Friday, August 31, 2018

Smart Dummies Art and more!

Don't forget to sign up for Smart Dummies challenge:


Viviane Elbee will be giving away an 8x10" poster with her post!

Sharing Art

I know I just mentioned this yesterday but things have changed a little bit. You can still submit your work to me at for the Friday Share Posts. But
Adriane pointed out that it may be easier to just leave your art in the Facebook group so here's the post to do that.  You can join the group here:
You can share old work, and I would suggest to not share your current dummy work on my blog.

This is how I've planned the sharing weeks, but it may change depending on participation.

Week 1: Doodles/Basic Character Designs

Week 2:
Thumbnails/Characters in Motion/Emotions

Week 3:
Drafts for Final Images (can be loose drawings)

Week 4: Final Images


If you'd like me to share your Instagram posts the easiest way is to tag #smartdumieschallenge you can also let me know you want me to share your Instagram Posts in the comments below!

I will share some of your illustration posts here: 

You get credit for your post in the text and a link back to your Instagram page. You can also ask me to take down your work at any time! 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Getting ready for Smart Dummies!

A few things before we start Smart Dummies in a couple days:


Two new prizes have been added to Smart Dummies!

Marla Lesage: A Portfolio Critique OR Dummy Critique!

Sarah LuAnn Perkins 8x10" print from her print shop!

Yay for prizes!


I'd love you to send me some of your Artwork (not related to this event) to so I can feature it on the blog. 

I also feature artwork regularly on Instagram here: If you are on Instagram and want me to regularly share your work, please let me know!

Critique Group for Everyone

This year there will be an big open critique group where you can share your work! You must be a part of the Smart Dummies Facebook group to join:

Individual Critique Groups

I'm closing critique groups at 11:59 on August 31st. I may start putting people into critique groups sooner. If you want to join a critique group please go here:


This is for those of you working on laying out your substrates for Smart Dummies. Layout information is on pages 20-21 of your Smart Dummies Workbook Planner. Don't have the book? Download it here: Visit to find the download! The booklet to the left is for printing and assembling at home and the one on the right is a version you can read on your computer. 

Layout is generally done in pencil. You want your image to go out to the edges of the bleeds, so you want your image to start 1.75" from the edge of your paper. The center of the book is called the gutter. This generally cuts off 1/2" out of the middle of your image. Keep images at least 1/2"-1" away from the gutter!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Smart Dummies Guest List

Here is the guest list for Smart Dummies 2018! It should be noted that the list is much shorter this year to give you more time to work on your dummies. Every week there will be a "Look a the Coming Week" post on Saturdays, 3 guests posts (the first week will have four) and a post on Friday that's images from any participants that send me art: (I'll talk more about this later this week)

Here are your list of participants:

Mira Reisberg


Aijung Kim was so happy with her prize last year that she's donating some of her lovely art cards!

Mira Reisberg - 5 Ways to Make a Dummy Course

Kristin Wauson - A critique of 2 to 3 illustrations from someone’s dummy or portfolio

Emily Wayne -  A 5x7 original sketch in pen and Copic marker

Traci Van Wagoner A poster of her art through Traci's Redbubble store.

Dani Duck - Portfolio Website Critique

Sunday, August 26, 2018


So the thumbnails that I'm showing you are kind of from a failed attempt. It wasn't a complete fail, but I found that another story I hadn't finished had a very similar story line. While I may go back to to these characters I'm fairly certain I wont be going back to this story.  I'm okay with that though, because I love the story I'm working on now!

I have a lot of thumbnail sheets in the Smart Dummies booklet. If those are two small for you then you can go to the same place now and download a bigger thumbnail set. I made it after I did this one. The one here is made by Alison Kipnis Hertz and you can get it by clicking on this text

Download the Smart Dummies booklet and a free thumbnail sheet here:

I've got a lot of work to do for Mira Reisberg's Children's Book Academy: The Craft and Business of Illustrating Children's Books. I also just got a toddler on my lap so typing these last words is really hard!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Critique Groups!

