Sunday, December 25, 2011

IF: Messenger

One of my goals this year is to consistently participate in Illustration Friday:
Each Friday a word prompt is given. This weeks word is "messenger." Illustrators submit their artwork to be publicly viewed and one illustration becomes "pick of the week."
I am looking forward to the exercise and challenge! This illustration was completed earlier this year, but in the future I will let the word "prompt" and inspire a new illustration. There are many challenges and goals to come in the new year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chicken Licken Illustration Entry for the Tomie DePaola Award


So they went along and went along until they met Turkey Lurkey
“Good morning, Goosey Loosey, Ducky Daddles, Cocky Locky, Henny Penny,
and Chicken Licken,” said Turkey Lurkey, “where are you going?”
“Oh, Turkey Lurkey, the sky is falling and we are going to tell the King!”
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Turkey Lurkey.
“Ducky Daddles told me,” said Goosey Loosey.
“Cocky Locky told me,” said Ducky Daddles.
“Henny Penny told me,” said Cocky Locky.
“Chicken Licken told me,” said Henny Penny 
“I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears,
and a piece of it fell on my tail!” said Chicken Licken.
“Then I will go with you,” said Turkey Lurkey, “and we will tell the King!”


Every character is dressed as a member of the kingdom. Henny Penny is a penniless beggar, Cocky Locky is a noble, Goosey Loosey and Ducky Daddles are common folk (or fowl) and Turkey Lurky is a knight, they are on their way to see the king!

Chicken Licken is the fool/prankster of the story, he is given the "fools hat"


The sky is blustery as if it could be falling, everyone is all a flutter!


The question is: Will this make Tomie "surprised, excited, and VERY jealous?!" Good luck to all those anxious illustrators out there! The winner will be announced Jan. 2nd.

Tomie DePaola Illustration Contest

I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators last month in order to participate in the Tomie DePaola Award. Every year Tomie selects an excerpt from a classic story and gives this charge to the participants:

"I want to be surprised, excited and - VERY jealous that I didn't think of that way to illustrate it.
I want to see an image, a style, a vision that I've never seen before!
Good luck. I'm on your side!" 

That was enough to get me hooked! This years text was from Chicken Licken by P.C. Asbjörnsen:

So they went along and went along until they met Turkey Lurkey
“Good morning, Goosey Loosey, Ducky Daddles, Cocky Locky, Henny Penny,
and Chicken Licken,” said Turkey Lurkey, “where are you going?”
“Oh, Turkey Lurkey, the sky is falling and we are going to tell the King!”
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Turkey Lurkey.
“Ducky Daddles told me,” said Goosey Loosey.
“Cocky Locky told me,” said Ducky Daddles.
“Henny Penny told me,” said Cocky Locky.
“Chicken Licken told me,” said Henny Penny 
“I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears,
and a piece of it fell on my tail!” said Chicken Licken.
“Then I will go with you,” said Turkey Lurkey, “and we will tell the King!”

I felt like all of these sketches had been done before. I liked the composition of the last sketch but knew I would need a fresh vision in order to catch the eye. Every illustration I found while doing my research had all the feathered friends running around the barn yard..... Who is the king of the barn yard? I continued sketching until I knew my next drawing would be a good one, then I moved to watercolor paper.

The whole time in the back of my mind I KNEW that my best illustration would need to have everyone dressed up in medieval costume..... because they are one their way to see the king! I kept avoiding this prompting because I had no idea how I could accomplish it. Once I did accomplish it I was so pleased and excited to move onto paint :) With a busy week ahead I knew I would be finishing on the due date: December 15th!

What is at stake here? Not only will the winner be the happy and accomplished owner of the 2012 Tomie DePaola Award, but will receive $1,000 to be spent on art supplies and a full scholarship to attend the SCBWI winter conference in New York.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Fair Poster!

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! This looks amazing! This is the first time I have seen my watercolor art in "published" form. I love the colors they chose for the rest of the poster. Very well done!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New York Book Fair!

Yesterday I received a very exciting phone call from LaNette in New York. She was wondering if I could create an illustration for their school's Winter book fair. She inspired me with words like "cozy" "warm" "books" "fireplace" and "snowy window scene." I couldn't resist! The image was playing in my mind before we hung up. The challenge: due the next day at 5:00pm!

That night (early this morning) I went to bed with the illustration penned and sized on watercolor paper, with some under painting completed. I woke up at 6am to get some work done before we went to town. On the way home I had the shocking realization that 5:00 New York time is 4:00 Iowa time! That provided me with the extra shot of adrenaline I needed! I finished at 3:30. Just in time to scan and send it.

