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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52 Weeks: Week 1

Saturdays come quickly when you set a deadline. My focus for the week was on children and character development. I did work on lots of versions of children and tried to continue my development in this area, but I haven’t yet quite gotten it right. I did, however, come up with this other character. I won’t say much about him – the illustrations say it all.

I’m uploading it in both colour and greyscale. I love both, but because of scan and output qualities, which I am still learning about, the greyscale one looks better (in my opinion).

My next steps include continued development and the finished quality. I’m still learning to use the software that brings it all together, and need to improve the scans and line art. I will be purchasing a graphics tablet soon to hopefully help in that area. All in all, I think Hector is a great start to a life-altering project.

What do you think?


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How I PiBoIdMo

PiBoIdMo: Picture Book Idea Month is coming! Get ready! Also, this awesome artwork was created by Vin Vogel!

PiBoIdMo: Picture Book Idea Month is coming! Get ready! Also, this awesome artwork was created by Vin Vogel!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! While November drags on, I get through it with all of my virtual friends who are also PiBoIdMoing.

I use my position as a primary teacher to my advantage. While many might say, “Oh, I don’t have time for that! I’m busy teaching!” I say, “Ohhh, ideas? That’s in the curriculum! And what better way to engage my students than to share my own writing. It’s ‘modelled writing’ after all!” So, I can hit two of those birds with one stone, leaving me with a pile of stones to toss at the nay sayers who think picture books are (this hurts) EASY to write.

I always make a table on chart paper – the big stuff – with a bright marker, and list 1-30 down the side. I add a column for the date, a column for the idea, and a column to check off if the kids liked it.

Yes, I share EVERY IDEA with the kids. This helps me in so many way:

1) I have to say my ideas out loud, so they actually need to make sense in some way. I’m trying to impress these kids.

2) I have to come up with a new idea every day. Have you ever promised an eight year old something? If you don’t follow through … you’ll hear about it. A lot.

3) The kids – my target audience – give their feedback. “No, the main character should be a gorilla, not a farting clown. That would be way cooler.” Check. “I think we already read that book … ‘Where the Wild Things Are?’ C’mon, Mr. Patrick.” Oh. Right. “CAN YOU READ IT TO US?!” No, it’s not written … yet. BUT IT WILL BE, TONIGHT!

4) I’m covering off the ideas section of the language curriculum as well as a pile of oral communication skills through all of the discussions, and probably a bunch of others, too. As I sit here thinking about it, I realize we’re talking about elements of fiction and non-fiction, debating, organizing thoughts, and getting creative.

5) Once I start sharing, I find ideas in everyONE and everyTHING. That kid who leaves his water bottle by the projector every. single. day.? BAM! Idea. The sassy lassy who loves making the boys feel awkward? That one writes itself. The kid who picks his nose and “hides” it under the table? Yeah, I’ll add that to the list, too. Score!

I keep the chart paper up as a reminder, and sometimes throughout the day, I can even add to it. At the end of the month, I take that paper home and type it up into a document that I call the Master List. It’s got a spot for the idea number, the title, the premise/overall idea, writability, notes & thoughts, if it’s been written, if it’s been submitted, and if it’s been published.

You may not have a class to do it with, but why not try it with your office pals? That could be interesting. Actually, it sounds like a picture book for adults waiting to happen … off I go!

Want to learn more about PiBoIdMo and sign up? Check out taralazar.com!


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52 Weeks of Art

I’ve been writing for years now, and I believe it’s been 10 years (on and off) that I’ve been tinkering away on picture book and chapter book manuscripts. I’ve been telling people I illustrate, and I did actually illustrate 3 small charity press picture books, but they are no where near the level of illustration I believe I could and should be working at. In addition to all of this, I’m dying to find an agent and market myself as an author/illustrator, author AND illustrator. Before I can fully submit myself to agents as all of these, I need to build my art portfolio in addition to my polished pieces of writing.

The challenge, as with any creative activity, is to find your voice – that style that is nothing other than YOU. I paint all of the time, but those are not illustrations, nor are they the style I want to illustrate in. So it’s been bogging me down – how do I build a really great portfolio? What do I include? How do I do this and not lose focus, when I’m working full time, side-jobbing part time, and now have a new (awesome) baby to be Daddy to? The answer struck me a couple of weeks ago, and fermented in my brain:

One illustration a week, for a year.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am committing to producing a MINIMUM of one QUALITY illustration per week, for a year.

The end goal is to have enough high quality pieces to build a portfolio that I can use when querying agents and publishers, but also I am hoping that much like PiBoIdMo does for those of us who do it (Picture Book Idea Month – 1 idea a day for a month), it will kick-start my creative brain and focus me in on producing. Once producing, I will certainly produce some garbage (just today I spent the afternoon TRYING to create … it didn’t work … but I tried …) and will eventually produce my voice on paper, visually. I’ll be posting them here as a motivator to keep me going. It’s a game I’m playing against myself! Your feedback will also come in handy (but be gentle, please!)!

I will organize these by having a focus per week, which will help me to build the sections of my portfolio. They include:
– children
– animals
– settings
– black & white (chapter book illustrations)

Sub-categories could include any of the above (ie., Children is the category, but there was also a focus on the setting, like a barn or field, etc.), and things like: high-action, holidays, music, etc.

During this, I hope to illustrate for my own pleasure and practice, the lyrics to some of my favourite songs by Angus Stone, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, and The Beatles.

I’ll post my illustrations on Saturday mornings, for the next year. By (Canadian) Thanksgiving next year, I hope to have a lot more to be thankful for than I already am!

Now, while Kingsley sleeps, it’s off to the drawing board – literally. Look for my first illustration on Saturday, October 18.

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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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