Smart Dummies Critique group time!

If you are looking for a critique group for Smart Dummies please go to the survey here: Please only sign up for a critique group if you are able to interact with your group and give people feedback on their work. I strongly suggest giving weekly feedback within the groups. Groups will be about 3-4 people. The survey only takes about 2 minutes to do and is shorter than last years survey. If you have any questions or comments please let me know!

Artwork By Rob Peters

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Emotions and Poses

Emotions and Poses
August 19-25th

By now I hope you have created reasonable turnarounds for your characters. I talked about them here: So now you know your character, but how well do you know them?

This week we are going to get to know our characters a bit more by exploring their emotions. I had an extraordinarily busy week so I wasn't able to create this how I wanted, so I quickly re-worked some old drawings I did of a character I love.

When I first created this character I basically just adjusted the face a little and kept the body the same. This doesn't convey a lot of emotion. I worked on it a bit and now the characters are a bit more expressive because I've started to put more body language into my sketching (though I'd like to work on them more). Please look up the bean method of drawing. This helps a lot with creating expressive body positions!

Old drawings of my character in motion.
Some more expressive body language would help!
Poses are important too! If you know some of the positions you want your characters in throughout your dummy then work on those now. Put your characters in all kinds of poses so you have a lot of that work out of the way when you go into actually drawing your scenes. (While you're at it work on some scenery too if you have time!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Smart Dummies Sign Up is OPEN!

I've officially opened the Smart Dummies registration! You have until September 7th to sign up here:

Download for Free!
Smart Dummies is a little bit smaller this year, so may end up with a few less prizes. What you get in return is less reading, and a lot more direction. Also the Smart Dummies Workbook/Planner!

Download the planner for free here: There is both a printable version (left) and a online readable version (right)

If you want to purchase a spiral bound, pre-assembled planner go here: This comes with a full color cover and durable plastic dust jacket! There will also be a note and drawing from me. This will help Smart Dummies continue to be a great event! Please order ASAP! It takes 9-11 days for me to send these to the states by regular mail.

The Cafe Press Smart Dummies shop is here:

Here is your participant badge:

If you want to learn more about Smart Dummies go here:

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Full Character Drawings

*Sometimes the left and right sides of a
character are different and you may want to
draw both the left and right sides of a character.

This whole week is devoted to character designs. This is one of the most important parts of creating a dummy. Be sure to draw the character in front, side*, back, and in 3/4th view for each of your characters. If a character appears more than once in your book they need a full turnaround.

Hopefully by now you've decided on which character designs you like best. If not try out a full turnaround for your favorite character drawings. In the book you'll notice that the page for the Full Character Drawings (or turnarounds as it should be named) are on lined paper. The nice thing about lined paper is that you can see how things line up from front or side views. You can make sure the eyes are approximately the same size, and that the mouth is basically in the same place.

Some artists prefer to use graph paper and there is nothing wrong with that. I have always found that a graph makes it harder for me to exactly copy an image. There are activity books that have grids that are created to make a thing "easier to draw". Something about this always sets me off and I can't ever get the image right. (Any other artists find this?) Anyway, with the lines it's easier to follow a line across the page to make sure your character is the right size. I love using lined paper for creating character turnarounds so try it yourself. You may find you prefer this as well!

3/4th view
Some characters are drawn in a way where the 3/4th view may be very difficult. Some people come up with models of their images. Many people use clay/super sculpty. My son likes youtube and he discovered this guy who makes paper action figures. This person's videos may help you! Let me know if you have any other good resources.

I created a few mermaids for MerMay that I didn't get a chance to post. May was crazy busy for me. I believe this little mermaid was one of the drawings I didn't get a chance to post. I love this little baby! On the off chance I found a story for this lovely little girl I decided to flesh out the character more fully.