The illustration is 81/2 by 11 and will appear on 11 by 17 posters that will be hung around town. It is exhilarating to think my little illustration will be seen around town in New York :) LaNette really liked it and we agreed that it was by the grace of God that it was completed on time. Praise to the Ultimate Creator!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WIP: Help me name this illustration!

It snowed a couple days ago and it might snow again tonight! I love snow, especially when it requires that you stay home all cozied up with a book and a blanket. I am hoping for lots of it this winter.

I am sticking to the hours of detail and am really pleased with the results! Although this is becoming a favorite of mine, I am completely stumped for a name. I want it to be something festive, warm and joyful. Any ideas? If so, please leave a comment below.

*WIP: In case any of you are like me, and didn't know what this means, WIP: Work In Progress. Watercolor coming soon!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Foxy Disguise

What do you think? This is a totally different look from my previous paintings. I made myself slow down and paint every stroke with purpose. I also forced myself to build color and contrast and pay better attention to light. I am really happy with it! And excited to see what comes next.

Tom will definitely elude the coyotes with this disguise.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Experimenting with Process

It is time to share a process post, because I am experimenting with it!
I have a couple illustrations that I absolutely love, "An Outing for Foxes" and "Shoe Sailing Mice." The reason I like them so much is because they have a sense of movement expressed by the lines of the ink pen. I have let my lines become the defining force of my illustrations, which works with movement, but the more stationary pieces feel like they are lacking. So, the last couple weeks I have felt the ache of growing pains, knowing that I need to grow, but not knowing how. I expressed all of this to my artist friend Sara and she gave me some great advice: She asked me which part I enjoyed doing the most and to focus on that: line drawing with pen, detail drawing with colored pencil, or painting with watercolor. I found that my favorite part was colored pencil, even though I always started with pen and rushed through the detail drawing.
With this new piece I forced myself to slow down and do all the detail drawing first with colored pencil, then I gently outlined with a thin ink pen.

This is our cat "Tom." We are always trying to think up ways to protect our farm cats from wild animals. We thought making him a fox costume might confuse the coyotes :)

It always feels weird completing a drawing and then putting it in water! This is how you size the paper and prepare it to receive watercolor.

After quickly patting off the excess water I tape it down to a masonite board while it is still damp to prevent warping.

At this point I am realizing that the colored pencil detail creates competition for the watercolor. I started using the watercolor paint more like a colored pencil. Not sure if that is the look I will be going for in the future, but for now I like it. Tom needs several more glazes of color, shadows and depth. My scanner has started picking up a lot of yellow, so imagine it with a lot less...... I will let you know how he turns out!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Fall :) Shoe Sailing Mice

This year at Shenfest, the local frame shop, Get Framed, is holding a "Saddle Shoe Art" contest in honor of Chuck Offenberger, the saddle shoe wearin' columnist from Shenandoah, IA. Each entry must contain saddle shoes :) I thought this was such a fun idea and couldn't resist taking part.

We are so excited about fall! turning leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, sweaters and scarves, crisp air and cloudy skies, butternut squash soup, yellow fields, candle light and cozy nights!

These little mice are enjoying fall to the fullest!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sailing by the Light of the Moon

Inspired by a lovely sailing adventure with my husband and brothers. 

Lots of waves, splashing, crashing
tumbling over, tumbling over
If only the lake's surface wasn't so hard
more like clouds in fluffy mounds
If only the water wasn't so wet
jibing, flying turning left
sailing into the midnight air
moon shining brightly, pulling, ducking
now its calmer way up here
bailing stars and calming fears
like a dream... dream... dream...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chalk Stock Festival

A couple weekends ago I participated in Spirit Lake's 2nd annual Chalk Stock festival hosted by A Piece of Work art gallery.
The chalk work started at 6:30 am as artists lined Spirit Lake's main street sidewalks. We had until 4pm to finish our designated square(s), then the judging began!
It was a perfect semi-cloudy day with no rain which made the work pleasant. I had a great time socializing with other artists and watching each one complete their square.

I chose to draw a paddle fish, a prehistoric-looking fish that used to live in Lake Okoboji, a neighboring lake where I was staying with the entire Groves family. Last year on our Groves family vacation I came across the Chalk festival and kept all the information to enter the following year. This was a much anticipated event!

