Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

This December has flown by!  Every year, I always say I'm going to kick back and enjoy the season for once.  But then it's suddenly December 24th, and I realize I still have decorating/wrapping/cooking/Christmas movie watching/etc. to do.  This holiday season has definitely been one of the quickest, and it seems like the sentiment is shared by all of my family, friends and colleagues.  The presents may not be all wrapped, but everyone is happy, healthy, and together, and that's really all that matters.  :)

I did accomplish ONE new thing this year: putting up my reindeer tree topper!

This may seem like a lame accomplishment, but let me explain.  I bought this thing several years ago during a family trip to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Michigan.  I was all excited to have the little fellow top my tree, until hubby and I realized it's the dumbest design in the history of poorly-designed decorations.  It's top-heavy; the base is way too wide; and the base is also a giant spring, causing the whole thing to bounce around like a bobble head.  The first time we tried to put it up, it nearly brought down our entire tree.  And so the stupid thing has sat in our basement, making me rather sad every year.


This year, I was determined to get that darn thing up.  Six zip ties, four sap-covered hands, and several well-placed branches later....ta da!

Is it perfect?  Heck no!  But boy did my hubby and I have a silly time putting it up!  (We even tried jamming mechanical pencils in there at one point.)

The moral of this story is: Christmas doesn't have to perfect.  All you need is laughter and good company to make it a memorable one.

I hope you have a lovely holiday celebrating with your own family and friends.  I wish you the very best season and a joyous New Year! 

All the best,

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Drawsome Challenge 2014

Remember how I teased all that art last week?  Well the artpocalypse is finally upon us!

Over November, a super-talented illustrator named Amanda Iadonisi Word held a ridiculous 30-day drawing challenge.  (You should stop reading now to check out her website, Facebook page, and adorable picture book, Whiny Whiny Rhino.  She also gets full credit for coining my new favorite word, "drawsome!")  The challenge was to draw one silly sketch a day from a list of prompts for the entire month of November.  It was a lot like NANOWRIMO (aka "National Novel Writing Month" for all you non-writer folk), only with more ninjas and Pokemon.

While my art marathon overflowed a teensy bit into December (okay, over half of December to be precise), I am very happy to say that I did finish all 30 challenges!  Some prompts were a struggle, some were pure silliness, and some were borderline inappropriate, but all of them made me think outside of my usual artistic box.  So without further ado, here are my 30 Drawsome Challenges!  Prepare yourself for some really lame puns...

Day 1: Teenage Mutant Ninja______

This one could also be labeled, "Teenage Mutant Dancing-Yoga Cow Things."

Day 2: Steampunk Mario Kart Racer

I stink at drawing vehicles and anything tech-related, so I drew my dream Mario Kart instead--the kart that spits out constant bananas as you drive!  Mwa ha ha!

Day 3: Historical World Leaders as Babies

Baby Bill Clinton.  'Nuff said.

Day 4: Prehistoric Mobile Home--an Edifice on the Back of a Dinosaur

The mobile wooly mammoth home would be perfect for snowy commutes to work!

Day 5: Totem Pole or Tiki Mask of Favorite Fandom

Team Avatar animal companions--Appa, Naga, Pabu, and Momo--from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.  Momo is a dancing lemur, and he is awesome.

Day 6: An Attraction at an Anatomy-based Theme Park

Lame pun #1.

Day 7:  Role Reversal--Pokemon Force Their Trainers to Battle Each Other

Pikachu battles his trainer, Ash, Super Smash Bros-style.

Day 8: Norman Rockwell Illustrates The Walking Dead

I don't watch The Walking Dead, so I drew a pony instead.  Ponies are much more smiley than zombies.

Day 9: Unhappily Ever After--"Where Are They Now?" Disney Characters

Remy learns that cats don't need to cook; they like their food raw.  ;)

Day 10: Baked Bad Guys--Super Villains as Baked Goods

Lame pun #2.  (Elicited major groans from my hubby.)  

Day 11: Nerd or Hipster Gladiator

Puny Leonidas.

Day 12: Cat Tats

I bet naked those Sphynx cats would totally sport ink if given the opportunity.

