See you at the SCBWI-LA conference!


Starting early tomorrow morning is the annual Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrator’s conference in Century City, Los Angeles. Publishers, editors, agents, art directors, writers and illustrators in the children’s book field get together and geek out about kids books (picture books up to YA novels). What could be better?

Photo by Debbie Ohi

I’ve been working for the past 6 months on revising my portfolio for the illustrator’s Portfolio Display on Saturday night. After winning the Mentorship Award Program last year along with 5 super talented illustrators (Debbie Ohi, Ashley Mims, Andrea Offermann, Kimberly Gee, and John Deininger), this year will be an important year to show the Mentors (Pat Cummings, Cecilia Yung, Priscilla Burris, Bridget Strevens-Marzo, David Diaz, and Rubin Pfeffer) that I have taken their feedback to heart. Their advice has been an immense help in guiding my work in the right direction.

Good luck everyone, can’t wait to see some of you there!


Cello Illustration



I just finished a new illustration for the portfolio! It’s a stand-alone image done in pen and ink.

Left: Thumbnail sketch. Middle: Pencil sketch. Right: Tonal study

I started with a thumbnail sketch, and then created a crude clay model for lighting studies. I created the full size pencil sketch on my final watercolor paper and began inking the lines. I realized before inking the whole thing that I should try a few tonal studies, so I scanned in the sketch, and printed it out on watercolor paper at about 8×10″ (with waterproof printer ink). This made good practice for the final piece before applying the ink washes.

Final size: 10.5″x13″.


Lighting Studies

When creating a new illustration where lighting is key, try building a simple 3D model to photograph as a helpful reference. As you’ll see in my examples below, it can be a very crude model made with whatever materials you have handy.

I started trying to sketch the figure as a series of basic shapes. Realizing it would be more helpful to see the figure in 3D, I used modeling clay (available in arts and crafts stores), some toothpicks and a pizza box top to recreate the scene in my thumbnail sketch.

Building the scene also gives you the ability to look at angles you may not have considered.

Stay tuned for the final image!


Promotional Mailers

When doing research on putting together a first promotional mailer, I got mixed messages from different sources. In the past, illustrators wanting to introduce themselves to publishers would send out a sample packet consisting of letter-size sheets of images (basically a paper portfolio), which the art director would put in a file. After that first mailing, illustrators would keep in touch via single image postcards, reminding the art director of his/her existence. Nowadays, it seems mandatory that illustrators have their portfolios online. So I questioned the necessity of sending that first mailing of a paper portfolio to art directors.

Art Director at Penguin Books for Young Readers Cecilia Yung shared some advice based on her personal preferences:

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Inspired By: Other Art

When we find our creative passion, it can be easy to have a one track mind. I look at children’s books constantly and love studying illustrations of past and present. While this is great, it’s also useful to keep our eyes open to the world around us. Being inspired by only one field of work can keep us boxed in.

Byzantine Altar Piece DetailDuring our recent travels abroad my husband and I visited the Vatican museum. When looking at the collection of Byzantine altar pieces, I was struck by the painting style and the beautiful gold leafing with intricate patterns behind the figures. I found myself excited to experiment with these art works in mind. They were some I might not have noticed before, but working in children’s illustration has pushed me to constantly look at what other illustrators are doing, what techniques I might not have considered. Yet tunnel vision can cause me to forget about the vast array of art ready to spark ideas within my own work.

Push yourself outside your comfort zone by exploring other genres:

Illustrators: look at abstract painting, sculpture, film, architecture, fashion.
Writers: read outside your genre; YA novels, adult fiction, non-fiction, classics, philosophy, poetry.

Inspiration leads to experimentation, pushing you outside that comfort zone and into a world of possibilities

New Site

After a long time in the works I’m happy to have the new site up and running! I’m looking forward to being able to share sketches, updates, new illustrations, and helpful notes and resources.

A few specifics on the site – what I chose, and why: My previous site was built in Flash; beautifully designed, functioned simply and smoothly. A big thanks to my super talented husband who built it for me!

My Old Site

My beautiful old Flash site

Unfortunately iPods/Pads don’t support Flash sites, and I’ve learned it’s essential to go with an html site that’s easily accessible from all media. So I had to bite the bullet and let go of my site. While it’s a lot of work to build a new one, I saw this as a great opportunity to create a site that would function as both a blog and portfolio website, something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. I needed to have the ability to customize the look of the site, while being able to easily update it without needing to know any html coding or CSS (or more likely, have someone else do it for me). After a bit of research the option that seemed best was using WordPress with the Headway theme. The steps involved included:
– downloading the files from
– getting it installed on my web-host for my domain name (which took some calls to GoDaddy support)
– buying the Headway theme and uploading it to WordPress
– building the site
Headway is a theme that allows for designing the site layout easily and visually. It also features a photo gallery plugin with thumbnails that works great for portfolio navigation. Here’s an idea of what it looks like in the works:

Headway's Visual Editor

Now that all that technical work is complete, last step – keep on posting!