Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sketch-play/Character development- By Deborah Cuneo

Dog Characters-Development Sketches

While I love all aspects of being an illustrator, my most favorite part is creating visual characters. And for me, because I tend to be my most creative while I'm multitasking, character development always starts with a lot of  random "note taking" and short bursts of sketch-play. 

As soon as I get a project, I immediately commit the list of potential characters to my brain, so I'll remain subliminally mindful of that list at all times. Inspiration for the characters often strikes in fits and spurts and always at the most random, inopportune time, so I've gotten used to recording my reference information quickly. Sometimes, in the form of an artistic shorthand, usually on assorted pieces of loose papers, a couple of random notes in a notepad I keep in my purse or I'll snap a quick photo or two for reference. 
Met a New Friend at the Pet Store!

Later on, as I have little blocks of time, I gather up everything and do a little sketch-play based on my notes, which is simply allowing myself total freedom to draw "whatever", be silly and not worry if it's pretty or not.  It's the artistic equivalent of taking really sloppy, fast notes. This way, I build on all the bits and bobs of inspiration while the sparks are still fresh in my mind.


After a while of this sporadic, freestyle, sketchy-note taking, the character starts to reveal him or herself to me and I have my starting point.

Small dog character coming to life - Early stages

St Bernard dog character coming to life - Early stages

Doing it this way is not for everybody, but it fits my sometimes chaotic, creative state and gets the job done in spite of it! I'm really looking forward to getting to know these new "friends"!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hand Lettering Process Post by Diana Ting Delosh

A BEAST IN THE WOODS © Diana Ting Delosh.
Page 5 - Title page. A sneak peek from my Picture Book Dummy.
Hand lettering: Ink, old wide brush on watercolor paper. Bold, san serif, untamed, caps. Colored by bringing into PS making the black ink lettering clear and placing over a watercolor swatch of purple ink.

My process for hand lettering begins with questions. Does the words/phrase evoke an image, a mood? Sure you can hand letter anything but some words or phrases beg for special treatment. Take the word  BUNNY, what comes to mind? Sweet. Cute. How about BEAST? Something rough, primal, maybe even old monster movie-ish. The word Flourish: a verb or a noun, very organic, something herbaceous.

1: FLOURISH Sketch. I want it to feel organic, flow, vines floral, herbaceous - a script
Next I decide what type style. Does it feel like a serif, or san serif?   Caps or upper and lower case?  Is it a script font??? Bold or light? Formal or casual? Is there an attitude? Do the letters themselves suggest images that relate to the meaning? Is there room for decorative flourishes? Sketching & Doodling commence. I like to make the form of the letters follow the meaning of the words or story.

2. FLOURISH line art © Diana Ting Delosh. Inked with fine tip Radiograph Pen on bristol paper. 
On to inking. Maybe with a fine tip pen or markers or brush - in black sometimes on watercolor paper, sometimes on vellum or bristol. It all depends on what I plan for it. The words dictate the style. Depending on the final usage I may do this a bit oversized. However I do prefer working to size whenever possible. I scan my inks as bitmap art (Black and white art or Black & White Document setting) minimum 600 dpi. Depending on the piece I may just save the scan for in case I screw up  when painting in the lettering or I may bring it into Photoshop to color.

3. FLOURISH finished colored art © Diana Ting Delosh. Painted the original line art on bristol paper with water-soluble transparent colored inks. 

Finally the coloring. Sometimes I hand paint my line work with transparent colored inks, watercolors than scan the finished colored art and clean up. Easy peasy. Sometimes I bring my line art into Photoshop and digitally color it. First I change the mode to RGB or CMYK. Usually I work in  RGB. I can change the color of my lines with the Magic Wand tool. Uncheck contiguous, so every speck of black gets selected, and click on the black than select a color with the eyedropper tool and fill the outlines with the new color. I can then fill in the outlines with the paintbrush tool and multiply so my line art remains. Or I can select the line art with the magic wand tool, make it clear, like a stencil, and layer it over a watercolor wash. Sometimes it's almost all created in PS. So many ways to go...just have some fun with it. Below are more samples of my hand lettering.
Peace to ALL © Diana Ting Delosh.
One of my favorite sentiments. My design for my personal 2016 Christmas Card.
Available at
Hand lettering: Black marker on vellum. Peace: formal script made from olive branches. Creatures: Serif, U&LC with a swan for an"S" to represent feathered creatures. Big: Caps, sight flared serif with a reptilian flare for the "G" to represent scaled creatures. Small: sans serif, fuzzy, Caps with a little critter for the "A" to represent furred creatures. Scanned the inked lettering and would've painted them per my usual BUT my scanner crapped out. SO, rather than wait for the new scanner I took the line art into PS changed the black line to an Ochre and digitally colored them. 