Day 13: Food Face--Edible Facial Hair

I don't care how many people say mice are gross.  Mice are cute and cuddly.  I would let them live in my cheese beard.

Day 14: Go Go Power Park Rangers

The mighty Squirrel Ranger.

Day 15: Half Insect/Half Celebrity

Lame pun #3: Grumpy Cat-erpillar

Day 16: Mythological Creature Playing Card Design

The Chimera Joker.

Day 17: Apparel Alive--Clothes Come to Life

No one ever suspects the bunny slippers...

Day 18: Food Truck Made out of Food

Lame pun #4: An Ice Cream Truck

Day 19: Unicorn with a Swiss Army Horn

The Christmas Unicorn helps you with all your wrapping needs.

Day 20: Weaponized Puppies

Hypno Puppy will steal your soul.

Day 21: JLA or Avengers as Sea Creatures

I broke the rules and went with "Guardians of the Galaxy."  I just couldn't resist drawing marine Rocket and Groot.

Day 22: Invent a Pokemon (Basic + Evolutions)

Based off of my childhood pet snails.  (Sadly, they did not spontaneously combust.)

Day 23: Pursed People (Posh Animals Carrying Tiny People in their Purses) 

Miss Crocodile is always on the cutting edge of fashion.  And snacking.

Day 24: Adorable Monster Trucks

Ghost truck.  Have I mentioned I hate drawing vehicles?

Day 25: Teen Titans (Of the Greek Mythology Variety)

Teenage Crius, future father of the constellations.

Day 26: Samurai Selfie

The reference photos for this one were mmm mmm good.  (Hubby disagreed.)

Day 27: Happy Thievesgiving--A Group of Villains Sharing a Feast

Yeah, I was WAY too late for Thanksgiving when I got to this one.  A Very Villain Christmas seemed more appropriate for December.  I bet Donald Duck is delicious.

Day 28: Viking Circus

Seals are super adorable, even when they're balancing skulls.

Day 29: Downton Kombat--Aristocrats/Flappers/Crooners Duke it out Mortal Kombat-style

Lame pun #5.  I couldn't handle drawing any more human hands by the time I got to Day 29, so I went with Australian marsupials.  They're totally the same thing.  

Day 30: "A Christmas Snowflake Cat Pony Train" 
(special request by Amanda's daughter) 

The Fuzzy Express brings pets to all the good little boys and girls for Christmas.  I knew the excuse that "Santa can't fit a pony in his sleigh" was a big, fat lie.

And those are my 30 wacky sketches from the best drawing challenge ever created!  A big thanks to Amanda Iadonisi Word for creating the event.  It was such a blast to take part in this off-the-wall project.  I take myself WAY too seriously all the time, so it was a nice change of pace to draw boogers, baby Bill Clinton, and beard-dwelling mice.  I definitely don't think I've ever giggled quite so much while drawing.  (Apart from all the hands.  And the vehicles.  And more hands.  Hands are awful.)  It was also great to work on tiny, bite-size pieces that didn't stress me out and take 20+ hours to complete.  Hopefully, all this sketching will make me an even speedier artist in the future!  (Oh, all right--I suppose I benefited from drawing all those hands, too.)

I hope some of these silly sketches made you all chuckle!  And no, I'm not sorry for those lame puns, no matter how groan-worthy.  ;)

Note: All challenge ideas were created by Amanda Iadonisi Word.  All characters are (c) Disney, Nintendo, Nickelodeon, and lots of other properties.  No wombats or snails were harmed in the making of these sketches, but I did eat several hamburgers in honor of sketch #1.  They were tasty.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Coffee with a Canine

Put a pin in that last post!  While I was busy compiling all of that art, I got an exciting email.  A few weeks ago, a charming blog called Coffee with a Canine asked if my dog, Penny, and I would like to take part in a "coffee date."  It involved us answering fun questions and sending in some doggy pictures.  I even doodled a little sketch of Penny for the occasion, complete with her own mug of coffee.  (I can only assume it's a bacon-flavored beverage!)

I'm happy to say that our "coffee date" is now live on the site!  You can find it at  And be sure to check out the other posts, too; it will surely quench your craving for adorable dog pictures.

