Friday, December 18, 2015

Looking Back (and Merry Christmas!)

It's good to reflect and see personal growth - especially when self-doubt wraps its chilling fingers to strangle creative endeavors. Since I'm currently working through this, I'm setting aside time to applaud the good I've accomplished this year:

1. Sketching has become my friend as I've set aside time each day to do it. Its influence is guiding my fingers in ways they didn't move before.

2. I submitted a couple projects to editors and agents and received personalized rejections that were helpful and confidence-boosting.

3. I submitted five articles to The Bulletin (SCBWI's magazine), had three of them accepted, and one has already been published. The accepted article ideas came from studying children's books, sketching, and experimenting with using textures in my work.

4. An illustration I submitted to SCBWI was published in their most recent Bulletin.

5. An editor approached me about illustrating a Sunday school curriculum. The timing didn't work out this time around, but she said she'll contact me again next year.

6. I met with my amazing critique group every month this year. (Well, maybe I missed a couple near the beginning?) They are wonderful friends, great confidence-boosters, and most helpful in their critiques of my work.

7. Two weeks ago I bought a Wacom Intros Pro (as opposed to the bottom-of-the-line model I was using previously). I already feel an upsurge in the quality of my work. (That pen makes a huge difference!)

It isn't always easy feeling successful in the field I've chosen, but I hope that with continued effort next year will continue to yield results I will feel proud of. To leave you with merry greetings, you've already seen an illustration I created for SVS's 3rd Thursday contest (Santa's reindeer have the flu, so he used . . .). Special thanks to my husband for giving me the idea.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Online critiques to watch (from real instructors)

My last post highlighted a piece I'm submitting for SVS's 3rd Thursday competition. I just finished watching their critique of last month's four pieces, and WOW! The information they offer is so helpful and generous! I'm hooked. I can't wait to watch more of them, but I've got work waiting for me . . .

If these are something you'd like to watch and learn from, here's a link to their youtube channel. Scroll down and look for the 3rd Thursday videos. (There's a lot more great stuff to learn from, too!) And they offer very reasonably priced classes to learn professional techniques.

And since blogposts are boring without something visual, below is a recent page from my sketchbook. Which leads me to ask, have you sketched today? Fifteen minutes a day can go a long way. (Hey, I sound like one of those commercials out there . . .)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Something Completely Different

Okay, so I normally draw cute kids.

But today I got sidetracked into something much more experimental - and it was quick and fun. SVS hosts monthly competitions (this is a link to their website; look for 3rd Thursdays), from which they pick a handful to critique and offer prizes. This month's prompt asks for an Edgar Allan Poe cover featuring his stories. Well here ya go. I have to say that I love sketching, so doing a caricature of Poe was a lot of fun, especially since I didn't have to make him perfect. I also find it great fun experimenting with textures in a way that I might not typically do with my more traditional art. (But maybe I should . . .)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Little Red Take 3

Here's yet another red riding hood, which again took so much longer than I anticipated it would! Keeping things consistent and helping what's most important stand out took some finagling. Hopefully I'll get better (and quicker) at doing this. I'm not sure it works perfectly, but my mind can't process what needs doing at present. If you have any suggestions, I'm open! I'd also love to hear which of the three Red Riding Hood pictures you like best.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Kids and Craft: Making Both Work

This blogpost ( by an author/illustrator friend, Jill Bergman, shares what it means for her to be a mother/author/illustrator. It made me think about an article I wrote months ago (see below). Although I speaks from my own mother/children's book maker perspective, others might glean ideas about making other chosen crafts work. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Kids and Craft: Making Both Work
Angela C. Hawkins

For the last ten years, I’ve opted to be a stay-at-home-mom. It’s wonderful, but it does come packaged in creative limitations. I’ve teetered between ignoring my craft until my kids grow older and growing my craft while ignoring my kids. It’s not a one-size-fits-all game, but here’s how I try to balance both:        

Most days have pockets of creative time. A writing professor knew a published stay-at-home mom who nabbed twenty minutes a day to write. Sometimes a mind-numbing break while my kids have napped, snacked, or played is tempting, but I've rarely regretted choosing to create. Much can be done in focused swatches of time.
 Notepads are essential. They’ve kept my creativity streaming while I’ve nursed, watched kids, and prepared food. They’ve kept me engaged and ready for those creative time pockets.

