On Being an Illustrator with Kids or, OMG what did I get myself into??? Part 2

In my last post, I discussed how being an illustrator with kids is hectic. Heck, being anyone with kids is hectic. But we illustrators come with our own set of issues such as looming deadlines, no "real" weekend and being alone in our studios with just Facebook to keep us company.

In my previous post I promised some methods for how I try to keep it together and make the most out of my sometimes short working periods. So, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve employed:

1. Warm up drawingsWe all learned in art school that warm-up sketching is important. I learned that too. But somewhere along the line, I totally forgot about how important it really is. Up until very recently, my mindset was, "I don’t have much time, I just have to sit down and dig into this deadline." So I would just sit and start working on my assignment. Sometimes though, my lines just felt wonky and the drawing didn’t turn out right. Then it would be time to pick up my son from school and I would leave, frustrated and waiting for the next chunk of work time so I could fix what I previously attempted to draw.

But recently, I decided that every single time I sat down to work, I would spend at least 15 minutes warming up. Doodling, sketching and hopefully, getting the "uglies" out up front.  It has actually really been helping. Fifteen minutes of getting my muscle memory going and my hand-eye coordination ready really has saved me time in the long run because I’m not wasting time futzing on bad drawings.  My post warm-up drawings are more relaxed and flow much easier. See?

Before warming up…

A warm up…

After warming up…

2. Neatly organize working files90% of the time these days, I work digitally using many layers (oh how I miss my oil paint though). A habit which I’ve really found super helpful is to make sure I clearly label my Photoshop layers AS I CREATE THEM. Also, I make sure I create and label groups of files as I go. It saves a lot of time both as I’m working and when it’s time to send the files off to the client.  Clicking through 20 unnamed layers to find that little thing I need to adjust the color of is a total waste of time. Now, with my specifically-named layers, I can go straight to the item I need without much fuss.

Also, when a client comes back and tells me they need a revision, having  labeled layers and groups of layers makes it quicker for me when I have to revisit a file days later to make corrections.

Another thing that correctly labeling your layers does for me is shorten the time it takes to get my files ready for delivery to the client.  In the past, I have spent hours the night before a project is due labeling and grouping layers so it was clear for the client. I finally figured out I could save so much more time if I do the labeling as I go.

3. Tune outWe all know that social media is the like the office water cooler for us illustrators. Because illustration is often a very solitary activity, things like Facebook and Twitter keeps us looped in with fellow illustrating friends. However, when it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty, to really hit that deadline, social media can really provide too much of a distraction. It can become a means to procrastination and really get in the way of getting work done. DUH! We all know this, it’s nothing new. 

But, did you know there are apps that exist which will keep you off the internet for a predetermined amount of time? I mean they REALLY keep you off the internet? Like in a kind of scary (but good way)? I’ve used one of these apps before, called Self Control and it’s pretty amazing. Obviously, it’s not going to keep you off your iPad or phone, but it does it’ job for keeping you from trolling around on your computer when you’re supposed to be WORKING. There’s another one you can try called Freedom that is pretty popular too.

Another way I tune out and keep the distractions away from my workspace is to either shut down my email application or change the settings so new email only comes in every hour or so. Also–turn off the distracting "you’ve got mail" sound in your email preferences so you’re not tempted to check to see if that three-book deal came through.

So, these are a few things I’ve employed which really help me to streamline work and get it done in those small chunks of time I have. I know it sounds like doing simple things such as layering your files aren’t important, but time spent doing these things as you go really shave off wasted time down the road. 

I’d love to hear what your time-saving tips and tricks are! What do you do to make the most of your precious work time?

Digital Collage Illustration in Photoshop Tutorial

After much trial and lots of error, I finally have some videos of my process. I made a three part tutorial of my entry for the Tomie dePaola Award. This was an experiment of a style I’ve wanted to try. I’m really happy with how it turned out and can’t wait to do more like it.


Elements used in this tutorial

For this piece, I worked in Photoshop CS6. Most of the elements in it were scanned in textures, art, and collages. I only painted a little bit of it in Photoshop.

The first video focusses on the background elements.

In the second video, I did a little painting on the pig.

In the last video, I created the swirling leaves and petals out of a background painted on canvas paper.