In a crazy fury I finished my squares (4' by 8') It was so fun! The judges then came around to determine the winners. There would be a first place, $300, second place, $150 and then four $50 categories: most original, best portrait, best landscape, and most 3-D. I was hoping for first or second place, but I won for most 3-D. Woo hoo! That was great, and I am looking forward to entering again next year.

I was just emailed a sneak preview of the Chalk Stock festival poster! The koy fish on the left near the bottom won first place and the "mad trio" musicians on the top left corner won second place :) You can click on the image of the poster to make it bigger. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


This board underwent many changes in the creative process. I did several sketches before beginning the illustration. I began by dressing the foxes with a tux and gown in a "wedding cake topper" pose. I thought they looked very unnatural, like humans with fox heads, because they were wearing to many clothes. So I began undressing them so that they could be free! I gave the groom a yellow tie (like the one Jordan will be wearing) and a veil and bouquet of flowers to the bride. I wanted to capture the fun and movement of "An Outing for Foxes" so these two are either running to the ceremony or running from it about to embark on a new life together :)

Creating these boards was so much fun! I am so thankful for the opportunity and I hope that the future Mr and Mrs Kempson are blessed by them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chalkboard #3 CEREMONY

I have never ever ever done a chalk board this way! I think it was because my friend Buffy was in the studio with me working on a watercolor, so I was thinking about watercolor. I have never fully drawn out a chalkboard before coloring it! I usually color, draw and create all at the same time. 
With watercolor I have to think and plan and have my drawing completed before I paint, so maybe that process just carried over. I also erased and resprayed this chalkboard 3 different times in the initial stages before I finally got it drawn out. Whew! It feels good to have it completed :) 

I lugged this board to Sara's studio in Des Moines and worked on coloring in the words and branches there. We had such a wonderful time of fellowship and creativeness! It was a busy day, so I didn't finish this board until I was at home and worked until 2am. I have had some late nights! I think this is my favorite one so far. Btw: These boards (RECEPTION and CEREMONY) are bigger than the WELCOME board and measure 19'' by 38''

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chalkboard #2 RECEPTION

"Reception" masked off.
In progress, creating as I go. I didn't plan this one out.
Animals enjoying lemonade, strawberry shortcake and pie at the reception.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back to the ol' drawing board.

I have a new project to work on the next couple weeks, I am returning to the chalk board! Some friends in Indy commissioned me create a series of chalkboards for their wedding. I am excited about this project and am especially looking forward to the next 3 boards. The couple suggested that I portray them as animals after seeing an "Outing for Foxes" long as the bride isn't a turtle :) I am looking forward to putting my watercolor characters on a chalk board. 

Today I finished this 15'' by 34'' WELCOME board. Can you find the little welcoming snail? He is all dressed up and very excited to attend the wedding and enjoy the reception with all the other woodland creatures.

Please click on the image for detail

Monday, August 15, 2011

Caroling Woods

I am working on building up some seasonal pieces for the holidays. It is kinda funny thinking about snow, hot chocolate and caroling this time of year, but this painting felt like a breath of fresh air during some 100 degree days.

Recently my paintings have been split up into little tiny chunks of time, taking a couple days or weeks to complete. I started this drawing in July and brought it on vacation with me to finish at Lake Okoboji where I was staying with my husband's family. One day on the lake front one of Casey's Aunts asked me what I was painting. Sitting surrounded by cousins and family I thought in my head.... "well, its a painting of a cardinal, mouse, hedgehog, rabbit and squirrel Christmas Caroling.... that sounds really stupid...." so I just said out loud, "I am working on a Christmas scene." I was actually embarrassed by what I was painting because it sounds so silly! I have decided that in the future, when someone asks me what I am painting, that I will proudly say... "A frog playing a violin..." or whatever silly thing it might be.

I am really pleased by the sky! I have avoided painting sky, weather, or any sort of atmosphere until now. The swirling sky was the most challenging part of this piece! I compared this winter scene to my "Snow Cats" I painted in April and I am so excited to see so much improvement in color and composition! I think I am getting somewhere!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Little Red Riding Hood

Here is the cropped version of Little Red Riding Hood. My other methods for capturing the whole image did not work. I wish you could see all the lovely strawberries and the top of Grandma's house, but you get the idea :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

My! What a big trash can of sketches you have!

It seems like I posted Reggie the homing pigeon weeks ago! Since then I have crumpled up one sketch after another. Remember all those great inspiring ideas I had during camp? Well, since I couldn't paint all those weeks I completed the paintings in my head, and I should have remembered that once I have completed an illustration in my head, it refuses to come out on paper.