OLLIE ALONE © Diana Ting Delosh.
Title page from my Picture Book Dummy.
In the story, Ollie is distracted by fireflies. I decided that the title would be made up of glowing fireflies.
Hand lettering: Inked fireflies to form the title with a fine point pen. Bold, san serif, blobby, upper & lowercase. Colored by Painting in PS with a brush so the edges are fuzzy, like firefly glow.

Some Fun News: My Hand Lettering, FLOURISH is on page 19 in the Gallery pages of the book,
Hand Lettering Creative Alphabets for Any Occasion by Thy Doan Graves published by Quarto, UK and St Martin's Griffin, US and Canada.

Twitter: dtdelosh

Check out: 
The BIG ThumbNailer

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


 Purchase a copy of LIZZIE and LOU SEAL 
email Sky Pony Press at to let them know.

Now you are in the running for Sky Pony to see your picture book dummy or manuscript!

Looking Inside Sky Pony Press 
with Assistant Editor, Kylie Brien

“Good morning Sky Pony,” my editor says.
She reads at the coffee nook.

She reads at her desk,
In her thinking cap.

too cool                                                   too hot                                                    just right

My editor reads when she walks at lunch,
And with the people standing in line.
“Hmm, smells delicious!”

She reads with publicity

Ming Liu and Kylie Brien
and other editors.
“I like it a lot!”

Rachel Stark and Kylie Brien
She reads in the subway—
All the way home.
"Good night sweet writers and readers!"

Meet Sky Pony author/illustrator Patricia Keeler at Book Expo America 2017, Booth AM34, May 31 - June 2! She will sketch you as a picture book character!

 Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Star Seeker, by Mike Ciccotello

You are the key to achieving your goals. No one else is going to do it for you. Go find your star and make it shine.

Star Seeker, by Mike Ciccotello

Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 
Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

PRINT GIVEAWAY by Patricia Keeler

If you purchase a copy of Lizzie and Lou Seal and email a screen shot receipt to Sky Pony Press at 

you will be eligible to win this signed 10" x 13" print entitled PETAL POWER!

And that's not all!
You will be entered to win the
of a manuscript critique by 

Sky Pony Assistant Editor, Kylie Brien


Several years ago I got a contract for a picture book I had written and illustrated. But when I turned in the final images, the book was cancelled.

I had made the editorial and illustration changes my picture book group and then the publisher’s editorial staff suggested. My realistically portrayed main character stayed under the watchful eye of her dad. She never smacked her chewing gum or stamped her feet.

I had no idea how my work could be any more appropriate for the children's book industry.

When attending to the remarks of children's book groups and the publisher’s editorial guidance didn't lead to a successful book, I decided to stop listening—to follow my heart—and take artistic chances!

I created a solid little girl with red hair that stuck out in all directions, much like the rock star PINK’s hair does.

©pkeeler 2017
I wanted a noisy girl who races around the beach in joyous abandon, while dragging a blow-up seal twice her size. How cool if her home was a retro beach trailer?

©pkeeler 2017
Lizzie and her pal Lou Seal were born!

Then I began experimenting with mixed media. I created page spreads using photographs of seashells that I collected from the beach. On the back cover I painted partially over a photograph of a sand castle I built.

I tried hand lettering. Then I threw sand across the page!

©pkeeler 2017

I wanted Lou Seal to look like she was made of plastic. I tried using an encaustic wax process. That worked for Lou Seal, but I discovered it created dynamic ocean waves!

Add a Lizzie and Lou Seal and . . .

©pkeeler 2017
Now I write about the things I love­—feisty girls, retro trailers and the beach. I dauntlessly experiment with new artistic techniques. Now there is magic!
Meet Patricia Keeler at Book Expo America 2017, Booth AM34, this June!
Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Invest in your dream. It's way more efficient than playing it safe for decades. –By Barbara DiLorenzo

This is going to be a very odd year.