On Being an Illustrator with Kids or, OMG what did I get myself into??? Part 1


So as I type this, my three year old is lounging on the couch watching Madagascar 3.  I always told myself I was never going to be THAT mom.  But as an illustrator with deadlines, sometimes I gotta do what I gotta do.

A little background here: my kids are now ages three and six and my husband is a firefighter (with a sometimes unpredictable schedule). I don’t have a babysitter to help with the kids just because that’s a choice we have made as a family. Luckily, being an illustrator allows me to work from home and my parents live close by to help me when they can. And when my husband IS home, he is super good about taking the kids out and about to give me some time to work.

And when it comes to work, as the old saying goes: when it rains, it pours. I currently have two illustration jobs going and will be adding a third soon. Yay for work!

But also: oh crap! How am I going to get everything done?! When am I going to get everything done between chauffeuring the kids around and feeding them???image

I spent the better part of last year really fishing around for answers on how to be a better multi-tasker. I thought that other people were doing this way better than me. I constantly asked myself and other illustrator moms, “How can I be the domestic goddess, illustrator and healthy (sane) mom I want to be?” Isn’t there a better way??? I got really down on myself because I felt taking on my career as an illustrator was an uphill battle. I didn’t get enough sleep, I felt that I didn’t spend enough time on my work and that basically, I felt like I was doing it all wrong.

But over the past couple of months, I had some realizations that really helped my outlook. In a nutshell, a big game-changer for me really has to do with BEING ADAPTABLE on both a small and large scale.  

Here are some of the major epiphanies and rules I’ve made for myself which help me cope when I need to GET IT ALL DONE.

  1. I will not compare myself to other moms in real life nor on Facebook

    I spent too much time comparing myself a lot to Facebook friends who seemed to be doing everything like a pro. I’m trying to eliminate self-talk that goes like this: “You mean she baked cookies from scratch, rearranged the house, mowed the lawn, spit-shined their husband’s shoes AND storyboarded a feature length film all in one day?!?!? I’m a slacker.” Comparing myself just creates negative self-talk and that’s not good for my self-esteem.

  2. I realize I will probably never be a domestic goddess. My family’s health and happiness is obviously number one on the priority list.  The state of my house is the thing that usually gives. I’m giving myself permission to say that it’s OK for these house to be in a state of disarray if need be.  Yep. I’m admitting here that there are usually toys, shoes and laundry everywhere (and probably dishes in the sink). My husband is really good about helping out with the cleaning when he’s home though!

  3. It is a MUST to enlist close family and/or friends.

    Heck, bribe them with money if need be! (But don’t forget to pay them. Sorry, mom.) I am the worst when it comes to reaching out and asking for help with my kids, but I am getting better at it. Knowing that someone else has my kids for a few hours and that I have a finite amount of time to get work done, helps me to stay focused.

    Also, if someone offers to help me out with the kids, I need to TAKE THE HELP! (I’m working on this one still…)

  4. Gone are the days of marathon painting sessions.

    This was my latest epiphany and maybe one of the most important. As an artist, it’s so easy to sit and paint for hours on end; to get in The Zone. With small kids, there are less opportunities for this. Unless someone has my children for more than a few hours, I’m still trying to train myself to realize that my work sessions might be 15 minutes here, thirty minutes there, etc.  Having to illustrate in smaller bursts of time is not fun and not easy to do. This might make sketching during my son’s soccer practice easier though! Can you say, "droooooool"???

  5. Just count on NO SLEEP the couple of days before a deadline.As a creative, all-nighters are just bound to happen. But I think most of us kinda love hours upon hours of drawing and painting, right? And think of all the Starbucks you get to drink the next day! 😉

  6. Hello, kids…mommy is working!!!

    There are those desperate moments when my husband gets unexpectedly called in to work (you mean you have to go save lives TODAY?!?), my parents are out of town and my mother-in-law is working. That’s when the good ‘ol Disney movie and popcorn trick come in handy. This doesn’t happen too often, but hey, it buys me a good hour and 45 minutes! I used to feel horribly guilty about this. But, they are getting old enough for me to explain that I need to work for a bit.

    They are becoming slightly more understanding about this:


So, obviously, these are things that work for MY family (or rather I’m trying to make work for my family). The scales are constantly tipping in different directions and learning to be ADAPTABLE is really helping me. Since I’ve learned that fitting in work when I can is how it has to be for now, I’m actually getting better at being more productive when I have the time to work.