A big thanks to Marshal for inviting us to participate!  Penny and I enjoyed the experience.  (And an excuse for couch-snuggling and coffee drinking!)
Now, back to that oncoming avalanche of art!  You may need to get a shovel ready to dig yourself out of it...  ;)   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Brace Yourself...

A LOT of art.

You have been warned.

Disclaimer: I Photoshopped this image from a "Game of Thrones" wallpaper on Google.  Obviously, I'm not George R.R. Martin or affiliated with his literary legacy in any way; I just wanted to be silly.  :) 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Happy Fall!

Amidst falling leaves and colder temperatures, November always brings to mind one of my favorite things: The Legend of Zelda!  I know that sounds odd, but I had the great pleasure of participating in a Zelda-themed calendar contest in November 2011 and 2012.  While the contest is currently on hiatus, it's ingrained in me that November is unofficially "Zelda Art Month" and I just always have to celebrate my favorite fandom.

My 2014 piece is now finished and I'm pleased to share it with you.  Say hello to autumn Makar! 

Makar is a little woodland creature called a "Korok" from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.  His face is a green leaf and he makes adorable rattling sounds when he waddles around.  Zelda games are full of all sorts of cute and bizarre critters, and Makar is one of my all-time favorites from the series.  I thought it would be fun to celebrate the season with a festive fall Korok piece this year!

I hope you are having a wonderful autumn full of crisp breezes, snuggly blankets, and pumpkin-flavored everything!

Note: Makar and The Legend of Zelda are (c) Nintendo.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween 2014

It's that time of year again: doggy dress-up day!  

In case you've forgotten, my favorite Halloween tradition is cramming my dog, Penny, into a ridiculous costume.  Remember Dragon Penny?  Or Hula Penny?

Well, say hello to...


I seriously have the best dog in the world.  In addition to patiently indulging my need to put googly eyes on top of her head, Penny is a delight on Halloween.  Our trick-or-treat night took place last night, and she was sooooooo excited.

Her tail is a frantically-wagging blur in 90% of the pictures I took and once I got her into her costume, she stood in our kitchen and whined at our front door for at least fifteen minutes.  Since it was "nice" outside (according to my husband; I thought it was freezing), we sat outside with Penny so she could greet everyone.  The neighborhood reactions were the best, from a two-year-old princess who gaped at her like she was a unicorn, to a much-too-old-to-be-trick-or-treating terrifying clown/ape/hobo thing who exclaimed, "Awww!  That's so cute!" and pet her on the head.  And while not everyone guessed that she was a frog, Penny didn't mind being called "Oscar the Grouch" a few times.

Despite the fact that Penny couldn't see (again), this has been her favorite costume by far.  Even my husband thought it was utterly bizarre how excited she'd get every time I went near the outfit all during October.  Apparently, our Cavapoo secretly wishes she was a little green amphibian.

Penny says, "I also wish I could see!  Ribbit!"

Happy Halloween!

I hope you have a fun-filled day brimming with candy, pumpkin lattes, and a never-ending parade of adorable costume-clad pets and kids!   