Praise the lightbox. If you don't have one of these you should strongly think about getting one. I used my lightbox to make sure that I got these mermaids to be at least fairly similar. I think these need a bit more work, but overall I'm happy with the drawings. Even with the lightbox I'd highly recommend trying the lined paper. (I didn't even think about it this time!)

If you can't afford a light box you can use a window (which is much harder) or tracing paper. Tracing paper is a must have, because if you are transferring images to a thick paper or canvas a lightbox may not be powerful enough for your needs! Tracing is not cheating when it's your own art you are tracing! Even master artists use to do this (though they had different methods than tracing paper).

Let me know below if I forgot anything!
Front, side and back of mermaid.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How You Can Help Smart Dummies

Smart Dummies is a free event and I want to keep it as such. I still need help to keep this project going! I have yet to figure how much profit was made from the Smart Dummies booklets, but things look positive for another logo contest next year!

Ways you can help Smart Dummies:

Tell People About Smart Dummies: Even if you have no money you can help Smart Dummies out by sharing your Smart Dummies experience in Facebook Groups, on any Social Media, or individually with friends. The more people know about the event the better!

Comment on Posts: Even a short comment on a post is helpful. It's even better when these comments are made on guest posts/interviews. Any support you give to a guest is helpful!

Donate a Prize: If you have a prize to give that would be fantastic! Books, postcards, prints, bookmarks, and illustrated greeting cards are all great prizes. Don't want to mail anything? You can also donate your time. Portfolio reviews, social media advice, Illustration critiques, mini-courses, cover letter critiques or you can offer to review someone's dummy.

Smart Dummies Shop: The Smart Dummies shop has new merchandise in it. Please let me know if there is something you don't see. I made the markup on these items fairly low so more people can enjoy them.

Buy A Printed Smart Dummies Workbook/Planner
You can buy a print version of the Smart Dummies planner at my Etsy Shop  These planners are spiral bound, have a plastic cover protector, a full color cover, and are sent directly to you. I'm giving you a link to my shop because there will be more products in there soon.

I can not sell you prints of the Smart Dummies logo. If you want a print of this please contact Rob Peters to see if it's a possibility: Rob has helped out so much by providing the logo and it does help Smart Dummies to support him!

Patreon:  Supporting me on Patreon helps me out because it gives me the ability to know I'll have continual support for anything I develop throughout the year.

KoFi: Sometimes you don't want to pay monthly or can't pay monthly and that's where KoFi comes in. This delivers money directly to my Paypal account. If you'd rather send money to PayPal directly please send it to 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Start Your Characters!

Start Your Characters! 
Pages 8-9

Now we get into the real meat and potatoes of drawing. I forgot to grab my booklet when I went to do some sketching so now I have a reason to do extra work!

Try to keep your character drawings as simple as possible. You are going to be drawing these over and over and over again, so you need something that's easy to draw. Start with some simple shapes if you like and draw on them. Some great books have extremely simple drawings. "The Missing Piece" by Shel Silverstein has a pac-man type character. "Mixed: A Colorful Story" by Aree Chung is filled with different colored circles and ovals with faces.

When you are drawing on these pages fill them up as much as possible. Draw faces between the characters. You'll probably need more room than is in the workbook and that's okay! Try drawing as many characters as possible before you decide. Need a number? At least 100. I have about 25 here so I need to fill 3 more sheets this week. This took me maybe 20 minutes to fill and part of that time was with a toddler in my lap. 😂

If you find characters you like then draw them several times to make sure it's reasonable to draw them more than once! August 12th we are moving on to Full Character Designs, but if you have some solid characters then feel free to work ahead. Pre-Smart Dummies is to help you move forward, not hold you back when you are on a role!

Sunday, August 5, 2018


Page 7 

This week is Doodling and Start Your Characters! Here is a link to the workbook if you don't have it yet:

Doodling is pretty self explanatory. Some are going to draw shapes and turn them into people, and others are going to draw people and turn them into shapes. Squiggle, scrub, blend whatever makes you happy! 