In part two of this article I’ll discuss how my methods and tools for creating artwork have changed and adapted to now that I have small kids running around here! 

The books that influenced me…

When I was a kid, I belonged to a book club. Every month, I’d get a new book delivered right to my house. It was awesome! I loved books so much that I really looked forward to that delivery.

Below are a few from that club.

Illustrated by Denman Hampson. Published in 1964.


Illustrated by Blake Hampton, published in 1967.

This tree has shown up in my work before.

By Wende & Harry Devlin, published 1966.

 I have always loved scribbly pen and ink drawings!


Published 1966.

This is one of my all time favorite books! Miss Twiggly is so wonderfully quirky and as a tree lover myself, how could I not love her!




I got my first Little House book from my aunt for Christmas when I was seven.It has been the biggest influence in my career. I love Garth Williams and his Little House illustrations. Even as a kid I’d get lost in the pictures in these books. I just love the soft pencil shading.


SMA Interview Series: Author / Illustrator Eric Barclay


Eric Barclay is an illustrator and designer, and the author and illustrator of I CAN SEE JUST FINE (Abrams Appleseed) and HIDING PHIL (Scholastic Press). 

Classic cartoons, modern art, mid-century design and everyday mishaps heavily influence his style. 

He has illustrated for American Greetings, Disneyland Paris, Hallmark, Papyrus, Peaceable Kingdom, Klutz, Toys R Us, and many others. 

Eric lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, two beautiful young daughters, a dog and two cats. 



Q: Hi Eric! How did you get started in illustration? 

Like most illustrators, I got started with a box of crayons. My parents encouraged my artistic abilities and paid for me to have oil painting instruction from the time I was 11 until the time I finished high school.

My first job out of college was with an advertising firm as an art director and copywriter. Many of my assignments required illustration and I found that I enjoyed those projects the most. After working in ad agencies and design firms for several years, I went freelance in 2002. Becoming an illustrator has been a very gradual process: illustration assignments slowly started becoming more and more common as clients would see my work. I started my illustration blog in 2008 and a lot of work came my way as a result of that.

Q: You make some really cool illustrations on found objects! How did you get started doing this? Do you have a special process?

I have always been interested in making my own sculptures and toys – my first sculptures were made out of wood. One day I noticed that the lid of a Coffee Mate container looked kind of like an English cap, and my initial thought was to use the cap on one my wood sculptures. And then it just hit me that the entire object had a great character shape, and that I could turn the entire container into whatever I wanted it to be. Once I realized that, I began to see the potential in all kinds of household objects.


Different objects require a different approach. Glass is easy to work with and can usually be primed and painted right away. Plastic requires a lot more work to get things smooth. Each piece requires a different solution so the process changes from object to object.

This gives a whole new meaning to recycling, doesn’t it?!

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? If so, how is it helpful for you? If not, is there a reason? 

I do keep a sketchbook, but it is nothing pretty. I use it to not only sketch ideas, but to work out ideas and layouts as well. If I draw something on a napkin at a cafe I’ll often tape that into my sketchbook as well. Seriously, it’s a mess, but it is very helpful. I keep my old sketchbooks in a drawer and I’ll often go back and look at them to get new ideas.


Q: How do you decide what work to show online? Portfolio VS. blog…

I view my website, blog, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook pages as part of my portfolio. Social media (especially Pinterest) makes it so easy for anyone to re-post an image, so I’m very careful about what I post online. Once something goes viral you can’t take it back, so most of my posted work is pretty polished.  If I do post a sketch, I make sure it’s tied to the final image so that it can’t be taken out of context.

Q: What are your favorite tools?

I love retractable pencils, Prismacolors, and flat acrylic paint. Most of my personal work is done in pencil and acrylic, but my professional work is usually produced digitally. For digital work, I usually work with a scanned pencil drawing and then ‘paint over’ it in Photoshop or Illustrator.

Q: Are there any exercises or experiments you do to keep your creative juices flowing? How do you get out of a rut?

When I’m in a rut I like to just get out of the studio for bit. Long runs, and visits to bookstores, museums, and thrift shops often help get me unstuck. I tend to do my best work when there’s a healthy balance between work, play, and time with family and friends. 

Q: Would you mind giving us a peek at your workspace? Is there anything special you keep around you while you’re working for inspiration?