Monday, October 27, 2014

COSCBWI Meeting October 2014: Chapter Endings

The October COSCBWI Writer Meeting was all about chapter endings.  Writers spend so much time crafting perfect beginnings, but it's equally important to learn how to write engaging endings.  
Regional Advisor, Linda Miller, explained that there are many techniques writers can use to keep readers eagerly turning the page at every chapter ending.  Some of these methods include incorporating cliffhangers, revealing a secret, raising a question, and heightening the action.  It's important to avoid being a tease, though.  No reader wants to face a cliffhanger at the end of EVERY chapter, or have a big action scene constantly sliced in two.  (That's just mean!)  But on the flip side, wrapping up every chapter with a pretty little bow on top is just boring.  (And you don't want your reader ready to catch some zzz's at the end of each chapter!)  The trick is to balance the different tactics across your novel and think about which one complements each scene.  This is where critique partners and beta readers can come in handy, letting you know where they felt inclined to put the book down, and where they inhaled the story and read until 2:00 AM.  Finding the perfect balance can take practice, but it is well worth it to craft a winning manuscript!
Linda also talked about how chapters seem to be getting smaller and smaller all the time.  If you notice a chapter in your own manuscript that seems to be running long, you can spice things up by splitting the scene.  Likewise, if your chapter is too short, you may need to beef it up in order for the reader to feel fulfilled about the scene.  She recommends reading lots of books in your genre and age group to get a feel for common chapter lengths and chapter ending techniques.  What keeps you turning the page when you read a book?  Odds are, the same things that keep you engaged will keep your reader turning pages, too.
Following the presentation, Linda led a group critique where COSCBWI members brought in chapter endings from their own manuscripts.  After reading aloud each sample, we talked about which techniques the writer used and if they could make their ending even more engaging.  It definitely got the wheels of revision turning for everyone!
Lastly, Linda reminded everyone that there will be no COSCBWI Writer or Illustrator meeting at the Tremont Library in November.  Instead, members can take part in a field trip on November 2nd to the Columbus Museum of Art to see, "Imagine!  The Art of the Picture Book."  The exhibit ends in just a few weeks, so this will be one of the last chances to see it.  The tour begins at 1:00 PM.  This event is free and for members only.  Please email to RSVP or ask any questions.  
If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, please visit or "like" the group on Facebook.  I'll be at the museum exhibit this upcoming weekend and hope to see you there!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Illustrating Frenzy

After many weeks of hard work, I'm very happy to say that my fall illustrating frenzy is now complete!  It's been a busy art-filled season with a big array of projects.  So here's a rundown of what I've been up to:

Every fall I look forward to attending the Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference up in Cleveland.  This is the first year I was brave enough to sign up for both an Illustrator Intensive and a Portfolio Review with an art director.

For the Illustrator Intensive, we were assigned a picture book manuscript and asked to create a double-page spread for any scene that inspired us.  The scene I picked was about a little boy who imagined dinosaurs waiting to walk him to the park.  I've never drawn dinosaurs before and had an absolute blast creating this illustration.  (Especially that little T-Rex guy.   I just want to hug him!)

Preparing my portfolio was a teensy bit stressful, but an awesome learning experience.  I decided to finish a few extra illustrations to round out my art selection, including a silly fruit bat I started back in July as part of my Animal Sketch Project...

...And a black and grey illustration of a sad puppy.

The black and grey puppy was actually inspired by a story I wrote in third grade called Tippy.  It was about a family called the 50's (yes, their last name was a number, and always spelled with an apostrophe "s") and their dog, Tippy, who gets lost then has to find her way back home.  As you can tell, it was pretty epic.  I've wanted to do a "Draw This Again" meme for a while now, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  So, ta-da!

I think I improved just a bit over the past 20 years.  ;)

The art director had a lot of encouraging things to say about both my Illustrator Intensive piece and my portfolio, and his feedback was so helpful.  The conference definitely left me feeling inspired!

My brother-in-law got married the same weekend as the conference, and my new sister-in-law asked me to create some illustrations and signs for their big day.  I created signs for their cake pop table and candy buffet--which were both just as delicious as they sound!

The next project was my illustration for the COSCBWI 2nd Annual Member Exhibition.  The event is in the same vein as last year's (when I drew the piece with the mice and mushrooms), only this time the writers did their portion of the project first.  I was assigned a middle grade jacket copy written by fellow COSCBWI member, Kristy Boyce.  My job was to create a cover illustration to go with her hypothetical novel.  I would love to illustrate my own middle grade manuscripts someday, so this was great practice!

We were asked to first create an illustration without words.

And the second step was to superimpose the title and author credit over our art.

Both versions will hang in the final gallery alongside Kristy's jacket copy.

I've never done a project quite like this before, and I had a great time playing around with fonts and adding my own embellishments.  The focus on a human character also made me really step out of my comfort zone.  Drawing more humans is one area of my portfolio that I've wanted to plump up since I'm much more comfortable drawing fuzzy critters.  My little sister was a huge help, letting me borrow her for a reference photo shoot.  (And she was a good sport, too, posing in full winter-gear in 90 degree weather!)

Following the exhibition piece was a goofy monkey illustration for a conference thank you card.  Finding a printer that won't chew up card stock is driving me bananas, but the bananas themselves were fun to draw!

