Once upon a time, I was a pastry chef, and before that I worked in an office, crunching numbers. Writing and illustrating children’s books are by far the best jobs I’ve ever had (well, that is, after being a mom). I fell in love with picture books after reading so many to my children. Then I took some classes at MassArt and tried my hand at making one myself. I got my first job illustrating a poem for Click magazine in 2001. Two years later my first picture book was published. Since then, I’ve made a lot more.
I live with my husband, and French bulldog, Louie, in a small town just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. My three girls are all grown up now, and busy following their own dreams but when they were little, they gave me endless ideas for stories and even modeled for me sometimes. When I’m not making picture books, I can usually be found walking, playing, or snuggling with Louie or dog sitting for my friends’ pups. I rely on my love for dogs, other animals, new interests, and the unexpected surprises of daily life to inspire book ideas. I don’t have a particular illustration style . . . I experiment with different media, and I let the story dictate the look and feel of the book. I’ve used digital illustration to create my last few books and find the possibilities it offers endless.
Making children’s books has been a terrific journey with ups and downs and many twists and turns. But one thing has remained the same throughout the years. . . every morning, before I start working, I eat one giant malted milk ball (I tell myself it makes me more creative).
At my drafting table, I draw, paint, cut paper and do lots of other crafts. Can you spot my favorite drink?
At my desk, I work a lot on my computer—writing stories, scanning art, and making dummy books. Can you find pictures of my three girls?
I organize my art supplies in small cubies. I mix paints on a butcher tray. Do you see it?
I store more supplies in canvas buckets...
Little jars are perfect for making watercolor washes. Do you see the baby food jars?
I keep lots of catalogs and magazines to help me when I'm looking for design ideas.
Once I finish a book, I collect everything important to the project and store it in a colored bin.
I love homemade crafts. Ugandans made this mobile to support local education and the Kasiisi Project.
My studio is filled with so many things that inspire me. I have a small collection of art from some of my favorite children's book illustrators. Do you recognize the piece by G. Brian Karas? By Rosemary Wells?
I have so many favorite children's books (this is only one of my bookcases). Can you find the flamingoes?
I put everything and anything on my magnet board: pictures, special notes, reminders, and sample art.
I love to collect things...right now my biggest collection is of magnets. Can you find the three birds?
I just found an old letterpress drawer, perfect for storing treasures. Can you find Tweety?
Tweety is a "Mini Winnie" — a tiny character clothed in a rubber suit.
Thanks for visiting!
When a manuscript is finished, I begin making very rough sketches. I like to draw on tracing paper with pencils that have a fat grip. I use a Kneaded eraser (it feels like Silly Putty) to erase mistakes.
I continue to refine my sketches until I get one that's just right.
I transfer the sketch onto high quality watercolor paper with a pencil. A light box allows me to see the sketch through the watercolor paper so that I can trace it easily.
I use mechanical pens with very fine tips to outline small details. The lines are always the same thickness. The pens are filled with black ink that's waterproof so that the lines don't bleed when I put watercolor on top.
A quill pen allows me to make a variety of line widths—skinny, fat, and ones that go from thin to thick.
I put the wet inked sketch under a warm light to dry. I usually wait two days before I start to watercolor.
I paint with watercolor mostly, building up the layers as I go to get a dense, bright finish.
The finished piece of art is almost done.
After I paint, I highlight or give some texture to certain areas by adding colored pencil, oil pastel, or gouache. When you're using a bunch of different materials in a picture, it's called mixed media.
Here's the printed piece of art from the board book Blast Off Baby Bundt: A Recipe for Playtime, published by Candllewick Press.