Friday, September 28, 2018

Share Day Week 4!

It's Share Day. Week 4! Thank you all for sharing your wonderful work with me and everyone who reads this blog. 

While share day is over, I will still be sharing art over on Instagram! If you have an account let me know and I can share your art. My account is:

Diane Gronas --

Diane Gronas --

Arthur Haywood --

Katie Carrberry --

Lisa Burvant

Stephanie Hermanek-Olsen --

Tamar Dolev --

Tara Santoro --


Virginia Rinkle --

Virginia Rinkle --

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Giraffe Instructor Viviane Elbee -- Plus a PRIZE!

Viviane is one of the members of my fantastic critique group I found thanks to Julie Hedlund's 12x12! I'm very lucky to find two group (writing and illustration) that give me invaluable feedback. When any of my critique members get good news I think it's absolutely wonderful. I was over the moon when I heard "Teach Your Giraffe To Ski was now on Pre-Order!

I love Viviane's writing style. She has such animated characters and she puts so much hard work into all of her stories. I know this is only the first of many of Viviane's stories that I will be sharing with you!

Check at the end of this post for a PRIZE!

Dani: How did you get started writing?

Viviane:  I've always loved writing, but I started writing seriously for children after my first child was born. I had written a few rough drafts when I saw an ad in the newspaper for a local SCBWI critique group. Joining the critique group and SCBWI was one of the best decisions ever. I later joined 12x12, which is an organization specifically for picture book writers. Joining these organizations helped me learn so much, and I've met so many talented, supportive & encouraging people. (Dani is one of them!) :)

Dani: What is your absolute favorite animal?

Viviane: I love so many animals I don't think I can pick a favorite! Unfortunately, some of the animals I love are endangered. I hope that humankind can figure out a way to save them, because I'd hate to see so many wonderful animals disappear. Giraffes are on the endangered list, and so are some species of elephants, tigers, leopards, dolphins, whales, turtles, birds, honeybees, wombats etc... Some programs to help endangered animals are already making a positive impact - such as sea turtle conservation programs. Everyone can help, even by doing little things, like setting up birdhouses that are just right for endangered birds, or planting flowers that honeybees like.

Dani: Who inspires you the most?

Viviane: Kids inspire me the most. They're so smart and imaginative and fun.

Dani: How did you get the idea for TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI?

Viviane: I got the idea during my family's very first ski trip, which coincided with the 2014 Winter Olympics. My kids packed many stuffed animals. During the day they were learning to ski, and in the evening, the stuffed animals tried all sorts of winter sports too. This led to a lot of funny jokes about skiing giraffes.

I wrote a longer blog post about the inspiration behind this story -

Dani: How many giraffes have you taught to ski?

Viviane: None. But I keep my eyes open for giraffes on the ski slopes, because you never know, maybe one day I'll meet one!

Dani: What are you working on next?

Viviane: I'm working on several other picture book manuscripts. I'm still learning and taking classes to improve my craft too. Currently I'm doing some classes with Arree Chung's Storyteller Academy.


Follow Viviane:
Poster Prize!
Here is a pre-order link:


Here is my website:

For those who want to buy through an Independent Bookseller:


Viviane is offering an 12x18" poster from "Teach Your Giraffe to Ski"!*

*This prize is limited to those who live in the US.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ksenia "Kind Killer" Anske

Smart Note: Both: Final Illustrations -- Page 19
Reg: Substrate - Page 18

I have wanted to trap Ksenia's words on my blog forever. Now I have that chance! Ksenia is a genius at writing and marketing. The thing about Ksenia is she doesn't really market. She socializes like mad. Over the past few years Ksenia has laid the foundation of her book empire. I am just in awe of the way Ksenia interacts with people on social media. She's even known to give out a book or two thousand. I mean, she is probably planning on murdering us all later, but I'm still in awe!


Dani: Where did you learn so much about marketing?

Photo Credit: David Peterman
Ksenia: I have over 15 years of experience in marketing, which I had to do for my startup, to survive. I wasn’t even sure at the time it was called marketing. All I did was, I wrote monthly newsletters to our customers, as I heard somewhere that it’s a business-must to stay in touch. So I did it. And my customers told me that they loved reading them—that my newsletters were like stories. I guess even back then I couldn’t help it but to do storytelling.