My workspace is a small, stand-alone studio in my back yard… just a 50 foot walk from my house. My brother, dad and I built it together. I have a bulletin board next to my desk where I post my kids drawings and anything else that inspires me. 


Q: What is an unexpected thing you’ve learned in your career?

I’ve really learned to appreciate brainstorm meetings. Art directors, editors, publishers, and project managers contribute so many great ideas that can be incorporated into the final artwork.

Q: What’s the most fun thing about being an illustrator? 

I love the variety of projects that I get to work on: greeting cards, books, toys, puzzles… it’s all so much fun.

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects or news you’re excited about and would like to share?

I’m really excited about the recent releases of my first two books, I CAN SEE JUST FINE from Abrams Appleseed and HIDING PHIL from Scholastic Press. I CAN SEE JUST FINE is a funny book about young girl who needs glasses but is clearly in denial. HIDING PHIL is the story of three siblings who find an elephant named Phil at bus stop and take him home… and then try to hide him from their parents.

An adorable interior spread from HIDING PHIL.

A really fun interior page from I CAN SEE JUST FINE.

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me, Renee. I’m a big fan of your art, and I also love Christina’s, Laura’s, and Tracy’s work as well. 

Visit Eric’s website and blog: Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericbarclay

Like his Facebook page!


Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Eric! Your art is so colorful and alive, we are all huge fans of your work as well! (Clearly, I CAN SEE JUST FINE was written about my life in third grade… )

Most importantly, Eric, your sense of humor is totally "spot on"! 

"Missing, by Eric Barclay"

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist!

I hope this post inspires lots of people to think outside of the box and to not be afraid of bright colors. 🙂 

Creating a Photoshop Brush Using Scanned Textures (Video)

I originally began painting with Photoshop about seven years ago. Back then, I really tried to mimic the look of painting with oils (my true art love), but lately I feel my work has gotten away from that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as I have a newer style I really love, but I do miss creating work that looks and feels more traditional.

I recently discovered an artist named Paolo Domeniconi while scrolling through Pinterest. I was blown away to discover that his work is created in Photoshop! His textures are beautiful and painterly and it’s hard to believe they are painted digitally.

After seeing Paolo’s work, I was inspired to take another stab at making my own texture brushes.  When I first began figuring out how to paint using Photoshop (back in 2006), I found this tutorial by Scott E. Franson. The artwork resulting from his custom brushes is gorgeous. I’ve kept his blog post bookmarked and his method has always stuck with me. As I went back to experiment with my own texture brushes a few weeks ago, I referred back to his post for help. I’m happy that after lots of experimentation, I finally figured out a great method for painting in Photoshop with results I really love.

At the bottom of this post, I’ve included links to download the gesso texture file and the chalk brush for you to get started creating your own gesso texture brushes! Feel free to download and experiment!


Gesso TextureBasic Chalk Brush

Illustration Project Management with Evernote

This summer was a doozy, I’m SO GLAD that it’s almost over.

My son was on summer vacation and work poured in. I had to figure out how to get super-organized with my projects really fast.

After some trial and error I figured out that I needed a system where:

  • I could easily see all of my deadlines for all the stages of my projects in one place
  • I could get a pop-up or email notification about the deadlines
  • I could gather all of the little bits and pieces of information and feedback about projects in one easily accessible and organized place
  • The project information can be synced between my computer and phone 

I played with a few todo apps and calendars and in the end what worked the best for me was Evernote.

Evernote is a free software/service where you can gather and organize all of your notes. The great thing about this service is it’s available on the web, Mac or PC, and all mobile devices. And did I mention that it’s free???

Here’s how I have my projects set up in Evernote:


As you can see, it’s fairly simple. I have an overall notebook that contains all of the individual illustration projects that I have going. I did this mainly to keep work stuff away from all of my other notes (recipes, inspiration, etc.) and to have my work deadlines displayed only within this folder.

Now, on to the features that I use for managing my illustration projects:

E-mail Project Notes to Evernote

This feature is a crucial part of what makes this service work for my projects. Since all of the information for my projects come to me through e-mails from clients, it saves a lot of time to just forward them to Evernote rather than typing the information out.


