My Process

It’s been a while so I wanted to share how I create my watercolour and ink monsters.

Step One: I was asked to make a monster for a little boy’s birthday. I started with a sketch. He originally had his arms down and no belly stripes.  
Then I sketched a rough idea to add more monsters, since it would be gifted from his siblings. I also moved the name down and centred it more.

I sketched out the new monsters. 

Then, I gave one of the monsters a bow and a skirt.

Now it’s time to transfer the sketch to watercolour paper. I use an old projector as a light box.   


Now that it’s traced in pencil, I can go over it with a sharpie. Then, I erase the pencil marks.


Next, I set up in my makeshift studio … The playroom!



My assistant: 


The finished product:



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52 Weeks: Week 12 – Digital Painting!

So I missed weeks 10 and 11, and week 9 was sort of a cop-out. I didn’t miss them because I wasn’t working on art, but because of the holidays. My mind was elsewhere – with family, which is more important than anything else. It is so important to recharge and rest, and take some time away from the screen, in order to be able to create.

For Christmas, I was given a Wacom Tablet! I have been wanting one for years. Now I am on a new mission – to learn to use it, and use it well. This week, I am going to share 2 old drawings that have been re-imagined through digital painting. These are not yet where they will be when I am a little bit more experienced, but for my first week using a brand new tool, I am pretty pleased.

I would like to thank Will Terry for amazing video lessons that are explicit and affordable. I am learning quickly from him, though there is so much to learn, and that’s both scary and exciting.

Here is Ted in digital colour:

character sketches 9

Ted’s line art completed in pencil.


Ted painted digitally on Photoshop.

And here is one of my monsters in digital colour:

Monster line art – in pen.

Monster painted digitally.

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52 Weeks Update: Week 9 – No Update!

Well, well, well. So it seems that after a week of sketching and painting and experimenting, I am on a great path … but I am not going to share this week.

Disappointing, I know. (Did you note my sarcasm? I am sure your world hasn’t shattered because I didn’t post anything this week!)

Here’s the thing. I intend to make a go of this professional illustrating thing, and I just can’t bring myself to post what I’ve made this week, because it isn’t anywhere near good enough yet. I will let you in, however, on what I’m working on, and intending to post for next week, hopefully.

I decided to get festive. I thought, hey, self, create a Santa character that is both within your style and not typical/commercial Santa. Make him a little different, but recognizable. Make him your own. I tried and tried and sketched and sketched and painted and scanned and photoshopped and tried again. It didn’t quite work.

Here's a non-art related thingy. Kingsley met Santa for the first time! Here is my beautiful little family enjoying the holiday season!

Here’s a non-art related thingy but still related to my topic for the week: Kingsley met Santa for the first time! Here is my beautiful little family enjoying the holiday season!

A critique partner told me, “Don’t let yourself off the hook. Keep going with him, you’ll get there.”

So, I’m not letting myself off the proverbial hook. I am, however, not posting Santa yet because he isn’t reflective of what I can do. Yet.

I found this online somewhere and stashed it in a file. I recently came across it. It rings true, so so loudly. I hope you can do this, too.

I found this online somewhere and stashed it in a file. I recently came across it. It rings true, so so loudly. I hope you can do this, too.

I also played around with some kid characters. They were lots of fun, and I enjoyed them. Most of the things in my sketch book from the past few days are fun. BUT … not quite professionally illustrated enough to earn a spot in my 52 Week Challenge, which I am upping my personal expectations for.

In the meantime, here is a monster that I love, old as he may be.

Here's a monster I love. I love monsters - don't you? He's not new, but he's awesome.

Here’s a monster I love. I love monsters – don’t you? He’s not new, but I think he’s awesome.