A Few Suggestions: 

  • Draw from your research or draw whatever you like.
  • Try not erasing, or cover the paper in graphite and do nothing but erase. 
  • Fill the whole page if possible. 
  • Use whatever drawing tool you like using or try something new
This is just to loosen you up but also it will help you to focus on drawing. If you are having fun, then get some more paper and keep on doodling. 

I had several photos of my kids and I sketched a few of those. 

Taking Photos

I didn't think of mentioning this earlier, but when you take photos of kids you often want to be at the same level as the children you are photographing. You might not notice until you get home that the photo you took doesn't look quite right. If you photograph from standing the child will have a larger head and smaller arms and legs (which can be useful)!

Illustration Programs

I got an email yesterday about this program that I've not heard of before (which is weird because I subscribe to the companies emails). Anyway the program is Rebelle and it's neat because it helps you to create images that are like watercolor. 

I don't know about you, but I can't afford Photoshop right now. Neither a subscription nor an older version of the program. I've been looking for something that can simulate painting, and this one is pretty good. 

Here's a rundown of some Illustration programs in case you want something different for digital illustration. I'm mentioning these now in case you want to try something new. These work best with a drawing tablet. There are others but these are the ones I feel are of note.

Photoshop: Likely still one of the best photo manipulation/Illustration programs out there. Cons: Very expensive. Subscription only (unless you buy an old program). $21 a month for the rest of your life. $21 a month (annual plan) for the rest of your life or $240 a year prepaid.

Painter: Lovely for creating paintings and mixing colors. Cons: Crashes a lot, expensive (less than photoshop). $429.

Procreate: Digital program with excellent results. Some illustrators have given up their Cintique for this or use it when they are travelling. $10 for current iPad owners who don't have it pre installed, but works best with the Apple Pencil (only works for new iPads). Cons: May cost you the price of an iPad Pro + Apple Pencil.  

Rebelle: First look the program is easy to set up and the paint results are beautiful without a ton of effort. $90. Cons: Unknown

Clip Studio Paint: Excellent for inked line work. Software made for comics, but has other uses. Often they have sales! Pro version is good for illustrators (EX is for people making multiple pages in one file) About $50 for pro. Cons: Coloring in this program isn't great (but still useful).

Gimp: It tries to be Photoshop but does not quite hit the mark. Very clunky, but still a decent program. Free.  Cons; Clunky and difficult to use at times.

Krita: I can not get this to work on my computer. This looks like a very good program if you can get it to work. Crashes constantly for me. Free. Cons: may not work on your computer.

If you prefer vector software I know of two:

Illustrator: Excellent for design work. Some people also love it for illustration. Cons: Extremely expensive. $21 a month (annual plan) for the rest of your life or $240 a year prepaid.

Inkscape: It's sort of like Gimp version of vector software. I haven't used it enough. Free. Cons: Not as extensive as Illustrator.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Research and a Little More Planning!

Page 5

So a couple people on Facebook mentioned working visually. So I want to address that part of planning before we move on to research. First, though, here is a corrected version of the page. This is more how I would divide this story. I might make a few story corrections that I didn't before. If I get ideas I will draw them in the corners.

Two things moving forward:

1. You are free to correct me if you think I'm wrong on anything!

2. If going through the booklet backwards or jumping around is easier for you, then do that! Let me know, though. So I can get a better idea of how participants think.

I think things generally work out better for me if I write out the story first and the pictures come later. You may find that drawing the pictures are easier for you, that's not wrong.

I do have a story I'm working on that's completely in visuals. I've decided to add in text after and it's hard, but for the story I don't think I could have done it any other way.

I've uploaded a readable version of the booklet so if you need an extra sheet of anything it's probably easier to print from the reading version:

Page 6 

Research is pretty cut and dry, and yet it's one thing that a lot of people ask questions about. It's good to search for images on the internet, but you can't copy any of these images directly. Someone else took these images with their camera and it does not belong to you.