My first two picture books are coming out–one in June 2017, and the other in February 2018.
And any day now, my baby girl will be born. If I wasn't writing this blog post, I'd find this amount of good fortune completely obnoxious. And I'd stop reading.

But that's why I'm writing this post–to let folks know that what appears to be stupid good luck, is really the cumulation of decades of struggle. I wrote my first picture book dummy in 8th grade. I'm 41 now.

I focused on illustration at art school, excited to take classes specifically geared to writing and illustrating picture books. This was going to be my launching pad to a great career in making books, starting at the age of 21. The only problem… as skilled as I was at rendering realistic drawings and paintings, I had absolutely no skill with visual or literary storytelling. My teachers graded me mostly on my efforts, but deep down I knew I was no good at crafting a story. I watched as some of my peers secured book deals within the first year after graduation. They came by storytelling more easily. Their illustrations were hilarious or poignant, and their final projects clearly professional. My collection of words and pictures, in contrast, still resembled a brainstorming session.

What I wish I could have known back then is that it's ok not to have all the answers. If I was still in the brainstorming phase, then ok. The only key is to not give up–which I did a few times over the years.

When I graduated from college, I decided to earn money as a graphic/web designer. While some of my friends were investing in themselves, choosing part-time work so they could have time to make books, I slowly became used to the comforts of a full-time job. I learned skills in working with clients, taking art direction, and meeting tough deadlines. I told myself that these were all good things to learn, and that I'd figure out a way to make books in my spare time. But all I had time for was an occasional painting or illustration. I moved so slowly that looking back, there are only tiny moments of growth–truly the base line of an asymptote curve.

In 2001 I had a portfolio review with an art director, who seemed unmoved by my work. Yet, a few weeks later, she asked if I'd submit a sample in a bid for a project. I did, and somehow I won the job. It was to illustrate a Dutch folk tale. Although I was over the moon, it felt like this good fortune came out of the blue, and a little too suddenly. Still, I worked diligently, all while pregnant and planning a wedding. (Another year of stupid good luck.)

Yet the luck ran out, as both the editor and the art director left the publisher, and my book project was orphaned. I turned in the final artwork, had the baby, and then learned that the book needed a major overhaul. For six more months I jumped through every hoop, bleary-eyed with sleep-deprivation from a newborn. Yet in the end, they killed the project. They paid me the kill fee. But I was devastated. After that blow, I sort of quit for a few years. I still painted on the weekends here and there, and convinced myself that storytelling wasn't my thing. But I pined for this dream to come true. Every children's book store I visited was both an exciting and bittersweet experience. Reading books to my son was the same. I cherish books. But I couldn't figure out how to make them myself.

After my family and I moved to New York City, I finally stopped working as a graphic designer. To brush up on my skills, I attended the Art Students League 5 days a week. After a full year of taking classes, I realized that I was on a track–but it was in the world of fine art, not illustration.

During a conversation with my dad after Thanksgiving, I finally articulated that I needed to switch gears. Trying to be kind and supportive, he suggested that I self-publish. But I said out loud to him, and to myself, that I was ready to climb the mountain to trade publication. He offered several other ideas to give me the satisfaction of seeing my work in book form. But I realized that what had been bothering me for years is that I was trying to casually sidle up to this career–instead of looking at the looming mountain of work ahead–and facing it directly.

I was still terrible at storytelling, but my artistic skills had developed over time. I wasn't bound to realism any longer. Funny or sweet characters started to emerge in my sketchbooks, and I crafted mini-stories around them. I started teaching art classes, switching from graphic design. I think working in this field allows me to grow in skill with traditional media.

This transition took place in 2012. I locked onto my goal, drew and painted with passion, entered contests, went to conferences, talked to people I didn't know despite not being an extrovert. I made a ton of mistakes in the process. But–by the end of 2014–I sold my first book! It's only coming out now, in 2017–the timeline became short once I took my career seriously. Everyone's timeline is different of course. Many are a lot shorter than mine.

Even if your timeline is longer than mine, take a look at the structure of your life, and evaluate whether or not you are dedicating yourself to your dream. Invest in yourself. It's so much more efficient than playing it safe for decades.

Illustration Blog: Paint & Paper
Twitter: @wavepaint

Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency

Written and illustrated by Barbara DiLorenzo
Published by Viking Children's Books 
Release date: June 20, 2017

Written and illustrated by Barbara DiLorenzo
Published by Little Bee Books 
Release date: February 8, 2018