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Lifting A Tonne

934892_738271862904934_5882419844042137199_nWhen teaching kids, I very regularly equate the skills they’re working on to working out physically. “Could I wake up today, having never run a kilometre, and complete a marathon, and feel good at the end of it?” They all harmonize on their enthusiastic “Noooo!” I answer, “So, then you need to think of (fill the blank skill: this math problem/writing a story/revising a story/creating art/and on and on) as you would working out. You can’t just start lifting a tonne – you’ve got to start somewhere, and maybe that’s at one pound. It’s the same thing. Let’s start somewhere and practice, practice, practice, until we love it. Then, let’s practice some more to get even better.”

Well. I can dish it out, but I don’t always take my own advice. Maybe that’s why I’m a fairly decent teacher, but I can’t run, or lift weights, or sometimes … draw.

Tonight, I feel like my hands must be broken. They just won’t draw! No matter what I do, no matter what I visualize, no matter how I copy and alter and alter and change and reorganize the features of a model … it’s just not working. I was getting frustrated, so I stepped away.

Then it hit me.

I haven’t actually drawn in about 2 weeks.

What my studio looks like when I follow my own advice. Reference materials, paints, sketchbooks, works in progress, it's all out.

What my studio looks like when I follow my own advice. Reference materials, paints, sketchbooks, works in progress, it’s all out.

I was drawing every single day for a month, and it was getting so great. I was loving what I was doing. Then, I added colour to the images, and started playing with them on the computer, and put together marketing materials with finished images, and changed up my website, and did all of this art-related stuff. But, I broke my own rule. I didn’t make art.

So shame on me. I’ve learned my lesson. I need to draw every day. I’m putting a sketchbook in my bag, and I’m going to put in the time, so that I can lift the metaphorical tonne. The images in my brain need to find their way out, and I’ve got to practice, practice, practice until I love it. Then, I’ll practice some more to get even better.

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52 Weeks: Week 8

monsters 4


I’ve just wrapped up a five week (amazing) e-course with The Children’s Book Academy, all about the Craft & Business of Illustrating Children’s Picture Books. It was informative, interactive,challenging and just incredible. I was placed into a critique group, which I’ll be sticking with now that the course is finished, and this is where a lot of the motivation came. My awesome partners focused me and kept me going. The information was thorough and varied, and where some pieces of info (like humanizing animals) didn’t touch on something I cared to do, I had plenty to work with from other lessons. I now have something of a portfolio, too!

Check it out on my homepage at under “Illustration”. (I am really hoping I can find a way to embed this blog into that site … if anyone knows how, send me an email, please!


I don’t have anything ready to SHOW that is brand new for week 8, but I have been toiling away on my promotional post card and thought I would share it here. I LOVE love love monsters. Well, the friendly ones. The grumpy ones are fine, too, as long as they don’t eat people, but I especially love the goofy ones. Without further ado, here is the (back of my) FIRST PROMOTIONAL postcard!


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52 Weeks: Weeks 6 + 7

WHOOPS! I missed last week and didn’t notice until today. It has been a VERY wild week: we put our house up for sale and have been busy prepping it for showings, finishing little updates and renovations, and so on. At the same time, we’re raising a beautiful baby, working all day, taking courses and of course there are the hobbies and dogs. It’s just a bit busy. 🙂 What’s life worth if not lived to the fullest, though?

I’ve been working away on illustrations, but I am not ready to share them all. Instead, I’ll just share one of my favourites, that I’ve been working on for both week 6 and 7. I hope you like it as much as I do. These kids are so much fun to work on!NEHpg30

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52 Weeks: Week 5


I’m so scattered lately that it just took me about three minutes of pondering before I could remember what the name of this website was. Oi vae. It’s Friday night for sure.

I recently enrolled in Mira Reisberg’s Picture Book Academy course on the Craft and Business of Illustrating. This has motivated me ten-fold. I’ve been tightening up and loosening up (is that possible? Tightening up my approach while loosening up within the constraints of an approach, not that that makes sense to anyone but me). I’ve been sketching for hours each day, experimenting galore and receiving critical and constructive feedback from a fantastic group of critique partners. I am so lucky. Tonight during our big critique webinar, my character progress was one of the pieces critiqued by the instructor, Mira. She gave me fantastic feedback, and I had lots to work with from her on what to work on.