So I went in a completely different direction. I love golden age illustration and I love the classic fairy tales, so I decided to illustrate Little Red Riding Hood by the Brothers Grimm.

This drawing was really difficult. I erased and erased. I wanted the wolf to look monstrous, but I didn't know if he should be sitting or standing, paw out, or paw down. So I tried them all. This is my first illustration with a child in it, so I had to work to make her look right. I made Casey stand and hold flowers behind his back. We argued over the size and length of her arms and all sorts of other things. I had to remind Casey that even though he was my model, that a little girl's body was much different than his :) He did help me eventually get her right.

I also wanted to include the surroundings from the story: dense woods, a strawberry patch, big white daisies and a path to grandma's house.

The drawing finally came together after 3 days of working on it a couple hours at a time. I took the drawing into Choice Printing to get it scanned because it was too big for my scanner. Today I finished the painting, but I will have to post it later after I get it re-scanned in town.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reggie the Homing Pigeon

Yesterday was the first day I had time to paint after 2 months of directing camp, travel and summer activities. I was so anxious to start and am still anxious to paint the 7 other ideas that have been floating around in the back of my mind!

Earlier this summer, on the first day of Jr high camp a homing pigeon arrived with a storm.  He had two little bands around his legs and the Sheriff said he probably needed a rest and would be on his way soon. Sure enough, 5 days later with the next storm he took off. He was a friendly little bird, and Casey named him Reggie.

One of the cool things about Reggie is that he shimmers! My friend Sara passed on a Daniel Smith watercolor sample sheet and I was excited to find Iridescent Sapphire and and Duochrome Cabo Blue to make his neck feathers show off like a real pigeon. I also used Pearlescent Shimmer over my red paint on the postage stamp to tie it all together. He is perched on our mail box with the rolling hills of Iowa behind him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Art Reception at Lotus Moments

My first art reception was a success, thanks to the friends and family who helped buy and prepare food, several bouquets of flowers sent from my Mom and Dad in Oregon, a surprise visit from my little sister, many friends who came and the beautiful space provided by Lotus Moments.
I am so pleased to announce that I sold 10 pieces of art work - way beyond what I expected - and received a couple commissions to complete before Christmas. I was so encouraged by everyone who came :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My first artist reception!

I am looking forward to my first artist reception on Friday, July 15th!
I agreed to show at the Lotus Moments Event Center in March, knowing that I would need to provide 30 pieces of framed artwork by June 1st. At the time I only had 7 framed chalk pieces and didn't feel comfortable in watercolor. It wasn't until April that I finally found my style and began cranking out watercolor illustrations and sharing them on this blog!

I am excited to share with you that I was able to provide 30 pieces of artwork and that they are all hung and ready. They will be on display for private events over the summer at Lotus Moments and will be open to the public for my reception in July. You will find all of my watercolors there (some prints, some originals), sketches, chalk pieces, and hand carved block prints. Many of these pieces are for sale and can be purchased off the wall.

Today I created my postcard-style invitation that I hope to print tomorrow. I am using "An Outing for Foxes" for the front and wrote a poem for the back to add whimsy to this very special invitation! Here is the invitation, for those of you who live far away. I hope you enjoy my little poem. You can click on the image to enlarge it for easier reading.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Roots of Perseverance

A couple weeks ago I had time carved out to paint and I didn't feel any sort of inspiration. Knowing that I needed to keep producing and persevering, I forced myself to paint something small and simple: a radish. I decided that from then on, every time I felt uninspired I would paint a vegetable (or a root.) I call them "The Roots of Perseverance."

A couple days ago I (unfortunately) painted "The Rutabaga of Perseverance." The previous radish I titled, "The Disciplined Radish." One day I might have a whole collection of persevering vegetables :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Tribute to Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter is one of my favorite illustrators. I love her animals and natural style. One of my favorite movies is Miss Potter starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.  I don't know how much her life was romanticized by Hollywood, or if she was as whimsical as portrayed, but I admire her. I read that she was first noted for her scientific drawings of fungi, which was not in the movie! I recently saw a photograph of Beatrix as a young lady walking a rabbit on a thin rope leash.... so maybe she was rather whimsical, the way I would like to picture her.

She was remembered as a shy and reserved child (I can identify with that) who drew animals and the natural world around her. With her earnings from Peter Rabbit, Beatrix bought Hill Top Farm and went on to purchase about 15 more Farms in the Lake District and hired back farmers to preserve the natural beauty and work the farms. When she died in 1943 she left 4,000 acres of land to be preserved by the National Trust.

