Art Licensing Show is Here!

welcomeBannerGC2 Exciting news: is all set to open its virtual doors today at 2pm EST 6pm GMT!

For those who don't know, is

a virtual portal where artwork can be reviewed privately by Art Directors who are looking to commercially license artwork. Authorized Art Directors may request to see art from a wide assortment of participating Artists and Licensors and highlight favorite art pieces, all with a single login.

All the product and images of a licensing show, but from the comfort of your desk! Fun, right? I'm so excited to be a part of it.


Check out the grand opening here! And if you're a member, or you've signed up as an Art Director, you can check out my work here. I'd love to connect with you!

Blog Tour: Writing Process

I was invited by my critique-mate Abby Murphy to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. So let's start off with a bit about Abby: profile_1

Abby Murphy is a self-proclaimed history nerd who lives in Providence, RI. She has donned 19th-century clothing to work at a living history museum, pored over manuscripts at a literary agency,  she now teaches middle school students to read, write, and think. She writes YA historical fiction and recently finished a novel based on her great-great-grandmother, who traveled to Europe in the 1890s. You can learn more about the crazy talented Abby, what she's working on, as well as some yummy recipes, at

And now a bit about my writing process:

1.  What am I working on?

With the fine people at Candlewick Press, I'm working on completing Jabari Jumps!-- a picture book about a little boy who, despite his big talk, may or may not actually jump off the diving board. Its a nail biter.

2.  How does my work differ from others of this genre?

The most obvious difference is that Jabari Jumps! centers around a boy and his dad who are black. (There's a little sister in there too, but she doesn't actually do much 'cause she's just a baby.) But I think the presence of a dad who is kind and supportive, and obviously very involved, is a unique perspective as well.

3.  Why do I write what I do?

There's a been a lot of focus lately on the lack of diversity represented in children's books. (#WeNeedDiverseBooks ) Its something that's been going on for well, basically forever, so I think its great that its getting talked about. But honestly, when I thought up Jabari over five years ago it was more a reflection of my life's experiences--like growing up and living in cities, my involvement with adoption and experiences with blended families-- than a direct reaction to the heartbreaking statistics . However, though I'm newer to writing, representing people of all colors and ethnicities is important to me and has always been reflected in my illustration work.

In the broader sense, I really love getting into the minds of young kids. Its always a challenge to capture that voice authentically, but when it's done well it's such a treat.--for young and old readers alike. So thats what I'm aiming for.

4.  How does my writing process work?

Some phrase or scenario will catch my eye and then I try to build a story around that.  I try to figure out what kind of character would say/do such a thing and then it builds from there. At this point, my "writing" looks like lists with tiny scribbled thumbnails and notes After several drafts, I move on to the drawing with bigger thumbnails and storyboards. Then I redo it a million times going back and forth between the drawing and the writing. My critique group keeps me from going crazy and makes sure I'm moving forward. Everyone can relate to getting trapped in the-- oddly comforting-- endless cycle of revisions, right? Thankfully, my crit group does not allow wallowing.

Ok folks, that's it for me! Abby thanks for having me!

Let's get to know Jorge, (from my critique group as well!) Russ, and AJ! Click on the head-shots to read more about their creative processes next week!

imageJORGE LACERA is a fun guy with a background in creating art work for television and feature animation. He has also created visual development for computer games. Now that he's a dad, he's turned his quirky eye to children's book illustration. While the work currently shown here is of the darker kind, Jorge is developing a children's portfolio that shows his warmer, fuzzier side as well. Jorge is particularly interested in doing picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, and YA covers.


10437154_10152104179406962_467409554_nRUSS COX was raised by a pack of crazed hillbillies in the back woods of Tennessee. Without much in the way of modern conveniences, like a television set or running water, he spent his time drawing and whittling away the hours. All of that drawing paid off. He has illustrated the Freddy the Frgocaster series written by Janice Dean (Regnery Kids), Major Manners Nite Nite Soldier by Beth and Mike Hofner (Outhouse Ink), A Merry Moosey Christmas by Lynn Plourde (Islandport Press Fall 2014) and his first book that he wrote and illustrated, Faraway Friends, will be released in April 2015 by Sky Pony.