Adding Checkboxes:

Once the email shows up in Evernote, I like to convert the various items into clickable checkboxes boxes just so it’s easier to see what I need to do. You can find the check-box feature in the formatting bar.image



The Reminders feature was added to Evernote this summer. It’s this feature that turned Evernote from a "meh" program to the most useful thing in the world to me.

Reminders displays what’s due within the folder you created it in. I like this since it keeps everything organized within the project folder. I have all of my projects contained within an overall "Illustration Projects" folder so I can see all of the Reminders for all of my projects displayed at once. This way I can see which deadlines for which project will come first.

Another thing I like about Reminders is that it can send notification pop-ups or e-mails to you.




It’s so helpful that all of my notes and reminders sync across various computers and devices. I was out and about a lot this summer with my son so it was nice to have all of my information on hand all the time.

So far I’m really pleased about how simple and flexible Evernote is. I’ve tried other "to do" apps in the past and I’ve always fallen out of the habit of using them over time.  I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to stick with this system because of it’s simplicity. 

To find out a little bit more about Evernote, take a look at these videos and see if it might work to manage your  projects:


SCBWI LA 2013: Notes, Recommended Reading and Oh Yeah–Don’t Be A Chicken

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since the SCBWI summer conference ended! I’ve finally recovered from the sublime exhaustion the summer conference brings. Yes, it’s taken me this long to feel normal again. Well, really, it took me about a week to recover. Too many late-night fireside chats!

Four days of learning, insight and fun is over, but I feel like I came home with a jar full stars. Shimmering bits of motivation that continue to swirl, glow and inspire even two weeks later.

This year was my fifth or sixth time attending the summer conference, so I knew what I was in for: friends (new and old), inspiration, laughter, a few tears from emotional keynotes, and even that pesky ounce or two of self-doubt which usually manages to creep in. (The friends and laughter usually suffocate the self-doubt though!) 

FRIENDS!Speaking of friends, one of the best parts of the conference is getting to meet and hang out with my peeps, both new and old. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by people who “get” me.  My tribe. There was time with my fellow Mentees, my home-base buds (OC Illustrators) and I finally got to meet and hang out with my fellow Simply Messing About teammates Laura Zarrin and Tracy Bishop! (Renee, where were youuuuu?!?) We spent one night hanging out super-late with Diandra Mae talking about everything under the sun–from our careers, to our kids, to…lots of other stuff. So. Much. Fun.

Laura Zarrin (Simply Messing About), Me, Eliza Wheeler (fellow Mentee) and Kimberly Gee (Fellow Mentee)

LEARNING FROM MASTERS!I usually take pages and page of notes, but this time, I kept it to a minimum. I tried to be as present as possible during each session and really only write down things that really packed a power punch regarding where I’m at and where I’m going on my journey.

Here are some quotes from the weekend that really hit home for me:

Jon Scieszka (author)

  • “Be subversive!”
  • “You don’t want to put kids to sleep–wake them up!”

Mac Barnett (author)

  • “Write books with new rules!”
  • “Wonder is the place where truth and lies meet." (paraphrased)

Richard Peck (author)

  • “No one young will pay money to hear an adult.”
  • “Writing is the act of getting your brain to bleed directly onto the blank page.”

Joanne Rocklin (author)

  • “You have to know the rules in order to break them and then do something powerful with that.”

Jarrett Krosozcka (author/illustrator)

  • “Create mini cliffhangers on each page.”

Dan Santat (author/illustrator)

  • “Illustration is 80% design and 20% ability.”


Among my notes, are titles of books various presenters suggested based on their keynote/workshop subject matter. It’s pretty amazing to be able to refer to and study the books which influenced the conference faculty/speakers.

Mentioned by Jon Sciezka during his keynote, “The Importance of Being Subversive in Writing for Kids: Not Every Book Should Put You to Sleep"

Mentioned by Kristin Venuti (author) during her workshop, “Funny You Should Ask”

Mentioned by Arthur Levine (publisher/author) and Mike Jung (author) during their “Imagining Ethnicity” workshop

Mentioned during the “What Makes an Evergreen, What makes a Hit” Editors Panel

Mentioned by Richard Peck during his “Shaping Story from the Opening Line” workshop:

  • Feed by M.T. Anderson, 

Mentioned by Steven Malk (agent at Writer’s House) during the Illustrators Intensive 

Mentioned by Carson Ellis (author/illustrator) during the Illustrators Intensive

*Note: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster was mentioned about eleventy-hundred times throughout this year’s as well as last year’s conference. It’s first on my To Be Read list. Maybe it should rank high on your list too?

