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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: 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 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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My ADHD (Artistic Distraction with Hyperlyunfocused Disor … what?)

WHOA. Major hiatus from me recently. Apologies all around.

Here’s what’s been going on: I’M HAVING A BABY!!!!

Well, I’m not literally carrying it – my wife is doing the hard work part of it – but my father-drive has kicked into high gear and I’ve been too distracted to focus on much other than what needs to be done to prep for this little, amazing, mind-blowing creation that is the combination of:

a) me: weird, obsessive, self-critical, self-promoting, enthusiastic, over-the-top, and highly creative


b) my wife: generous, kind, funny, genius, weird, strange, peculiar, beautiful, driven, motivated, motivating

This is bound to be the best piece of art I’ll ever create (along with any future potential siblings).

So I’ve put my creativity into personal spaces, and have put together most of our nursery, artwork for it, and so on.


The fox, which was a practice in form and colour application for the bigger piece (below). This is so charming for me that I will find a way to include it in the nursery!


Fox & Moose – This is a large acrylic piece that I created for the nursery. It hangs over the crib. I love it – the sweet innocence of the fox, with the friendly curiosity of the moose. I am so happy with the colours, application and form in this. It’s my favourite piece to date.

I’ve been so distracted that the book I started 2 months ago is still untouched since the day we found out. My writing and arting has decreased. My teaching has improved as I view these little beings in my class through different eyes. I’ve become so much more concerned with safety, and I don’t know where that came from – all I can think is that it is due to this little growing thing that is making my teeny-tiny wife look like she is pushing out her little tummy as hard as she can. It is the cutest, most attractive thing!

But now I feel this surge of creative energy coursing through me. I don’t know what is coming. This happens a few times a year. I get a little bit sad, for no apparent reason, and then I start to visualize snippets of things – books, stories, artworks. Everything becomes inspiration, but for what, I don’t know. I will sit on it for a while longer, and it will explode through me – it might be an artistic turn over (I think it’s going to be visual this time), or it could be a literary growth – a new focus.

It’s a highly distracted, overstimulating time in my life right now. I love it.


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Write Night: Excerpts

For me, writing tends to become increasingly more difficult every time I have a good idea. I get a nugget of an idea, and it is so perfect that I don’t know how to write it. I try, but then it doesn’t work. This is why I hate getting good ideas. I would rather come to the idea part way through my writing, so that I would already be warmed up and on the way with it. This is what happened with my last manuscript, and the one that I like the best (so far).

So, how do I go about trying to stumble upon these ideas?

The answer is surprisingly simple: I write.

I write an excerpt of a novel that I would like to read, or have read, when I was the age of the audience I am writing for. With the last one, I was in desperate need of something for my Gr. 5 students to read. I wanted an excerpt, and I wanted something that would grab them. I knew these kids very well, and I knew that anything at their reading level that I had ever found would not entice them enough to bring out a week’s worth of discussion, lessons and reading responses. So, I wrote it instead. At first, I didn’t even know I was “writing” per sae. When the kids went absolutely wild for it (without knowing I had written it), I knew that I had to write the rest of it. So, I made some tweaks, and got writing. Over time, the scene changed drastically, but it was the start to something that I am very proud of.


Nunzio says: “JUST WRITE!”

Now, I try to do the same thing to get my mind going, to get the ideas rolling, and to stumble into something while letting my imagination run wild. 

I am not a very good planner. It sucks the life out of the stories for me, even though the ideas are solid. I’m what is a pantser – someone who writes as they write. I have TRIED to plan. I’ve written pages of character prep, and story arcs and plots. Those stories all sucked. They were never finished.

As a pantser, I try to start writing and see what happens. It’s all well intended and fun to do, except that I get annoyed with my writing before I get anywhere.

This is where my excerpt process helps. By writing something that would be in the middle of the story, I am able to get a visual of WHO is in the story, WHAT it feels like, WHEN it’s happening, WHERE it’s happening, and WHAT the PROBLEM is. 


Try starting your excerpt here! I don’t care what you write – kill someone off and you’ll have a whole range of stuff to explore in your excerpt.

It’s worth a shot. You just write a section of a story – write whatever comes to you. But pretend we already know about the characters, why they’re there and what’s going on. Imagine you’ve opened the book in the middle, and this is what’s happening. It works for me – maybe it can work for you, too!

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How To Be A Writer And Actually Write

Writing is a tough job, especially because most writers work other jobs, in addition to every day life. Yet, we are still expected, by ourselves, to work our butts off and plot and plan and tell the best stories that we can. We are all different.

Here is my approach to being a writer who actually writes (and doesn’t just talk about how he is a writer, or thinks about how he is a writer):

1. Be realistic in your goals. Don’t say “I’m going to write a best-selling novel,” if you’ve never written a novel before. Just say, “I’m going to write a novel.” And then, get to work.

2. Set a schedule. I like to block out periods of time that I stick to every week. Some people have busier times and slower times, and their writing schedules vary. Some people aim to write for 30 minutes a day. Find the time where you can consistently have some time, and just do it. You have to sit down and write if you want to actually write.

3. Have a purpose. Know what you are writing (to some degree) and why you are writing it. It can be simple. I wrote a fart story once, because I wanted to have something that would make me laugh. I wrote a story about excuses that students make once, because I wanted to have a story that was a sort of time-capsule of a class I taught. It also made me laugh. I wrote a novel where I examined light and dark, because I wanted a metaphor for good and bad that literal. It was also the kind of story I would have read as a child, and I needed an excerpt for my Gr. 5 class to read, and I couldn’t find the right one. So I wrote it. Have a purpose. Then you can keep going.

It’s the fairytale rom-com couple that sets out in their rented Jeep and says “We’ll see where the road takes us!” who end up having the time of their lives, learning about themselves and becoming a stronger couple. But in real life, we need to know where we’re going, especially if we want to be taken seriously about it. You need to write, and you need to know why you are writing.

4. Keep a notebook handy. You need something to jot down ideas, words, phrases, dialogue, and wonders on. I have lots of notebooks – I keep one at work, and I have them scattered around the house. I was lying in bed reading the other night when a word sparked an entire series of ideas. I was too cozy to get up. I could have let it go, but I knew the ideas would be gone if I didn’t write it down right then, so I grabbed my phone and emailed myself. Believe me – you will forget your ideas if you don’t write them down.

5. Have a space. Earlier this year, after I’d completed some major writing, we decided to move the computer down to the living room, so that my wife could have a true scrapbook room. I was trying to be selfless. Being selfless will get you no where. My wife would always say, “You can put the computer back up there to write, I don’t mind!” But I was stubborn, and wanted her to feel like she was special. Silly me, she already did. When she got herself a laptop, we moved the computer back up here. Now, I can write again. Not everyone has lots of space, but you don’t need lots of space to write. The laundry room, the kitchen, the dining room – they all work, as long as while you are writing, you aren’t interrupted. It didn’t work for me to have my computer in the living room, because the space was too big. I need a small space to stay focused. So find a spot, and try it out. When you find the right one, stick to it. I’ve never written so much as when I had the computer up in this spare room. I’ve never written so little as when I had it in the living room. You need a space.

6. Read. For God’s sake, you have to read if you want to write. Stephen King has been over-quoted but this line is the be-all-end-all of writing advice: “If you don’t have the time to read, then you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” How can you understand story, character building, plotting, and everything else involved in telling a solid story if you aren’t reading? Don’t be an idiot. Read.

7. Write. If you don’t actually sit down to write, and if you don’t sit down to write more than a few times a year, then stop calling yourself a writer. I am sick and tired of meeting person after person who claims to be a writer, and yet doesn’t actually write anything. Maybe you’re a dreamer. But don’t say you’re a writer. It’s like when someone says, “I’m going to write a picture book one day. Anyone can do it.” Then do it.

I get that part of writing is coming up with ideas – staring into space, wondering, reading, daydreaming … I do all of those things. But, I also write. I have four dedicated hours JUST FOR WRITING. I am a writer. Are you?

8. Work out. OMG. I HATE working out. I hate it more than I hate when my pyjamas twist around me because I laid down on the couch in a weird position. But I have to tell you, I have been more successful in coming up with ideas, and actually writing the words down, when I am following some sort of work out schedule. When I completed my first real novel (the actual first one was not nearly long enough – or good enough – to count), I did it in 3 months. I followed my writing schedule, and between that schedule and working out every other day (okay, sometimes every third day), I was extremely driven to keep winning. I wanted to write because I was feeling energized from the workout. I wanted to work out because I knew I was kicking butt in the writing department. Every time I turned around, I was winning.

9. Give yourself a break. I know I’ve berated you “writers” who never write. But, writing isn’t a mechanical engineering feat. It’s a work of heart, of art, of creativity. Sometimes, it won’t flow. Creativity is 5% inspiration, though, and just 95% work. I heard that at a conference and it struck a chord with me. It is so true – you need one good idea to get the ball rolling. The rest is about work. Hard work. And hard work deserves a break. Today, I watched TV, napped, took a walk, and talked to my wife. We ate bacon sandwiches. Then, I sat down to write and the ideas wouldn’t come. I tried and tried. The novel would not jumpstart for me. I was hoping to figure out who my main character was, but he just refused. “It’s Sunday, guy, leave me alone.” So I decided to give myself a break. I forgot about the clock, and I just started writing. I wrote a picture book instead, and then thought, “Hey, I wrote something. Suck on that, main character from the novel I am hoping to write.” I gave myself a break by doing NOTHING all day, and then doing something FUN during my writing time. Let’s face it, writing isn’t always fun.

10. Network. If you’re Tweeting, Blogging, and Facebooking about your triumphs and woes as a writer, you’ll start to network with others who are in the same boat. This will keep you accountable. Join a critique group. They’ll keep you moving, too. Talk to your friends about what you’re doing. Make it known that you’re trying to write something great, and eventually, you will finish. It will probably suck. Then, you will revise it and it will be a masterpiece! (Disclaimer: first drafts always suck. I’m not being mean, just honest. If your first draft is incredible, you’re either drunk or you are a genius and in that case, you should revise anyway because the second draft will be literal gold. You won’t even need to sell your book. You can just go to stores and be like, “Hey, I wrote this,” and the cashier will be in awe and just GIVE you your purchases. Wow.)

11. Write. I know I already listed it, but write already. Stop thinking about being published. Stop thinking about going to a fancy lunch with your agent and sipping lattes in New York while strangers ask for your autograph. STOP SAYING you’ll be the next JK or Stephen King. You won’t. You’re YOU! Be happy in that! You might become a billionaire writer, but you’ll still be you, not them. Stop imagining how you will go to your first movie premiere and be more famous than the famous actors in the movie. It is a great thing to have dreams, but if all you do is imagine it, and you don’t actually write and write and write, and critique and rewrite and revise and write and write, you will never, ever get there. You need to write.

If you want to be a writer who actually writes, you just need to do it. So turn off your social feeds, close this browser, and go write.


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