AJ SMITH: I’m an author/illustrator specializing in silly stories and funny drawings for kids (and immature adults). I live in Newburyport, MA with my beautiful girls, Karen, Mirabelle and Chloé. My first trade picture book, Even Monsters comes out in Spring 2014.

Reindeer Print in your living room!

  reindeer in color west elm gaia cornwall


I thought it would be fun to pick out a few pieces for your living room to go with my Reindeer in Color print. Wouldn't these look nice together? They're all from West Elm and right now quite a few of them are on sale, so hop to it!

I'm seriously eyeing that chevron pillow for myself...


Print for Minted!

minted Elk on the Ridge Elk On The Ridge is available for sale through!


It comes in all different sizes and with a variety of frames. And you can choose the standard art paper, or the super deluxe archival, museum quality rag paper --fancy! I love that its going to be hanging up in people's homes... You can get your's here.

Like I mentioned earlier, this print will also be available through West Elm! Woo hoo!

Print for West Elm!

minted west elm ElkI have some exciting news: my collaged pen and ink piece, Elk On The Ridge, was selected to be sold at West Elm through  West Elm is one of my favorite stores. --Ever since Vanessa Holden took over as Creative Director in 2011 they've been killing it. So I'm am thrilled to be selling a print with them! It should be available any day now-- I'll let you know when! [Edit: It's now available here.] The above piece is actually part of a series I've been doing for a while now of animal portraits over collaged pieces of vintage paper. I started doing them just for myself and they've been really fun to do:

In this series, I've combined my love of animals and vintage paper. The pieces of paper were carefully chosen mostly from discarded children's encyclopedias. Its been a joy matching that perfect bit of color and shape with the right animal.

Would people be interested in seeing more? I'm toying with the idea of selling the others as well...

PS. The Every Girl has a great interview with Vanessa here if you're interested.


OMHG Calendar!

I need to update the blog with all the work (that I'm really happy with!) from the Make Art That Sells class, but first I wanted to post about the Oh My! Handmade Goodness Calendar project!

OMHG calendar


The OMHG community wants to spend 2014 with you + your friends & family! For our first Oh My product you can actually hold in your hands, we teamed up in our forums to create a letterpress calendar focused on the theme of community. 12 of our members (cheered on by everyone) created diverse and beautiful art that represents what community means to each of us.

This is a community funded project and we are offering 85 pre-sale calendars at flat rate shipping to the US & Canada to raise printing costs. Give the gift of community this year by being one of our first supporters! Click here for more details.

OMHG calendar

OMHG calendar

Looks gorgeous, right? Pre-order your limited edition copy here!

On Shame, Vulnerability, and Resistance. (aka MATS class starts next week!)

Part B of the Lilla Rogers class, Make Art That Sells, is starting this Monday and I have a confession to make: I realized the other day that I was dreading it. Uh what?

Yep, you read that correctly.

snail and the rose
At some point during the last half of Part A I had let comparison, and subsequently shame, get the best of me. In the beginning, I was so excited to start the class and had decided that I would use it to really do some creative stretching! I would try new techniques, different styles-- experiment! All things I don't consciously do with my art work on a regular basis. Sounds fabulous, right? And it was. Mostly.
So here's the thing with experiments: often times they fail. You try something and it just doesn't work for whatever reason. But almost always the failures lead you down a path you wouldn't have found otherwise. Which leads to growth, aka the whole point of experimenting in the first place.
lilla rogers Mats class A
Know what is really not helpful while experimenting? Comparing your work to other people's, never mind a bunch of really talented artists. And I'm embarrassed to admit it, because I consider it such a rookie move, but I totally fell into that. In general, comparison can be pretty deadly to creativity, but it felt even more so combined with the growing and stretching I was trying to do. Instead of inspired by my fellow classmates, I just felt not good enough. Instead of having fun and playing and trying new things, I got nervous and tentative. I was not so nice to myself. Doesn't someone compare your inner artist to a child? (Is that from The Artists Way?) Well, I was total jerk to that kid. And forget about discovering any new paths through my hard won experimenting. It became too scary, too uncertain.
I should note that all this was sort of kicking around under the surface. I knew something wasn't quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it. The class, (which is great,) moved at a fast pace, packed with information and I scrambled to keep up, confused as to why it seemed like it was getting harder and harder to do so.
And then it ended and I breathed a sigh of guilty relief.