SHOULD’A, COULD’A, WOULD’A!Though the conference leaves me on a high for quite some time afterwards, I always leave with a small nagging feeling of “shoulda, coulda, woulda”:

Here are some things I’ve promised myself to do more of next year. And if you’re going to be a first-timer at a conference maybe you can prime yourself to be better than I was at these things:

  • Meet and talk to more people
  • Take more pictures, so I wouldn’t have to borrow everyone else’s for blog posts!
  • Hand out more business cards
  • Take at least one nap, so it wouldn’t take me a week to recover from so much excitement
  • Actually submit my assignment for the Illustrator Intensive
  • Ask more questions during the breakout sessions

By the way, most of the list above is due to ME BEING A CHICKEN during certain circumstances. When are they going to start offering a pre-conference conference about how to not be a wallflower???

Anyhow…the SCBWI 2013 Summer Conference was amazing as usual. If you can swing it at least once in your career, go! And DON’T BE A CHICKEN when you get there! You never know how good a friend that guy behind you in the Starbucks line might become.

The SCBWI LA Conference: Experience of a First-Timer

SimplyMessingAbout SCBWILA2013

This year I was finally able to attend the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) LA International Summer Conference. It’s a gigantic event where people from all aspects of the children’s publishing industry converge in one place for 4 days. If that sounds overwhelming, exhausting, and heavenly, you have exactly the right idea.

The strangest thing about attending this conference for the first time was I didn’t feel like a newbie at all. I have to say this is all because of Twitter. Throughout the entire event I bumped into friends that I’ve made over the years on Twitter. Standing in the lobby of the hotel was like a bizarre real-life version of a Twitter stream. People who I usually only see online were walking right in front of me! There wasn’t a moment where I felt alone or out of place.

An awesome thing that happened was 3/4 of the Simply Messing About crew attended the conference! Renée couldn’t attend in person but she was definitely there in spirit. Her work was mentioned twice during the breakout sessions. Laura, Christina, and I were so proud of her and cheered.

Another unexpected thing that was so rewarding about the conference was it gave me the opportunity to say "thank you" to so many of the people who helped me out over the years. I was able to grow because other people were kind enough to answer my newbie questions, gave me honest critiques, and encouraged me when I was just starting out. There was nothing like being able to express my appreciation in person.

Things that helped make the conference a success for me:

  • Have your Twitter/Facebook profile pic on your name card! Having my profile picture on my name card made all the difference in the world. So many of the interactions started with people recognizing my avatar.

  • Don’t be shy. Speak up during workshops and ask questions. This is your  chance to get information that you will probably never find on the internet from experts/heroes.

  • Sit back and enjoy. Don’t stress about getting "discovered". You are there to learn and make friends.

Revelations from the conference:

  • It takes a looooong time to come up with ideas.

    So many of the books you think just came about overnight lived in sketchbooks for years and years. This was a common theme mentioned by many of the presenters.

  • Veteran illustrators go through tons of revisions to get characters just right — it’s not just you!

    This particular observation made me feel better. It’s not just me that can’t get a character right on the first try.
  • Learn from each other.

    It’s easy to forget that you can learn a whole lot from your fellow conference attendees. A whole lot of them are experts too. What I learned just from talking with other attendees is just as valuable as the official workshops.
  • I’m part of the right tribe.

    I thought I would be exhausted being immersed in the children’s book world day and night for four days! That was not the case for me at all. I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to contribute to this world.

The biggest takeaway for me was that I was SO GLAD that I signed up for this conference. This summer has been nutty with my workload on top of having my son home from school. I was this close to canceling the trip because I thought I couldn’t take the time away. But forcing myself to attend the SCBWI LA Conference ended up giving me the golden opportunity to take a step away from the daily life to be more thoughtful, get feedback, and recharge myself on why I wanted to be an illustrator. And sometimes taking the time away no matter how busy you are is exactly what you need to grow.

SMA Interview Series: Art Resource Coordinator, Anne Moore

imageAlthough I am the Art Resource Coordinator for Candlewick Press, I call myself a treasure hunter because I am always searching & discovering new talent or new art that illustrators who are already published or seasoned. The illustrators we publish are certainly treasures, and we love showcasing their work. 