This character has undergone a NUMBER of changes. First, he was highly commercial and older and had darker skin and a very specific head shape. He also had a striped shirt. Then, he became a very young, simplified version of a little boy with wild, tilted hair (he was featured last week!). This version underwent a number of changes. Then, I perused my favourite picture books and sketched out what I liked. I noted the styles and approaches and looks that I loved and hated, then I went back to the drawing board, literally.

That’s when this guy was almost born. He was a bit more primitive – much lighter, very wide-headed, with a striped shirt in some of the work. He kept the hair from the middle version (the simplified boy) and the wardrobe (striped shirt) from the first attempt. I gave him glasses, and after tonight’s feedback, tightened him up even more. I need to continue working on the colour version, and determine how he will be rendered, but for now, here is my piece of the week. He’s my favourite, so far.

character sketches 9

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52 Weeks – Week 4

This week’s experiment (a d ay late):


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52 Weeks: Week 3

This was the wildest week since I have started this personal challenge, so cramming in time for art was a bit of a challenge. I am still searching for my style. I’ve signed up for an illustrating course (starts next week!) and am trying to get away from my comfort zones. I’m revisiting my gut-reaction subjects, the ones that really speak to me … monsters and creepers and other cute things that should be cute, though I am really feeling the creepy vibe right now (must be all the Hallowe’en books we’ve been reading at school!). I’m looking at my form and wondering how I can render it to be a bit better. I’ll be experimenting with crayons once this weekend settles down!

This week’s piece started as a sketch that I hated. Actually. I hate when animals wear clothes in picture books. It really bothers me for some reason. It’s mostly the cutesy ones. But I had the gut feeling that this guy needed to look a little more dapper than your typical frog. He was supposed to be creepier, and I wasn’t even focused on making him a frog, but this is what came out. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. I do like the colour – it’s a bit darker than I normally work with and felt a bit nostalgic. The text isn’t from a manuscript, it just felt “right.” I wanted to see him with some text.

And so, the journey continues … douglas

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52 Weeks: Week 2

This week, I’m presenting you with two illustrations … of the same thing.

Part of this whole process is in refining my style and finding a voice. I’ve drawn this character a whole bunch of ways, but these two are my favourites.

This one was done in Sharpie with water colour paint, then scanned and edited to colour the background. I like the cut and paste feel of this, in the way that Oliver Jeffers often does his “Boy” books, and wanted to experiment not only with this, but with Photoshop. I also wanted to get rid of the mucky white of the sketchbook page behind Miss Molly. This character is inspired by a real-life Miss Molly, who I’ve never met, but know through an old friend’s/her mom’s Facebook account. She’s hilarious and sassy. I like a lot about this, though I’m not entirely sold on the quality of the marker or the scan.


The next one was done in Sharpie, then scanned and painted in Photoshop with multiple layers. Talk about a learning curve. I actually darkened the outline in a layer, removed all of the “inside” white and laid it overtop of the coloured layer. If you don’t use Photoshop, then this is gibberish, but it was a good learning opportunity for me. I like the style of her legs and arms – they’re fun and carefree, but I’m not sure they’re totally “me”, y’know? I’m not convinced I LOVE the computer paint … it feels a bit … cold and cheap. Some people paint incredible pictures in photoshop … I’m not there yet. The lines in this one I’m not crazy about either. I like a lot of the “feel” but go back and forth.

Miss Molly Try 2

Overall, I think (in this moment) I prefer Miss Molly #1. Maybe you don’t. That’s okay! It’s all just about practice and exploration for me at this point in the challenge. Constructive criticism is certainly welcome.

Next week, I’m hoping to build an entire page … however, it is Hallowe’ek, so that may not happen. Stay tuned!

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