Watching kids is productive. Watching my children play has been an opportunity to soak up beautiful memories and improve my writing and illustration. It has flooded my notebook with story ideas, and my artistic mind has captured ways of working light, color, and child-like fun into my illustrations. 

A stay-at-home mom doesn’t have to mean a play-at-home mom. I do play with my kids, but I feel that all day play is misleading and debilitating for all of us. I try to show by example and expectation that lots of happiness can be found through ambition, hard work, sharing, creativity, and productivity.

Learn and create together. Although it takes longer, learning and creating in tandem with littler ones has honed my brainstorming, artistic, researching, and teaching skills.

Learn from kids. I’m often entangled in planning and details. My kids create uninhibitedly, experimenting easily with new ideas and mediums. It reminds me to let go and have more fun.

Daily reading is a boon. It’s important for my kids and my craft to read a lot – and I can accomplish both at once! Reading to them has fine-tuned my understanding of rhythm, rhyme, word choices, and pacing.

Kid perspectives are insightful. While reading together, I observe what engages their attention, finds their chuckle bones, or leaves them distracted. I notice which covers, titles, illustrations, and blurbs reach out to them.

Kids dish out great advice. When I've encountered story and illustration problems, my children offer meticulous advice from the way they see things. Since I am writing for kids, that perspective is a sparkling asset. 

Sharing my work with them is an investment. Not only are my children my greatest fans, but I love how my example inspires them to create. Which inspires me to create. Which inspires them to create. Which . . .

Since my family will always be first, there are days when I set my dreams aside. But with a little thought and lots of perseverance, on most days I can squeeze in both.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Riding Again

Here's another scene from Red Riding Hood. Which took way too long - especially since I don't like it as well as the one below. I like the contrast in the first one better than here. My hope is to make her home light and happy in contrast to what she'll encounter later on, but I feel like something's missing. Still, there are elements that work well. It took a lot of research to make the room and clothing look authentic, and to keep Red Riding Hood looking consistent. I also assumed it would come together quickly after that since I planned to use the same color palate as the other one. And then it took more time than I thought it would to determine which textures to use and where to put them! *sigh* But here it is, and now it's time for something else!

Friday, October 23, 2015

From Start to Finish: Little Red

Growing up, I often copied illustrations I liked (at least the parts in each image I liked best). It became fairly easy to recreate what someone else had already done - which was good practice, but it was also deceptive since it didn't show the illustrator's behind-the-scenes work involved in creating the whole thing (or even that part I loved).

Every illustrator is different, and every project can get more or less attention, but here's the behind my scenes process that went into creating this illustration (each step has correlating pictures), which I may submit it for the 2015 Tomie DePaola SCBWI contest. The prompt asked us to create an 8x8 illustration from a Red Riding Hood scene, with no space inside the illustration intended for text. Tomie's overarching goal is for us to create an illustration he falls in love with, most especially Little Red Riding Hood.

1. The first thing I did was some random brainstorming. Sometimes this works great and I can skip some of the following steps, but since this brainstorming session wasn't creating a character I loved (though I do think the highly characterized little-miss-wonderhood - #3 - is kinda cute), I knew I had to do some research.

2. My random doodles proved that I didn't know how to draw capes very well, so I googled around and did a few studies from various angles.

3. I also felt it would help if I studied how other illustrators have rendered Red Riding Hood, so I did more googling and sketching.

4. Since a lot of those Little-Red-Hoods felt stiff, I wanted to create more action in mine. I tinkered with the idea of having her walking along a log and - you guessed it! - sketched more studies of girls balancing on logs.

5. I chose a sketch I really liked and modeled this riding hood after her, but my wolf sketch (see #9 below) and idea for a layout didn't work with this, so I eventually scrapped this idea and . . .

6. Did more sketching! I thought my Little-Hood in #5 was cute, but I opted to create a European Riding Hood instead so that I could show her hair flowing in the wind. I also considered making her more modern, but since I have a fancy for those old fashioned spin-around dresses I opted for a more traditional look.