Gaia Cornwall Ice cream!

Fast forward to last week, when my fellow classmates all started bubbling with excitement over the impending beginning of Part B. It couldn't come soon enough for them! Meanwhile I was using words like "impending" and maybe "looming" when I thought about it. And I was ashamed to feel that way. What was wrong with me? Why am I being so lame? As a creative person, this should be like unlimited ice cream sundaes for five weeks. And instead, I'm dreading it?? WTF, Gaia?

In a burst of synchronicity the universe swooped in and offered some guidance. Fellow classmate, Cheryl Bakke Martin,  posted Oprah's interview with Steven Pressfield. He wrote The War of Art, which is one of my favorite books. One that I recommend to everyone, I have a much loved and dog eared copy. Though apparently, I hadn't picked it up in a while, because I kept having "Aha moments," as Oprah likes to say.
Pressfield starts by defining Resistance:
"Resistance is the negative force that arises whenever we try to move from a lower level to a higher level. When we're trying to identify with our nobler nature. --Our higher nature."
And then Oprah mentions the list of activities he compiled that commonly elicit Resistance. Number 1 is "The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or creative art, however marginal or unconventional."
Oh yeah...

[ted id=1042]

And then, because I can be a stubborn person who needs things hammered home, what book should be prominently displayed at my local library? Brene Brown's Daring Greatly.  (You might know her from TED talks, like the one above.) The book opens with a passage from Theodore Roosevelt's speech, "The Man in the Arena":
  It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...
 And then Brown says:
"...Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it's understanding the necessity of both; it's engaging. It's being all in."
"...Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection."
I put the book down and was like, "Ok. I get it!"
Lilla Rogers Class
I share all this in the hopes that it will find some reader out there who is struggling with the same stifling thoughts and heavy self doubt. I hear ya. But I'm happy to report that after a kick in the pants from Pressfield and Brown, I'm raring to go! Dare I even say, Bring it on.
And to my fellow classmates, who are continuing on this journey with me, let us be brave and vulnerable explorers together. I can't wait.
Note: All the art shown here was done during the second half of Lilla's class. 

The Next Big Thing Blog Tour!


I've been invited to participate in The Next Big Thing blog tour by my friend-- illustrator, animator and writer-- Greg Matusic! (Read about his hilarious upcoming book Pirates Go Shopping here!) Thanks Greg! The tour is supposed to bring awareness to authors & illustrators and whatever they're currently working on. I'll answer ten questions below and then tag three illustrators/authors you all should check out! So let's get started:

Jabari Jumps! Picture Book
The Next Big Thing Blog Tour!
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Jabari Jumps!
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
A mix of childhood memories, the inspiring Olympic swimmer, Cullen Jones, and childhood memories of conquering the diving board.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
It's a 32 page picture book.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ooh.. Hmmm. Well, a three year old version of Sayeed Shahidi would be an awesome Jabari. And the lovely Taye Diggs would be a great Dad.  I guess the younger sister would be some rising-star-baby actor. 
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Jumping off the diving board is easy for a Big Kid like Jabari...right?
6) Who is publishing your book?
Who indeed? Its been reviewed and critiqued by art directors and agents, and I'm now sending it around!
7) How long did it take you to create the illustrations?
Well.... There were lots of different versions of this story, (and three completed dummies!?) so its not quite accurate to say four years--right? Right! Probably about four months and I continue to tweak them.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Jabari definitely has a dose of Olivia in him. Similar bluster and chutzpah, though in his case perhaps not so much to back it up. And while the text is saying one thing, I aimed to make the illustrations the punch line, so a bit of Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown. Overcoming fear is a major theme similar to Lilly's Big Day, by Kevin Henke.
Jabari Jumps! Picture Book
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A few years ago I hear about Cullen Jones' organization Make a Splash that teaches kids, parents and communities about the importance of learning how to swim. In the United States the child drowning statistics and the number of people who don't know how to swim are staggering. (After almost drowning at 5 years old, Jones went on to win gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.) Since I loved swimming especially as a kid, this really hit home for me. An early version of the book was about Cullen as a child, but it slowly evolved into Jabari's more light hearted, mischievous tale of conquering fears and defining bravery, ie jumping off the diving board.  
Fun fact, in Swahili "Jabari" means brave or valiant. 
Jabari Jumps Picture book
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
The sweet relationship Jabari has with his dad is one that often isn't explored in the kid lit world and is sure to tug on heart strings. 
Jabari Jumps Picture Book
Thanks for reading everybody!
Next Sunday check out:
I am small Gina Perry
I Am Small, by Gina Perry. I've read the dummy and it is brilliant! So cute, right? She'll be blogging here.
A YA historical novel, Drawing from Life (working title) by fellow crit-mate Abby Murphy!  The heroine struggles to become a professional artist at the turn of the century and is loosely based on Abby's grandmother (!) pictured above.  I've been reading chapters as she writes them and it is captivating!
I don't want to be a zombie
And a picture book about a misunderstood "walker" from the writer illustrator duo Megan and Jorge Lacera: But I don't Want To Be a Zombie!  Zane is afraid to tell his parents that he just wan't cut out for this whole zombie business. How will they react when they find out that he prefers whole grains to brains? Check it out here!
That's it folks!  Happy reading!

Lilla Rogers' Class Week 3, part 1

Week 3 focused on the picture book's market! Hooray, my favorite! Easy-peasy, rainbows and sparkles, right? Well, I thought so too, so I decided to not work in my own style, but to try something different. To experiment.  Well, I gave myself a run for my money, that's for sure. Our main assignment ended up being a spread or cover of the story The Snail and The Rose Tree by Hans Christian Andersen. Lilla wanted us to focus on expressive characters, color story, and hand drawn type --if we had time.  I chose to do a spread.  Mary Blair, one of my (and everyone's!) favorites was talked about a lot. I was thrilled.

I wanted to play with the following new-to-me elements:

  • flat, graphic shapes
  • "cute" large eyed characters
  • negative space
  • limited color palette (so hard for me!)
  • no pencil lines
  • retro details

Lilla provided us with vintage book covers for inspiration and I gathered my own as well:

vintage books Mary Blair

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 10.25.52 AM

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 12.07.29 PM

vintage book



Lilla Rogers' Class Week 2

For week 2, the market focus was home decor and our assignment was to design a couple plates that could be used as a collection. I drew lots of pods and "non-traditional" florals, mostly with a brush pen, for the first couple days.

pod flower sketch

pod flower sketch

pod flower sketch lilla rogers class

Then, for my final plates, decided to work in "my style"-- pencil drawings, layered in Photoshop, with pops of colors. I don't usually work in this market, so it felt fresh and new to me.

I started out with this:

floral plate lilla rogers

That turned into:lilla rogers pod plate

Some details:Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 1.55.35 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 1.55.18 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 1.55.03 PM

I liked where it was going, but the colors were tripping me up, so I moved on (without finishing it) to what became the design I submitted:

lilla rogers Make Art That Sells Class Plate


It didn't end up getting chosen for review, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The two plates don't quite work together as one collection. But I think if I adjust the colors in the first one, and uh, actually finish the design, they could work together nicely. I'd like to make one more coordinating piece as well.

detail home decor plate

detail succulents pods home decor

The biggest thing that stuck with me in Lilla's overall critique of this project last week, was making sure that your design comes across small.  Nine times out of ten, the buyer/client will be initially looking at your image in a tiny format-- a thumbnail on your site, or a shop online, a catalog etc. The basic composition has to be be visually interesting and graphic enough to grab them.-- To make them want to see the big version, with all the details.