An inspiring legacy from an inspiring artist!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Coon's Camp Out

I created this illustration to be a lesson on night light. I am still not sure if I got it quite right.... hey, that rhymes :) Painting this was really intimidating because I felt like I could easily ruin it at any moment. It required slow thought and careful light layers. The moon is so big and close that I thought it should shed lots of light on the ground, but I am not sure if that takes away from the warm glow of the fire. I could bring the green down from the horizon and fade it as it enters the foreground.... (what do you think Sara?) I usually stop prematurely because once you take a step with watercolor it is almost impossible to go back. I tend to air on the side of caution.

Overall I am really excited about the depth the color brings. I also like the way the hot coals turned out. The fire pit was the very last thing I painted and I knew it could make or break this piece.

I finished this illustration last night and today I created another lighting challenge: Rabbits in a cellar collecting veggies to make soup! I drew a light bulb hanging from the ceiling so that I know exactly where the light is coming from. Now to just make it convincing with color! I want to create the feeling of warmth :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

An Outing For Foxes

I have out grown my scanner! I am missing about an inch all the way around :( Oh well, It feels good to be working bigger after so many smaller paintings.

On Saturday Casey and I went to the tulip festival in Pella and rode our bikes all around. Then we went to Grays Lake Park in Des Moines and rode around enjoying all the blossoming trees! Not only was I inspired by our outing, but this painting is another one of Casey's imaginative ideas :) Foxes riding a tandem bike! What a wonderful idea. Flowers, trees and bicycles.... too bad we didn't see any foxes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat
by: Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."
Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
 Said the Piggy, "I will"
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. B

Meet Mr. and Mrs. B
Mr. B has been out all day building. At sunset he meets Mrs. B at their favorite spot to enjoy a supper of water lilies she has gathered from the pond. 

This illustration involved some research. My first idea was to paint Mr. B fishing and Mrs. B joining him with a picnic basket. Then much to my dismay I read that Beavers don't eat fish, they are omnivores. I had to rework my whole idea. I learned that beavers eat tree bark, roots, buds and water plants.

I also did some sketching on drawing paper before moving to watercolor paper. I did a bunch of sketches I didn't like and then moved to the watercolor paper and did a completely different drawing that turned out great! Sometimes sketching is just a way to get all the bad ideas out of my head, until I know that the next sketch from my hand will be a good one. That is why I don't like keeping a sketch diary, I would always be looking back on weak drawings and bad ideas.

I have an idea for my next piece. It will be two separate paintings that go together. The Owl and the Pussycat, inspired by one of my favorite children's books illustrated by Jan Brett, poem written by Edward Lear.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Tortoise and the Hare

I decided to start a new discipline today by sketching out plans for a watercolor. I don't like sketching because I would rather dive right into an illustration and hope for the best. Maybe that is why I always feel stuck in the middle of a piece, because it is not fully thought out!  So, I started to sketch in preparation and I just kept drawing and drawing until it turned into its own little work of art. So much for sketching. But now that I have this fully thought out drawing I am excited to draw it again on watercolor paper and add color.

I know that quick sketching is an important discipline that I must learn. I will keep at it. In the mean time I hope you like this whimsical illustration of the Tortoise and the Hare..... can you find all five animals?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Snow Cats: Casey's Imagination

This drawing was inspired by my husband. On a snowy day he said, "Wouldn't it be so cute if our cats had little vests and snow skis?" Well, yes, that would be very cute. So for our anniversary in December I drew him a card with our little cats dressed up with hats and scarves ready to ski.

I decided to redraw the same illustration and apply some watercolor. Here is a look at the process:

Pen drawing on 140 lb hot press watercolor paper

I added detail with a brown colored pencil.  Sized the paper and taped it to my board.

I masked off where I wanted the snow flakes to be and did my first glaze of color. 

Sometimes, well, most of the time, I really like my piece after the first couple glazes of color while it is still washed out looking. This is the point where I have to push myself to carefully add more color. 

Snow Cats

I like how happy Viola looks :) She is the grey kitty on the left. 

I scanned in my drawing before painting because I really liked the way it looked. I want to improve my under drawing and watercolor technique so I don't lose as much texture. I rely so much on my strong lines that I end up just coloring in with watercolor. How do I improve in this area? I want my colors to be more descriptive and luminous. It will just take more practice!