Lastly, my hubby and I painted our big, fat, stupid deck.  It may look nice at first glance, but don't be fooled; it's ginormous and dumb and poorly crafted, with a bagillion rails and annoying lattice work all along the bottom.  We've spent more time fixing it over the past six years than everything inside our house combined--which explains why all of our canned goods are currently on our counter and not in our broken lazy Susan.   I realize this isn't a real art project, but it took 18+ hours and involved using paintbrushes, so I'm counting it.

Next time it needs repairs, we're hiring professionals.  Or burning it down.

And that's everything!  Now you know why this blog has been filled with the sound of cricket chirping since August!  ;)

On a personal, sappy note, the past few weeks have made me realize how awesome people are.  I couldn't have done all this frantic illustrating and met all these deadlines without the help of many people including: a co-worker who likes me enough to go home in the middle of the day to bring me cutting supplies; a sister who had the perfect knapsack and football-sized M&M for reference photos (and oodles of patience for her finicky photographer); another sister who has scrapbooking supplies galore and remembers to pack her camera when I forget mine; a third sister who kept me laughing on the phone at 2:00 in the morning; a stranger who let me commandeer her phone so I could keep time for the art director during the Illustrator Intensive; a puppy who gives me snuggles and kisses whenever I need them (hey, if deck painting counts as an art project, she counts as a person); and a husband who always loves and supports me, even when I drag him out of bed in the middle of the night to help me cut mat board.    

Now it's time for a nap (and maybe a Netflix marathon), then on to new projects!  

Note: "Draw this Again" meme template was created by Bampire on deviantArt.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October 2014: COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting with David Cuccia

The October COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting featured author-illustrator David Cuccia.  Cuccia is the author of There's a Crazy Dog Under the Palace! and the upcoming sequel, Who Ate the Gelato?  He talked to COSCBWI members about the process of writing and illustrating his first book and his experience with indie publishing.
Cuccia's books are unique in the fact that they are published in both English and Italian.  The inspiration for There's a Crazy Dog Under the Palace! came from an Italian tongue-twister, and the main character is based off his beloved dog, Jasmine.  Cuccia knew he wanted to write a book that featured topics near and dear to his heart, that children would have fun reading, and that would help bring some good to the world.  There's a Crazy Dog Under the Palace! does all three.   
Ever since he was young, Cuccia said he loved drawing.  He followed a career in illustrating and decided one day that he wanted to try his hand at children's books.  The writing process was a new challenge, but he had a great time crafting the characters and story.  He showed us his beautiful, original pencil illustrations which he takes into Photoshop and adds a bit of color.  He said that he loves capturing the expressive nature of animals while staying true to their realistic features.  The result is a charming illustration style that appeals to both children and adults.  (And it definitely appeals to animal-lovers like myself!)
Cuccia pursued the indie route to publish his first book.  He explained that there are many things he loves about indie publishing, from his flexibility and control of the story and characters, to being able to write about things that are important to him rather than focusing on what will sell big.  Indie publishing allows him to tell the story the best it can be, in the way the story wants to be told.  On the flip side, he talked about many of the challenges he's had to overcome, from dealing with printing flubs to figuring out how to make his book visible to the public.  He emphasized the importance of promotion--online, in person, and anywhere he can get someone's attention.  Cuccia especially enjoys taking his work straight to young readers with school visits.  At every event, he always makes sure to tie in messages about homeless animals and second chances, and encourages kids to support their local shelters.  While it started off small, his readership and support is steadily growing.  He explained how important it is to stay in the eye of the public, so he's working very hard to finish Who Ate the Gelato?--and then start more books in the series!  
Cuccia hoped that his experience will inspire more writers and illustrators to pursue their publishing goals.  Indie publishing is hard work but very rewarding, and he's enjoying every moment of it.  He said that the most important thing is to think about who you are writing for and why, and be sure to have fun, too!
You can find out more about Cuccia and his books at  I wish him the best of luck with his adorable stories!     
If you would like to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit or "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the next meeting!  
Note: Cover image is from where you can purchase a hardcover copy of There's a Crazy Dog Under the Palace!