Dani: Which fantasy being or animal would you become if you had the choice?

Ksenia: Dragon. I was born in a year of a Dragon, and ever since I learned that (as a little girl), I imagined myself as a Dragon.

Dani: What is your favorite form of social media?

Ksenia: Patreon is my latest love, and it’s going to be my love for years to come, I have a feeling. It’s the best place to create a community that’s private, loyal, and supportive. I’ve shifted most of my social media presence to Patreon now, and I couldn’t be happier (I only wish I did it sooner!).

Dani: How did interacting with people help you grow your following?

Ksenia: It’s all a conversation. A dialogue. A building of friendships. I don’t view it as a following, I view it as my tribe, my people where I belong, and where they belong. Where we belong together. As one community. I can’t be me and create and thrive without my community, just like any other artist. And so we’re growing together, all of us, by having a conversation.

Dani: What's the one thing that propelled you most in your career?
Ksenia: The stubbornness of not quitting. There were many times when I was tempted. The book didn’t sell well. The idea didn’t develop the way I wanted it to. Someone criticized me harshly. I was blocked, tired, discouraged. Or writing was so painful, I didn’t think I could go on. It was only sheer stubbornness that carried me through these moments. Or propelled. Or pushed me forward. And it was thanks to those moments that I was able to look back and realize, it’s not me who has to make it. It’s not about me. It’s about all of us. I’m one with my readers, and with other writers, and they’re all one with me. After this clicked for me, quitting became a non-option.

Image taken by We Love Reading
Dani: Do you have any advice for writers or artists trying to sell their work on social media?

Ksenia: Selling is serving. It’s very easy to serve your readers if all you do is ask questions and listen. Listen until you find the need they have, then and only then, when they ask you in turn, tell them about your book. Often at that point, if you’ve exercised enough patience and truly listened, truly saw the other person, truly heard them, the sale happens on its own. It’s not always monetary. Quite often it’s the commitment of your reader to give you time, or offer some other help. And you never know to how many people they’ll talk to and tell about you and your work. It’s an exercise in faith in humanity, in people. Give them love, and they’ll want to return it. It might take them days, or maybe even years. Never falter. Never stop. They will. It’s human nature. We all want to give. We’re simply scared of giving because we’ve all been burned. Give your reader enough space to vent, to talk, to be heard, and they’ll move mountains for you. I promise.


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Monday, September 24, 2018

Traci Van Wagoner Making The Rainbow's Connection --- Plus a PRIZE!

Smart Note: Both Groups Stepping Back/Take Photos -- Pages 5-6

I owe so much to Traci for all the work she puts into Smart Dummies every year. Her support has help make Smart Dummies a wonderful event. This year she has really outdone herself with her post.

I have always adored Traci's work, but recently she's been doing some new work that I hadn't noticed before. I had a lot of fun looking at Traci's "Paint Play" illustrations and I started thinking about why I liked Traci's work so much. Part of the reason I love Traci's work is the lovely colors she uses in all her images. I asked Traci to write a post about her color choices this year.

Check the end of this post for a PRIZE!

Taming the Rainbow
By Traci Van Wagoner

When Dani asked me to write about how I pick my colors, my mind sort went into panic mode, “I don’t know, I just slap color down.” It’s big question with a lot of years and experimentation behind it. I took a long time to tackle this subject, and I must thank Dani for her patience while I went back through time to figure out the answer.

Let me start at the beginning. Well, sorta. I started my illustration journey in traditional media during my first stint at college, where I experimented with pretty much every media. My favorite was oil and then acrylic because it was less messy and smelly — although I still to this day miss the smell of oil painting. My basic palette was titanium white, mars black, alizarin crimson, pthalo green, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium red, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, and a few others in and out.

When I moved to digital illustration after graduating from toy school (my second stint at college), I was gob-smacked with the endless possibilities in the color pickers in Painter and Photoshop, and I now had to worry about gamut, and printing, and how my art looked on different monitors. Eek! I started with finding color swatches online that matched the paint colors I knew and started from there. I settled on a color palette I liked, created my own paper textures and brushes, and that was that … for a long time.

