Sunday, March 4, 2018

What I've Learned from E.B. Lewis

About a year ago, I signed up for an online mentorship with E.B. Lewis. (   He's illustrated over 75 children's books including a Caldecott Honor book and 5 Coretta Scott King winners and has paintings in galleries throughout the U.S., France, and Luxembourg.  

I had been struggling with my artwork and feeling stuck so I decided to take the plunge and sign up for his weekly 30-minute skype classes. 30 minutes might not sound very long, but he can pack a punch in that amount of time. He doesn't mince words and tells you exactly what you need to know even if sometimes you’re not sure you want to hear it. But since I'm a late bloomer in this industry, I don’t have time for glossing over, I need the facts. And that’s what he gave me.

In a nutshell, here are some of the main points:

     More storytelling- act like a director of a movie and move around in the scene. Give different perspectives and angles.

     More emotion, narrative, and anticipation. The illustration should make the viewer feel something and wonder what’s about to happen next.

    Find references for everything. Not only photo references, but also look at how other artists approach the same lighting, color, poses, etc. (He often refers to Sargent, Rockwell, and Zorn to study.)

    Push my values and lighting more.

    Vary texture, color, and value to create a feeling of space on the page.

    Stay consistent.  In a picture book, everything has to be consistent from one page to the next.

I’m still struggling with these things and need to improve on them, but what a difference a year has made. There’s also something about having a homework assignment each week that helps me stay focused and makes me complete my work.

And during all this, my agent, Essie White with Storm Literary, sold my debut author/illustrator picture book, Big and Little to Holiday House (Due out 2019). I was also a finalist in the SCBWI Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery.
SCBWI BIG Finalist 2018

E.B. has helped me grow by leaps and bounds this year, and I plan on continuing with the mentorship. I still have much more to learn.

Below are some examples of the process.

Each time I attempted this painting, I pushed the color, values, and composition.
Sometimes subtle changes can make such a difference. E.B. showed me the painting by Dan Mieduch (center), and it helped me understand the effects of moonlight better. I cooled down the colors affected by the moonlight and added highlights and shadows. I brightened the lamp light and warmed up objects affected by it.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Little Red Riding Hood

I wasn't a finalist this year, but this is my entry for the Tomie dePaola SCBWI contest. The prompt was to illustrate a scene from Little Red Riding Hood. I used acrylic paint, collage, and Photoshop. There were over 400 entries and so much talent. You can see the entries and the winners here:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hey Diddle Diddle

This is my entry for the children's book illustration contest at
The theme is "Discovery." Entries are judged on whether the art evokes a sense of story, is readable to a young audience, and on character development, originality, and skill. I created this illustration with papers, fabric, paint, and Photoshop.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tomie dePaola Contest Entry

I'm so excited to be selected as one of the finalist of the Tomie dePaola SCBWI illustrator contest. 

The prompt was to tell a story in 4-6 panels with no words.  I had already been playing around with this idea while working on a picture book with a sheep wearing a sweater.  I had a couple of people express concern that a sheep would wear wool (one of it's own kind!) So with this story, I wanted to illustrate that sheep are not harmed (just maybe a little embarrassed) in the process of getting their wool.  *No sheep were harmed in the process of making this story!

After getting Tomie's feedback on this piece after the contest, I made a few changes with the color and the girl's nose.  We will receive our next prompt in the near future.

The final winner gets a trip to the SCBWI Conference in NYC and lunch with Tomie dePaola!  Whether I win or not, this has been a great learning process.  Anytime you work on something (whether it's successful or not) and stretch yourself to try new techniques, your skills improve and you have that knowledge to take to your next project.  I also have two fantastic SCBWI critique groups who aren't afraid to "tell me like it is," and make me push myself a little more.

You can see the finalists here:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Creative Process

I'm an artist/writer living in The Woodlands, TX with my husband and two dogs and two cats. My two children are grown and I recently stopped teaching to focus on my writing and art full time. This is a dream job, and even though I spend long hours creating, it never feels like work.

My Creative Process
"Creativity takes courage."-Henri Matisse
What am I working on?
I am presently working on illustrations for “Hound Dawg!”, a children's book written by Patricia Vermillion to by published by TCU Press. I'm also working on some mixed media pieces for a commission for a neighborhood bank as well as two picture book dummies of my own.

How does my work differ from other genres?
Illustrating and writing seem to go hand-in-hand for me. I like for my illustrations to tell a story and when I write a story it often begins with a series of pictures. I'm a big fan of Melissa Sweet and Susan Roth because of their use of collage and unconventional materials used in their artwork. When it comes to composition and color, I'm inspired by John Singer Sargent, Charles Russell, and Frederic Remington. When I need an idea for the gesture or expression of a character, I can always count on Norman Rockwell.

Why do I write (create) what I do?
I like to write and create art that children and adults can appreciate. I also like to use a sense of humor in everything I produce. I want my love for art and life to show through everything I create. Mainly, I create because I'm too cranky if I don't. It makes me happy.

How does my writing (creating) process work?
I don't work in the traditional way that most artists probably do. I like using a variety of materials in my artwork. I never met a piece of paper I didn't like. I often use newspapers, paper sacks, pages from phone books (yes, they do serve a purpose!), tissue paper, greeting cards, and catalogs. Sometimes I use other nontraditional materials such as fabric, yarn, salt, buttons, game pieces, and other discarded tidbits around the house or in the garage. My studio is a little bit of a mess at times with paints, papers, inks, charcoal, etc. Thankfully, my studio is a little room off of the garage that no one else has to see. My house is very neat and minimalist, but you would never know that from looking at my studio space. “A true Gemini” my mother likes to say.

When I am working on a piece of art, sketching out ideas, or working on a story, I need a large block of uninterrupted time to play and experiment. It's very important that my inner critic is shut out at this time so I can create without fear of failure. Once I'm ready, I have two critique groups and family members who are always ready to give truthful criticism. I also attend life drawing groups for practice with my drawing skills. There's one thing about an artist (and I guess everything else in this world): there's always more to learn.
My art studio.
I start with a sketch, but will play around with the composition by adding
and taking away pieces and rearranging before gluing anything down. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014


The theme for this week on is Voice.  I painted this with acrylics and inks for a picture book dummy I'm preparing for the Houston SCBWI Conference.

Monday, January 13, 2014


After Giuseppe Castellano's tweet about posting sketches on your website, I updated mine today.

These are sketches of fellow artists and local people who model for us at our Woodlands Art League life-drawing groups.