This sounds obvious to me now, but it caused a huge shift in me. And as much as I love this design, it really isn't all that powerful as a small image. (She suggested we "test" it as 1 inch x 1 inch --the size of a promo button:)

lilla rogers Make Art That Sells Class Plate

Ironically, the design I started with, has a bit more punch as a small image, due to the large shapes/graphic background. It would have had even more if I had finished it and added in the pink color:

lilla rogers pod plateAnyways, it's something I've been trying to keep in mind ever since.

Children's Books, Week 3 next!




Lilla Roger's Class Week 1

I mentioned a few months ago that I signed up for Lilla Roger's Make Art That Sells Class and it started last week! I'm really trying to use the class to get out of my comfort zone and explore other mediums that I don't really get to play with on a regular basis anymore. That said, I feel pretty out of practice, so I decided to use each week's Monday exercise to experiment and then I'll do the final exercise (the one we submit) however I see fit. Seems like a good balance so far. Last Monday I played with pen and ink, water colors, collage, pencil drawing, and water-soluble color crayons. (Turns out, if you want to watercolor you should make sure you're brushes are in good shape. Mine stink. Forehead slap.)

photo 2 copy

photo 4

photo 3

photo 1 copy

photo 2

photo 1

I think I ended up liking the collage the best.

On to the main assignment. Here's the progression of my final piece. From pencil sketches, to inking, to coloring in Illustrator. (--Which I'm really trying to master. Photoshop is my comfort zone these days, but I'm working on creating pieces in Illustrator that actually have some texture and aren't too over the top vector-y. Still needs some work!)



Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.35.58 AM

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.36.17 AM

Final colored piece:Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.42.04 AM

Some coordinates to go with it.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.40.11 AM

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.40.59 AM

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.41.07 AM

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.41.31 AM

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.41.41 AM

And here's the final piece that I submitted:


Phew! Week 2 is already underway...

Contributing to OMHG!

omhg chat

I have a fun announcement to make: I'm a new contributor to the wonderful site, Oh My! Handmade Goodness! I'll be doing a couple illustrations a month for them and the first one, above, is live!

If you aren't familiar with OMHG, I encourage you to check it out:

We explore creative entrepreneurship from all angles and are a welcoming, supportive place no matter where you might be at on your business journey. OMHG is known for insightful and honest original content, a positive outlook, and for sharing resources + stories on how to build a creative business while living a creative life.

Good stuff, right? I'm thrilled to be --officially-- part of such a wonderful community of inspiring people.

Like the illustration says, come join us today (and every Thursday!) for a chat on twitter. #omhg Hope to see you there!

Daily Sketch Session


boy pre teen middle grade kidlit

teen girl middle grade bunny

anteater sketch

sketch girl

middle grade wolf and girl


Making an effort to draw more--for fun-- in this new year. So here's a peek into my daily sketch sessions of late. I've been posting them on instagram. (A welcome break from my typical animal/food pics I assume? Ha.)

Tomie dePaola Award

Tomie dePaolo Award Scbwi yearling Here's my submission for SCBWI's Tomie dePaola Award. I chose a scene from The Yearling.

I'm mostly happy with it. The plants and patterns on the trees were fun to do and I think successful. Jody, the son, I'm not thrilled with. I worry that maybe he looks a bit too cartoony?  I do like how the silhouetted framing worked out though.

Its one of those pieces I could have fiddled with forever. Fortunately, I was under the gun-- the deadline is today-- so I had to commit to something. Which  is good thing in my book.

Anyways, the main thing is that hypothetically the wonderful Tomie dePaola will actually look at something I drew! Which I get shivers thinking about. Strega Nona!

You can check out some of the other entries here .

Time to Vote!

  Unless you went early, today is the day to get out and vote. You can check here to find out where to go, and to get information about the various races going on. And if you're looking for something to whet your whistle afterwards, perhaps a cookie or cupcake would do the trick?

Romney Obama Cookies Cupcake portraits

They're from the wonderful Eleni's bakery in New York and are illustrated by me!