After a while, what I was creating felt stale, overworked. Not fresh. Not fun. For many years I didn’t paint much. I created a lot of product illustrations for my clients at Imagine That! Design, so I had some creative outlet, but it was not fun, not really.

But life has a way of shaking things up. The product design work dried up (long story) which forced me to push my illustration work more. I got off my butt and got some more picture book jobs (for very little money I have to admit) which pushed me to explore and experiment a little. Then one day I saw Will Terry’s Santa snowboarding image which set off a switch in my imagination. I wanted to have as much fun as he seems to with his paintings, playing with color and light and unique perspectives. This set me off on a road of exploration still painting on the computer with Photoshop. My time creating was limited and confining, and painful, really.

Then a wonderful thing happened…

The iPad + Procreate = #PaintPlay

And shortly after, I discovered @colour_collective on twitter, a weekly challenge based on a different color each week.

Cue starburst of colors and wonderment.

My art side was set free. I had been so busy containing it with purple lines, and now I gave myself permission to just paint. I played with color, textures, the wide variety of brushes in Procreate. I pulled out old sketches from picture book dummies and from sketchbooks and painted many of those. I painted without having any goal or idea where I was going when I started. I could paint anywhere. I could paint anything. Paint play. And it has been a blast! You can see my #paintplay journey on Instagram: TraciVWCreations.

But the question remains: How do I pick my colors?

One color usually starts things off. Sometimes it’s dictated by the client, or the project, or by a licensed character. It can be a feeling or mood I want to create: happy-warm, sad-cool. Or the reddish colors of sunset vs. sunrise with pinkish tones. Or the time of year, the weather, a holiday, summer, winter, snowy, rainy.

The yellow raincoat was my start in my Singing in the Rain painting with primary colors complimenting.

A word can be the starting point, like a prompt word from a challenge: SCBWI Draw This Heat + colour_collective

The blue sample was my original since the warm of the girl and dog played so nicely off the cool blue, but then I decided to try the #colour_collective prompt #peach. I liked it that way better for telling the story of heat. I still debate. Do you have a favorite?

So you see, a lot of my #paintplay really is about slapping down color and seeing what happens.

One thing’s for sure, each week I play with a new color inspired by #colour_collective.

Once I have my main color, I pick additional colors.

I might pick complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel) or analogous (on the same side of the color wheel). Do I want to compliment that color with like colors on the same side of the color wheel to keep mood consistent and create a sense of harmony — warmth and happiness on one side or on the side cool colors creating a sense of melancholy, or a peaceful tranquil feeling. Or do I want to jar the reader with opposing colors?

Here are few hints:

• It’s more dynamic to use blue and orange (complementary colors) to play off of each other, but it can also be too much, especially if they are next to each other and at the same value. Then you get scintillation, which can drive your eyes crazy.

• Which brings me to value. You need to keep the value of colors in mind and how those play off each other.

• You get a more urgent feeling if you use primary colors vs. secondary colors.

I generally use the complementary color as splashes of color to draw the eye, to play off the main color and make it dance. This all gets into color theory, a big topic that is worth researching if you don’t know about it. Here’s a link with more information to get you started.

And since I LOVE value and light and shadows, after I have my color palette, I choose a light source, or multiple sources. After all, you don’t have color without light; and the color of the light will change the tone of your colors. Sun — yellow, orange. Or the moon — blue, purples or even greens. I love to play with value, shadows, reflective light, the contrast between warm and cool, how light plays off things, and how you can tell a story through a shadow.

I try to paint with light as much as color. I’m not always successful at that, but I’m having a blast trying. It’s still and always will be an evolving process. So, I paint on having fun trying to tame the rainbow.

Feel free to join in the fun of #paintplay with me on twitter (@TraciVanWagoner) and instagram (TVWCreations). I also share on Facebook , but you’ll get a lot of other stuff there too about my roof garden and my pets.

Also, keep an eye out for my latest book to be released October 1st, Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life by Joan Schoettler, illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner, Pelican Publishing

Happy painting!


Follow Traci:






One person will win poster of Traci's art through her Redbubble store!*

*Prize shipping limited to the US.
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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Look at the Week September 22 - 30

Sorry I didn't post this sooner! I went in to edit it the other day and somehow kicked it off the schedule!

This is your last Look at the Week post!

Other than Substrates both groups should do the following Tasks

September 24th: Stepping Back/Take Photos -- Pages 5-6 

September 25th:*Optional* Final Illustrations -- Page 19

*Optional* Reg. Substrates Pages -- 20 - 21

If you are doing final illustrations you should make sure to lay out your images like on pages 20-21. This is important if your spread is made up of a single image. If your spread is made up of two separate images are single images then the set up is slightly different.

 If you are creating an 8" x 10" image you want your image area to be 8.5" x 10.5" for both digital and traditional media. If you are working traditionally you'll want a 2" border on the 8" x 10" so your substrate size will be 12" x 14". You save more paper by making the full spread on on sheet of paper, but it's likely easier to scan a smaller piece.

September 30th: Scan All Artwork (Traditional Artists) and Celebrate!

Make sure that all of your dummy drawings have white backgrounds, have easily discernible characters, and have all stray marks erased! I tend to de-saturate all my black and white sketches because it usually makes it easier to photo edit. Also try to get the best scan possible so you don't have to edit afterwards. If you don't have photo editing software you can download Gimp for free: 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Share Day Week 3!

Share Day is a day late this week. I was so tired yesterday that I couldn't post anything! Here is some great work by the people participating in Smart Dummies this year!

Diane Gronas --

Diane Gronas --

Arthur Haywood --

Brittanny Handiboe --

Heather Bell --

Julia Maisen --

Katie Carrberry --

Larel Aylesworth --

Lisa Burvant

Lisa Burvant -- "Aquatic Encounter"

Stephanie Hermanek-Olsen --

Tamar Dolev --

Tara Santoro --

Virginia Rinkle --

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Awesome Artist Angie Jones -- Plus A PRIZE!

I saw Angie's work on Instagram after a long time of not seeing her art. Angie has so much beautiful work on her Instagram page that's portfolio worthy, and going on her website I was blown away by all the beautiful things she's done! Angie has wonderful portfolios for all her painterly and vector children's illustration, design work and fine art. Because of her awesome portfolio I asked her to create a post about portfolio illustration.

Check the bottom of this post for a PRIZE!

8 Steps to Your Best Portfolio

1. There is no getting around it. If you want a good portfolio you need a lot of art. You're not going to show all of it, but the more you make the better. It’s harder to make a stellar portfolio when you have only 10 or 20 pieces to choose from. The average portfolio is about 20 pieces. If you have only 20 pieces then you don’t have room to weed out the weaker art. Source from client work and self driven/assigned work.

2. Only show your best work. Look at all the work you have to show, and remove the weakest pieces. Your portfolio is only as strong as it’s weakest piece. Rinse repeat.

3. Limit how much work you show. Art directors want to quickly look through your work to get a good idea of your skill set. You can have multiple collections organized by common themes. They can be the medium used, the intended audience, a specific style, etc.


Group 1: Raster Art

Group 2: Vector Art

Group 3: Black and White Art

4. Start with the best piece and end with the best piece. Always make a good first and last impression.

5. Look for a common trait for the work in your portfolio; develop that trait. It might be the way you render your noses, or the shape of a head. It could be color palettes and composition. Or perhaps it’s the story telling in the illustrations.



6. Change your portfolio often. Change it by adding new personal or client work, show your work is evolving. Change it by reorganize your portfolio. A new order might make more sense. The change can be weeding out old outdated work. Change by making new samples that are like the type of art you want to be hired to make.

7. Set deadlines to refresh your portfolio. Change doesn’t happen without a little pressure. Self imposed deadlines will keep your book fresh.

8. When submitting to a specific client put together a portfolio tailored to them. Look at the type of art they’ve purchased in the past. Show the art that you think fits in with that art. Don’t have samples like the art they’ve purchased in the past? Make new art that does fit in.

The main takeaway? Keep making art! Show art! Try and make the best impression possible.


Follow Angie








Aijung Kim - 

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