Sunday, September 2, 2018

Mishka Jaeger Makes Critique Groups Rule

Smart Note: Work on research today! Page 6


If you've seen Mishka Jaeger's profile picture on Twitter you'll see her in what feels like a very Zen like position. I feel like this picture says everything about Mishka. Her artwork is beautiful and I feel very relaxed looking at her art. Her blog is both helpful and knowledgeable.

I invited Mishka to Smart Dummies and while we were brainstorming what she would write about she approached me with a project she was working on. Mishka was creating a critique sheet for Dummies and wanted my input on this. She had spoken to other illustrators and figured out some great things to consider when in a critique group. I gave her feedback, but it took me a long minute to realize that THIS should be her post. I wanted this to be the first post especially for those of you in individual critique groups, or those participating in the Smart Dummies Critique Group!


In recent years, more illustrators are including picture book dummies with their portfolios in showcases and submissions. The national SCBWI portfolio showcase guidelines suggest attaching a dummy or two with string or ribbon to your portfolio. I’ve also seen several blog posts that suggest illustrators lucky enough to attend the Bologna Children’s Book Fair also bring along dummies with their portfolios.

The portfolio showcase guidelines I’m seeing look something like this:

“It’s helpful to include several illustrations showing that you can structure and pace a story throughout multiple pages. You may also include a dummy. The dummy is optional and in addition to your portfolio.” 

I’ve also noticed more agents and editors on the lookout for author/illustrators these days, including book dummies in their submission guidelines. If you've both written and illustrated a story, you’d want to submit in the best way possible for the editor or agent to get the clearest idea of your vision.

Their submission guidelines may look a little like this:

“An author/illustrator should consider including a picture book dummy as part of their submission package. Please send complete black and white roughs, character studies, and 2 pieces of finished artwork.” 

However, everyone has different opinions about receiving manuscript/dummy submissions. Sometimes it’s best to send on the manuscript by itself first. Be sure to read their individual submission guidelines.

At any rate, it follows that if illustrators are including picture book dummies in their portfolios and submissions, illustration critique groups should be addressing dummies in their peer reviews.

If you don’t have a critique group, find a few qualified friends to have a look at your work. It is important to have objective peers critique your work. Your peers will often be able to point out where your work is shining and where it could use a little help. And because it’s always easier to see the flaws in someone else’s work than it is in your own, you’ll learn a lot from critiquing other artists’ work as well.

When doing critiques—even of my own work—I like to use a checklist to remind me of design elements and pitfalls to watch for. What I discovered was that I couldn’t find a checklist for critiquing picture book dummies anywhere. So, with a little help from my friends, I put one together myself.

So what should you look for in critiquing a picture book dummy? I’m glad you asked! I just happen to have this handy checklist right here to share with you.

Copies may be shared and printed for personal, educational, and non-commercial use. If you share this worksheet I’d appreciate the credit, and if you use the worksheet, I’d love to hear your feedback!


Follow Mishka:



Twitter: @MishkaJaeger

Instagram: @MishkaJaeger


  1. This checklist is pretty handy. I often make obvious mistakes mentioned on this list. I have a mini list of what not to do or what to look for when I’m making a composition, so might as well add this list to that one!

  2. Great list! Thank you for sharing. Printing it out now.

  3. Thanks for the terrific checklist. Your right -- I never have found one so it's good to have on down in writing. Like Brittanny, I have mini lists of things I commonly overlook which makes us more sensitive to them when we see them in others work. Sharing experience is what it's all about and helps fuel our muse to create. Thanks for your efforts.

  4. Thanks for this checklist! It's great, and it follows different and commonly overlooked things, especially when I think I need to 'hurry' a bit. This will keep me in check. Thank you for sharing, and I'll give you credit for this.

  5. Thanks for this post and for sharing your checklist!