When I draw a person I usually need a lot of pictures to get their likeness. Often I have to combine several together!
So maybe I like the picture of my son standing here. ^
But maybe I prefer his hands like this. ^
 And his face is better like this! ^

Then of course I want his leg kicking off to the side, so I have to find a picture online of a kid kicking his leg off to the side. If I find the perfect picture, then it's fine because I'm using a part of the picture.

If I want to change my son's head to a different kids head (because, let's face it, not all the kids in my book can be my son). Then I can't just take another kid's head and put it on my picture. It's too identifiable that way. The best thing to do is take the eyes of one kid, maybe the nose of another, lips of a 3rd kid and so on until I come up with a look I like. This way I don't have to worry about copyright.

Scenes are the same way, you'd want to piece together a scene from several different scenes to create something that's original. If you are drawing a tree don't draw it exactly, use several different trees to make one final tree.

The background was taken from several different pictures of strawberry patches.
The bugs themselves also were from several references and a bit of imagination!

The best thing you can do is to take pictures of kids you know and have permission to photograph. If you can't do this it's okay to find things online. Pinterest is fantastic if you want to store all those images you researched in one handy area! There are many artists and writers alike that use this to save images and webpages for research purposes. You can even make these research boards visible only to you!

What did I miss? Please comment below and let me know!    

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Plan Your Pages!

Before you plan your pages you should make sure your story is edited. I know I wrote this in the planner but it's especially difficult to work on changing story while creating images. Unless you are a very visual person it's difficult to draw a story before you write the words. If you haven't got your story completely edited try to do that now before you start researching.

Here is a picture book story I wrote when I was 16. It was for a class assignment to create a picture book story. The final story was 18 pages long (not too bad for someone who didn't know anything about writing picture books).

This is the first page of text to give an example of how to break up text on the page. If you are a picture book writer you can probably tell without zooming in that there are far too many words on this page!

This becomes very noticeable when put on the page that the story is too long. This story is more like a storybook than an actual picture book. In picture books the images are more of a focus. In these pages the images are decorating the text so it feels more like a story book than how I intended.

Many picture books only have a few lines of text on each page. Go to a bookstore and look at the books there (bookstores are best because you can see what's displayed). You can go to the library, but be sure to look at the new books. See how the text is laid out on the page. Note how many sentences (or words) are on each page.

When I was 16 we had a word processor instead of a printer. The text I wrote had to be cut out and placed on the paper. This is something you can do with your dummy! You'll likely want to cut your text out in one chunk per page instead of multiple pieces or else you'll have text that's just a mess.

Next Event: Research! I'll post about this August 2nd.

If you haven't signed up you can do so here: Pick up the free workbook/planner .pdf here: If you want to order a print copy you can do so here:

Pre-Smart Dummies Begins!

Welcome to Pre-Smart Dummies! 

There is info on sign up and the Smart Dummies Workbook/Planner at the end of this post.

I want to thank you all for being here a month early. This event is going to be different that any event we've done so far. Feel free to let me know how you like the changes either on post or via email at

This week is the shortest but it probably has the most reading! Read through page 6 today in the planner (link to download below).

Note: If you downloaded the planner before August 1st note that Research says it starts August 4th but it should be August 2nd! It ends August 4th.

Picture Book Layout:

Participant Badge!
One thing that I didn't get a chance to cover was layout! It's very important to know if you are doing a Self-Ended picture book layout (which is 12 spreads) or Colored Ends picture book layout (14 spreads and 2 single pictures) More info about these on Tara Lazar's page:  Do some research if you aren't working on picture books. Books like chapter books and graphic novels work more like the Colored Ends book layout where they start and end on a half-spread. Know how long your book should be before you start.

This Week: 

We are working on Plan Your Pages and Research this week.. There is so much info in this post so far that I'm going to have a separate post for Plan Your Pages. It will post 5 minutes after this one so you don't have to wait long to get started!


If you haven't signed up you can do so here: Pick up the free workbook/planner .pdf here: If you want to order a print copy you can do so here: