Category Archives: inspiration

Weekly Inspiration: my kid’s artwork

There is so much to be inspired about out there. This is a spot to record and share my favorite things… for this week at least!

This is pretty much true every week, but Lucy and Aki’s artwork blows me away. All kids artwork does- the hilarious logic and the unexpected perspectives… I guess there’s a reason I started down the path of art education 20 years ago 🙂

Lucy's treehouse 2 jpg.jpg

Anyhow, Lucy and I collaborated on this tree house series almost a year ago and I just came across them again. She was especially interested in telling stories as she was drawing- not so interested in what the end result would look like. But of course I think they’re all the more interesting because of that.

Lucy's treehouse 3 jpg.jpg

Lucy's treehouse jpg.jpg



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Weekly Inspiration: Train Puzzle

There is so much to be inspired about out there. This is a spot to record and share my favorite things… for this week at least!

I love this puzzle! It’s the All Aboard Train Puzzle by Marc Boutavant and Chronical Books, and each piece is a fantastic little  illustrated world.

train puzzle.jpegtrain puzzle 2.jpegtrain puzzle 3.jpegtrain puzzle 4.jpeg

I think that this kind of project might be my dream assignment. And of course it’s a big visual inspiration for my new story, Mari and the Library Train.

Chris’s cousin Sarah gave this to Lucy a few years back- she always gives the best gifts, most of which have the cool kitchy sensibility of classic golden books. So maybe this is a gift to consider for any small puzzle aficionados in your life.


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Weekly Inspiration: Song of the Sea

There is so much to be inspired about out there. This is a spot to record and share my favorite things… for this week at least!

This is a gorgeous movie. For a pattern nerd like me (I’m such a pattern nerd!), and for any one who likes geometric characters and compositions a la Charley Harper, it’s inspiring many watchings and re-watchings with a pencil in hand and a sketchbook in my lap.

Check out the song of the sea movie trailer. It’s amazing!

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Summer is gone but I still have fireflies on the brain. I’m working out some revisions for the dummy of Ada at Night and the spread I’m working on right now shows the characters watching fireflies. This black and white sketch was fun but now I’m looking forward to painting it!

Ada fireflies

Fireflies have been showing up in my work for many years because they’re such a perfect accent to the magical night time scenes I love to illustrate. Like this one. Or this.

Anyhow, I had to share a few of the images I came across while researching fireflies. Hope you enjoy!


by Jiri Trnka


by Taeeun Yoo


by Simone Kurtz


by Hanuol (from Anne of Green Gables)

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characters, camping and accordion books

Hello! It’s been a skimpy summer for my blog. I’ve been working a lot, all at my other job. I’m managing an arts integration program that’s rolling out in Highline Public Schools this fall, and it’s about to serve 650 5th and 6th grade students in the first year. Not a small feat. But as of now, four incredible teaching artist are hired, the curriculum is developed and the PD is over, so I’m going camping for a week!

I had a goal for myself this summer: to work on characters. Drawing them, developing them, making them more consistent. But work was crazy and now here I am at the end of the summer hardly having worked on illustration at all. So I’m thinking of the next week as my character boot camp.

Here’s my plan:

  1. Check out some inspiration from the library: Marla Frazee, Lisbeth Zwerger, Jimmy Liao, Robert Munsch and I also grabbed The Blue Whale, by Jenni Desmond. Not many characters, but WOW!
  2. Make accordion books out of watercolor paper for portable drawing and painting surfaces (see below)
  3. Pack up my pens and pencils and portable watercolor set
  4. Try my hardest, over this next week, to fill up these 9 tiny books with sketches, ideas, and characters of all sorts

These accordion books are simply long strips of watercolor paper folded back and forth like a fan. I’m excited for how they are small and portable. Each little page could hold a different character. Or, when spread out it could hold an image that crosses into multiple pages. Here are a few images…

accordian books

folding paper

art supplies for camping

setting out supplies

aki in the highchair

and my little helper.

OK, I’m off to pack and then draw. See you in a week!


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Elliot Bay Books

I confess that on May 2nd, Indie Bookstore Day, I didn’t make it to a bookstore. But yesterday for my birthday I decided to treat myself. Elliot Bay is, and always has been, my favorite bookstore in Seattle. I didn’t think I would like the new location on Capitol Hill as much as the old pioneer square spot, but I was wrong. High ceilings, warm wood floors, people sitting for hours in comfy chairs geeking out over their latest find. And a real kick ass children’s section. It’s the best.

Here are my scores from yesterday.

elliot bay 1 elliot bay 3

I also came home to a lovely surprise from Lucy, Aki and Chris! It was this book that I was ogling a few weeks back, wrapped in Edward Gorey wrapping paper. Plus a homemade card and some flowers picked by little hands. Heart melting.

elliot bay 2

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a conference round up

The SCBWI Western Washington conference last weekend was inspiring and exhausting as always. And after about a week to let my head stop spinning, I’m ready to pinpoint a few of my favorite takeaways.

Books I’m excited to check out ASAP:

HERE by Richard McGuire

RAIN by Peter Spier

LIES, KNIVES, AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES (dark, dark poetry with gruesome cut paper style illustrations!)

lies, knives and girls in red dresses  home  the farmer and the clown


HOME by Carson Ellis (actually I bought a copy at the conference and I’ve been reading it every night before bed :))

And yes, three of those books are wordless picture books. That’s because one of the sessions I attended was with David Wiesner on the topic of wordless storytelling. It was fun to see how excited he was about the books, comics and movies he was sharing with us- practically jumping up and down. After hearing him use it half a dozen times, I wrote the word “astonishing” in my notes. Here are my notes, by the way.

conference notes

I also attended a session with the art director Kristen Nobles who talked about the 8 things she (and Candlewick) looks for in an illustrator. I especially loved what she said about exploring a variety of perspectives and view points: “I don’t like it when you’re always in the perfect seat as the reader.” It’s a great reminder, especially when you are drawing lots of dummy sketches in a short period of time as I currently am.

And there were so many beautiful portfolios to flip through! Have you seen the work of these illustrators?

Liz Wong

Corinna Luyken

Michaele Razi




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seasonal inspiration: autumn



The rain seems to have set in for good. But there’s nothing like gorgeous illustrations to help you see the romantic side of the season. I’m loving these illustrators’ take on autumn. Hope you enjoy!


Martin and Alice Provensen from The Year at Maple Hill Farm



Martin and Alice Provensen from The Year at Maple Hill Farm



Lizzie Rockwell from Apples and Pumpkins



Mike Hearld from Outside Your Window


Mike Hearld from Outside Your Window



Nikki McClure

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Tenggren’s Pirates

tenggren 1Speaking of pirates (and I was a few weeks ago) check out these illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren from the 1950’s. They come from an aging, much loved Giant Golden Book called Pirates, Ships and Sailors that belonged to my Dad and his sisters when they were young. I couldn’t quite place Tenggren until my illustration group friends helped me make the connection to the Pokey Little Puppy. A favorite golden book from my childhood.

It turns out this is just one of several Giant Golden books that belonged to my Dad and Aunts. There is one about dogs, one about cats, one about animal stories and one called Tenggren’s story book. Most of them have all three of their names written on the end papers and all of them are held together with old, yellowing tape.

Anyhow, I’m loving his style for all things nautical. This is great fodder for moth pirates!

tenggren 4tenggren 2tenggren 3

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The Where, the Why, and the How

How many stellar illustrators does it take to illustrate a science book?

Seventy-five. Such as John HendrixAndrew Holder,

JH_ROGUE_72  542719_299901240126723_411570051_n

and look at this one by Yelena Bryksenkova explaining how the peppered moth adapted to industrial era pollution.


I can’t wait to read this book.

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