I support the creative director along with the art directors and editors who are acquiring new texts that need visuals. That includes picture books, illustrated middle-grade novels, poetry collections, biographies and young adult novel covers. I keep a visual archive and also share incoming samples and submissions with the art and editorial departments.

Anne recommends some of her favorite picture books from Candlewick Press on Vimeo.********************************************************

Q: How and when did you start working at Candlewick Press?

I came to Candlewick in 1995 from Little, Brown and Company where I was a senior book designer. Candlewick was "the new light in publishing" and was much smaller; there were only 3 of us in the art department at that time. We were just beginning to originate Candlewick titles. I designed picture books, young adult novels and poetry collections.

Q: What is your work day like?

My day consists of researching on the web, contacting agents and illustrators about their work or sending a new text and making an initial offer for the project. I also facilitate a weekly meeting with editors and art directors to suggest ideas for new projects needing illustrators.

 Q: Besides having some of the most gorgeously designed books in publishing, the Candlewick office is a really fun and well-designed workspace! Can we maybe, just maybe have a tour?

Bigbear is always snuggling up to friends in the office.

Award winning books welcome visitor in our lobby.

We love to surround ourselves with art.

Jon Klassen’s prints are proudly exhibited in our gallery.

Everyone loves printing at Candlewick.

Q: Do you have any career moments that you’re particularly fond of? 

Meeting and working directly with the illustrators has been a joy. I’ve worked with some amazing ones including Marc BrownEd EmberleyJane DyerMelissa SweetScott Nash and Christine Davenier

One interesting moment I remember was when I visited Melissa Sweet’s studio years ago in Maine, and as I walked through her kitchen I was stunned to see she had illustrated her kitchen cabinets ~ they were just enchanting. 

I think a highlight of my career was finding and sharing Jon Klassen’s work when we were looking for an illustrator for House Held Up By Trees. That began quite a love affair for us all.image 

House Held Up by Trees: written by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Always such a treat when original art is delivered for an entire picture book. These color saturated pieces are Timothy Ering’s from The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger.

Q: There’s a lot of talented folks out there! What’s your favorite way to discover new talent? 

I find blogs are a gold mine. An illustrator not only shares process and things they love [or hate], but they usually share other artists’ work whether it be on their links page or just in a post. That has been an amazing source of discovery.

Q: Do you write and illustrate as well? 

Over the years I’ve had ideas for picture books, but I only began to take time to write stories about 2 years ago. I met with a friend monthly to share and cheer each other on. I am excited to send my little babies out into the publishing world soon to see if they’ll fly. I now am much more empathetic with people who have shared their work online or through submissions. It’s certainly a vulnerable step into the unknown. It certainly is a step of faith.

Q: How do you get inspired? 

Nature is my first inspiration ~  I always look up! The sky is an ever amazing palette of shadow, light and color. I also look down too… especially on the ground. I love textures and earthy gritty, not-so-perfect things that are worn or cracked or faded. I collect textiles and vintage objects that are rusted or discarded. Color and music are also amazing avenues of inspiration that I pursue, whether I gaze at a beautiful watercolor or I get lost in a voluminous cavern of sounds. Taking walks or sitting by moving water tends to energize and inspire me most.

Q: Any tips for picture book illustrators or authors looking to work with Candlewick Press?

Follow what you love. Soak up and surround yourself with things that bring you life. The more we can see that someone loves what they’re doing or is passionate about a certain subject, the more your work will be memorable and draw us in.

And, as a practical exercise, kids books need emotion, interaction with friends and the world, and the ability to carry a character through time and space from various perspectives and with varying degrees of emotion. So, just don’t show one rhino, show a rhino dancing or pouting or singing. This gives the editor and art director the information they need to feel confident to hire you for a project.

They need to see that you can create a memorable character that connects with the reader and you’re not just illustrating the words, but you are interpreting the story in such a way that you add to its meaning.

Follow Anne on Twitter: @childbookart



It’s such a special job you have, Anne, and I think I speak for every illustrator when I say, "thank you." There are so many great reminders here that I’m sure will inspire illustrators and writers alike. I also hope that everybody who reads this never forgets to look up, down, and all around!

Thank you, as well, for the tour around your super fun office space!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing Anne’s stories soaring around the kidlitosphere!! 

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