7. I loved the action here and almost used this Little Hood, but after re-reading the text prompt Tomie provided, I realized she's not the sort of girl who would recklessly zoom around with basket and goodies spilling out like I'd intended. So I reworked her and came to my . . .

8. Final Little Red.

9. Toward the beginning of this process, I had already sketched the wolf (on the right). I've included a wolf face (on left) that I tried from my imagination so you can see the difference it makes to do your research! The attempt on the left helped me realize that I needed to - once again! - sketch a real wolf to make it look authentic. In the end, I didn't need to do as many sketches since I knew I wanted him to be in the foreground looking over at her, and this came rather quickly.

10. After poking around, I sketched my favorite scenes of woods that might work for this illustration. I eventually used a combination of a couple I liked and added a little cottage to set the stage and add perspective.

11. Using the wonders of modern illustration technology, I brought everything into Painter to scale and place everything where it would deliver the most drama. Then . . .

12. I printed off #11 and retraced it with my lightbox. You'll notice Little Red is left out since I felt she looked great in #8 (and I was afraid of losing some of her freshness by retracing her). I then added her in once I rescanned #12.

13. Using my super-duper Color Inspirations book, I found four color palates I thought might work. I knew I wanted a yellow sky, that Red would be red, and that the forest/wolf would be a more menacing blue. These parameters helped me narrow down what I wanted, and I did some quick studies in Painter with each one. Can you spot the palate I eventually used? 
14. Last of all came my favorite part (or tied for favorite; I really like the sketching part, too): Adding textures and paint! I have a nice library of textures and patterns to choose from and have pointed out the areas where I used them. Not too long ago, my digital illustrations were mostly rendered with Painter's watercolor brushes, but I've since been adding textures - which I feel has changed my illustrations so much! (In a way, the process feels like cheating since it's more of a collage than a painting, but since the end product is what's most important, I choose this method since it creates the  look and feel I'm aiming for.) After applying all the textures, I used some digital watercolor and pastel to add highlights and contrast. Voila!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dog at the Mirror

It didn't take long for me to decide what to draw for this month's SCBWI illustration prompt: Reflection. Thanks to being awake at 4:45, this idea came to me. And thanks to the idea, I had a hard time falling back asleep since I was so excited to execute my plan!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tell the Story

Quick! Take a peek and tell this story:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Idea that Works

So I did tons of sketching over the summer and had an epiphany to incorporate the sketches into something of my own. I usually sketch from good magazine and book photos - I'm always on the hunt for great photos where kids are in action, and from my own photo library. Next, I pick a sketch and brainstorm how to add to the fun. 

For example, I liked a sketch I had of a girl laying in the sand. I started drawing her with modifications (hair, dress, etc) in addition to some stylistic choices. I think the original photo had the girl smiling at the camera, but I chose to have her look at something and replaced her smile with a somewhat surprised face. I then asked what she might be looking at. I decided on a shore bird who looked just as surprised. The next step was to add props for depth, and to make the scene more alive and recognizable (umbrella, town, lotion, ball, the sun). Last of all, I brought it into Painter to add textures, patterns, and paint even though, yes, it is just black and white. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

2015 RMC-SCBWI Conference

I loved attending last week's Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference. There was so much directive information! My favorite aspects include:

1. Having a one-on-one critique with agent, Deborah Warren (East West Literary Agency). She helped me rethink how to approach a book I've been stuck on (and it didn't hurt that she said the idea is "very marketable!" and that my illustrations are currently its strongest point).

By the way, Deborah is one of the kindest industry professionals I've met so far. Whenever I ran into her, she was smiling, she took time to thank participants individually, and she treated everyone respectfully - regardless of her standing in the market, and regardless of the person's level of expertise. That's not to say she applauded everything we created - she was plenty honest. But she did it in a way that inspired and encouraged. All of her information was so helpful and gave purposeful direction.

