions was: stop talking about this and take action. So one December day I started my blog. I looked around online and connected with some of the relatively few people who were blogging about children’s books at that time, and I started reviewing books that I read. The blog took off from there.

Dani: What do you do when you aren't blogging about books?

I have a PhD in Industrial Engineering and I co-own a small software firm that sells a web-based reporting product for high-tech manufacturing companies. I also have a husband and an 8 year old daughter. So I juggle most of my time between responsibilities for my family, my work, and my blogging. When I have downtime I mostly read and exercise (often at the same time). I’m also a Boston Red Sox fan, and I like to watch baseball when I can. I live in California, and my husband and I like to go wine tasting. 

Dani: Why is reading so important for you?

I think that being a voracious reader as a child helped make me who I am today. Some of my core values were at the very least reinforced by things that I read in books. Books helped me to develop empathy and imagination. Reading many books left me with an excellent vocabulary and an ability to process information. I believe this in turn helped me to get into a good college, and to become successful professionally. I feel that reading has given me many gifts over the course of my lifetime. I blog because I want to help children accrue those same benefits.

I’m also extremely introverted, and reading is my number one way to recharge.

Dani: Describe your perfect reading area.

My favorite place to read is in a comfortable chair somewhere outside, with a view, in the shade. I once spent an entire day reading on a lounge chair on a little peninsula in Bar Harbor, Maine. I had ocean on three sides of me, and multiple books to read. It was pure bliss. In my mind, I sometimes try to go back to that spot. But these days, my backyard and a cup of tea or a glass of wine works pretty well, too.

When I was a kid I would read in a tree in our yard, and sometimes on the roof (my bedroom had a dormer window, so it was pretty easy to get out there).

Dani: How do you decide which books you are going to read?

I read a number of book-related blogs and magazines. When something catches my eye I often send myself a Kindle sample. Then I’ll periodically go through and read the samples, and decide which ones are interesting enough to read in full. I’m very picky, because my reading time is so precious, so I will stop reading anything that isn’t working for me. I do have quite a number of authors that I know I love, so I’ll read whatever new books they publish. I do a lot of my “reading” in the format of audiobooks, and I find that works especially well for series books. These days I’m reading a lot of mysteries, mixed in with some science fiction and some nonfiction.

Dani: What are your goals for the future?

My blog is in a bit of a transition at the moment - I’m reviewing fewer books, and talking more about the joy of learning in general. I think this is influenced by where my daughter is in the educational process (she’s about to finish second grade), and perhaps a bit of burnout after reviewing children’s and young adult books for 12+ years. A primary goal for me right now is making sure that my daughter continues to love reading. I’m particularly concerned that schools (AR programs and whole class novels and reading logs) sometimes quench the joy of reading, I don’t want that to happen to her. Because it’s what I do, I will be sharing the ups and downs of this process on my blog.


Follow Jen:


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What Progress? The "Is it Summer?" Post

I am so tired. Is it summer yet? Please tell me that tomorrow is June 28th and school is over for the year. It doesn't have to be true, except it does.

I haven't been able to use the computer much recently. I've had a recent bout of eye strain. I'm hoping that it will get better soon and I can get back to work. 

What I'm Creating:

I've been working a lot on Smart Dummies things. I'm hoping to get a Smart Dummies booklet done soon. Have to do a lot of the planning for the event left to do.


Ongoing - Find more people to interview and to post on Instagram. 
June 15th - Have the print booklets for Smart Dummies up for presale. (PDF will be free to download).
June 30th - Have a complete dummy done (or at least pencil depending on eyesight and other factors)! 

Next Interview:

Jen Robinson - June 8th 

*More interviews on their way*

Don't forget to add your blog link in the linkup below!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monday Coffee -- Help Smart Dummies Succeed!

I need your help! It's not just for me, but also for the winner of the logo contest. Right now I only have $35 to give to the winner of the Smart Dummies Logo Contest: but that's not enough! I'd like to be able to give them $50 or more. You can donate at: You can also donate a prize. Please send me a note via my contact form to donate a prize!

Your donations will help to fund this logo contest and the Smart Dummies Planner that's coming up soon! The planner will be offered for FREE as a download. I will not be able to afford to keep offering fun things if I don't get more Patrons! Please show the love so we can have a lot more great events and offers.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Design a Logo for Smart Dummies!

Smart Dummies Artwork
Announcing the Logo Design Contest for Smart Dummies!

This year I decided to have a logo design contest for Smart Dummies. Your logo will be used for the Blog Badge, Facebook, the Smart Dummies website, in the Smart Dummies shop* and any other social media where Smart Dummies is advertised. Please feel free to ask questions about this event here, or on the Smart Dummies Facebook Page in case someone else has the same question. You can contact me privately if you have concerns you'd rather not share with the group.

I have about $35 USD saved up to give as a prize for the winner. I wanted to have much more for this contest. There is still a chance to increase this amount! Visit the Smart Dummies Patreon and donate to Smart Dummies. I would love to give at least $50 as a prize. The final prize amount will depend on how much is donated between now and the end of the contest.

What does a Smart Dummies Logo Look Like?

There is no image that defines Smart Dummies. In the past all of the logos have featured birds. I will have volunteers help me judge this contest, so you do not

Submit a design that will work both as a Facebook Banner and a Small logo. You can either submit one piece of artwork, (or two of the same image but formatted for Facebook and Blog badge size). Please leave enough room for text. Do not sign the artwork you submit for judging. A signature can be on the final image and credit will be given to the winner.

Blog Badge size 1.5" x 1.5"
Facebook Size: 851 x 315 pixels.

Design Size: All final images you create must be at least 4" in height and 300 DPI (so I can resize it for different purposes).

How to Enter:

One entry per person.** Submit your design (or designs if you are submitting 2 of the same image). Total attachment size should not exceed 1 MB. You should keep a larger file of the image(s) ready to send. No text should appear on the image nor should your signature.
Smart Dummies Logo 2017

Send all images with the Subject: "Smart Dummies Logo Contest"

Please include your name and contact information in the body of the email (not on the image). This information will only be used to contact you in case of a win, or if other confirmations need to be made before the deadline. If you do not receive an automatic email confirmation within 24 hours please contact me through my contact form or via Facebook to confirm. 

*Money from this will go to the Smart Dummies challenge:

**Anyone donating more than $5 to Smart Dummies can enter twice for this and all other contests.


Midnight PST June 27, 2018

Facebook Header


The winner of Smart Dummies logo contest gives Dani Duck, Smart Dummies and participants of Smart Dummies the rights to use the winning logo on Social Media for advertising. The winner also gives the rights for the 2018 logo to be used on Dani Duck: Artist Obscure, on participant web pages and blogs, for the cover of the Smart Dummies planner and on merchandise in the Smart Dummies shop. 50% of all Smart Dummies shop profits of anything with the winner's logo* and 15% of Planner profits, with the 2018 logo printed on it, will go to the winner.

The winner retains all other rights to their work including publication in any form. Smart Dummies will not be selling prints of the logo, and the winner has the rights to sell both prints of their illustration and the original without any payments to Smart Dummies.

All commission payments to the winner will be made quarterly through Paypal.

*Please note that there have been no sales in the Smart Dummies shop to date.