2.  Learning from Semadar Megged. She's an art director at Philomel and has worked with big names like David Small and David Elliot. Her most informative session (for me) was when she shared the process she goes through to select and then work with her illustrators. Her purpose is to achieve the right final product, however painful it may be. I was fascinated to see how she works with everyone - regardless of who they are and what they've done - by pushing them towards the best they can give for the book.

When it came to conference attendees, she pushed us the same way. It might have offended or hurt some (or more), but she was direct with the purpose of pushing us toward stronger, more emotional, more alive work. I appreciate and respect that. At one point she said to someone, "What? Do you want me to say that what you've created is nice? That you're a good artist? Okay, so it's nice and you're a good artist." But she continued by asking how that's going to help, that her intention is to push us to the best we are capable of. As for me, she thinks I can use more motion (suggesting to draw from real life, especially with regards to movement) and to be bolder with my use of color.

3. Listening to Dan Yaccarino. Not only is he entertaining, he's very astute in how he's dissected the picture book-making process. He highlighted the various formulas, story arc, and the use of protagonist/antagonists.

The conference once again gave illustrators the opportunity to decorate a chair. I forgot my camera, so I recreated my chair at home and took pictures. Here's my chair from a distance (I chose a party theme):

 Here are some party flags up close:

 And here's my background poster:
And if these look familiar, I recycled these flowers from last year's "town" box:

Monday, September 14, 2015

Adding texture

I've been sketching all summer and have had so much fun with it! And maybe a month ago I began including more patterns and texture in my work. I love the results and look forward to using them more regularly. This first illustration is an interpretation I made using a sketch from my sketchbook: 
I put the illustration into Painter and added patterns (their shirts) and textures (background and their papers) to add visual interest. My goal is to use digital tools without looking digital. How do you think I've done? 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Good article about Conferences

I'm getting excited for the upcoming SCBWI Conference in September! I read this article about some conference success stories and enjoyed it. Now if I can only become a success story, too!

Bookshelf Detective by Kim Tomsic: Conferences are Kingmakers!: Illustration courtesy of Ruth E. Harper Conferences are kingmakers. It’s true! Talk to published authors and illustrators, and more o...

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Friday, May 22, 2015


Tuesday, May 19, 2015


What can I say? Kids are too fun to draw! Here are some more I sketched last week and painted today.

Friday, May 15, 2015

From Start to Finish

SCBWI members now have the option to participate in a monthly illustration word prompt. June's prompt is Bounce. Here's a step-by-step through my thought process:

1. Brainstorm. I asked myself what things bounce? Balls, checks, trampolines, kids on a bed, etc. I felt that bouncing on beds would be fun and have lots of motion to work with, but I wanted to stretch myself more than just kids bouncing on a bed and asked what animal would be comical in that setting - and 5 little elephants came to mind . . .

2. Research. Since I'm not proficient in elephant anatomy and movement enough to create five fun characters from my imagination, I looked through google images for fun baby elephant pictures. I looked for photos that captured them in the act of play. Below are the photos I chose to sketch. 

3. Cut and paste. Since elephants really can't bounce or jump, I had to use the info I learned from sketching (along with some healthy imagination) to "cut and paste" what was helpful into five characters. My almost-11-year-old son was who suggested that the face-planting elephant above would be perfect in a pile of pillows. I also found a bed that fit the situation and sketched it:

4. Composition. With the help of Painter, I scaled and assembled all the pieces until it worked to my liking. You'll notice I made the bed wider to accommodate all these crazy antics:

5. Lightbox. I don't always use a lightbox, but since I wanted to heighten the drama of what was happening to the bed, and since a lot of things looked too rough in what I had above, I redrew the composition with the lightbox. My son added more fun with his addition of the springs popping out.

6. Color studies. I looked through my book, Color Inspirations, and found two palates I thought could match the mood. I did a few quick studies in Painter and ultimately chose the third.

7. Paint. Using my chosen palate, I painted everything in Painter. I still feel like it's missing something, so if anyone has suggestions I'm open to them. I'm afraid that making it too heavy would rob the light-hearted feeling I'm trying to preserve, but more contrast would definitely give it more depth, and perhaps I'll work with that some other time.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Black and white stuff

I rarely post anymore, but that doesn't mean I haven't been drawing! Here are a few recent black and white pieces.