Saturday, January 31, 2009

Anatomy of a chapter book...

I have just completed work on my first Black and White (inside) chapter book. The cover is done also, in living color, but I can't post that here.

For purposes of this post, however, I wanted to share the process I followed to get from the early sketching stage to the final finishes.

After reading the manuscript several times, (actually lots of times) I began with some character sketches. These are usually large because I like the freedom of just "letting go" and getting a good free feeling to the character.

Once I had pages and pages of these done I created a story board for the entire INSIDE portion of the book. As I finished each rough I printed a tiny copy of it and pasted it into my story board.

All those pencil notes on the story board are the comments from the editor/designer as we worked on composition and character and paid attention to the details in the manuscript that needed to be illustrated.

Each time I FINISHED a drawing I made a print out and posted those larger full size Black & Whites on the Bulletin Board that faces me as I work. I find that this helps to create a consistency of character and mood as I work. Style is important too. It helps me to see the particular type of line or hatching I am using as I go from one finished B&W to the next.

This last photo is the bulletin board with all 18 drawings displayed. I know the story almost by heart now, and it is a beautiful one. When the book is out I will post more information and some close ups as well as the cover, ISBN and places where you can find the finished product.

Although I am a children's book illustrator, this book seems to me to appeal to an older audience, one that moves easily into the adult range with its charm and meaningful message. I'll be sharing more about "WHEN WISHES COME TRUE" by Barbara B Slater, in the coming months.

INTERESTING ITEM: During the work on this book we had a huge ICE STORM here in NH and we were without power for 9 days. Fortunately when the editor called, I had all my storyboard finished and we were able to discuss the entire book over the phone. This is another good reason for digital artists to have a traditionally available copy, or at least a print out of work completed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I thought I would share something with you that happened to me today in the hope that it might encourage you to go beyond just illustrating your children's books, and consider school appearances. I think I've harped on this topic before. It's pays so well, it seems like every illustrator would want to pursue it.
Donating your book to a school library is a great way to get invited to do a school program. (The two authors at my wife's school will be paid $1200 and $1800 for one school day.) It works like a charm for me. It seems that schools are always excited to make contact with authors.
I normally drop by a school at the end of the school day so I can catch the librarian at a time when she's not in class with the students. So this afternoon I walked into the school office with my book in hand and said that I had a book for the librarian. The office person was a little reluctant at first. "Are you a salesman?" she asked.
"No, I'm the author and illustrator of this book," I replied as I placed the Washington for Kids book in front of her. Suddenly, her whole demeanor changed.
"Oh! I think Miss Jones is still in the library," she said as she picked up the phone to call the librarian.
Miss Jones picked up immediately. "Miss Jones? We have an "actual" author here with a book to donate to the library!" The librarian was in the school office within a minute. We had a good exchange, and she indicated that they would like to have me bring my program to their school next year.
Today's experience made me glad that I'm an author, and not a salesman. Though I actually am a salesman, selling my school appearances, but they don't think of me in that way.
I hope this anecdote might encourage you to try promoting yourself to schools as an author. You will then have a brand new income source.

Paws, Claws, Hands and Feet - Moose and Magpie

Thought I would update everyone on what I have been working on. This month Paws, Claws, Hands and Feet arrives in stores and on bookshelves. I am very excited about this book.

Published by the Sylvan Dell Publishing
Written By Kimberly Hutmacher
Illustrated by Sherry Rogers


I just finished another book titled Moose and Magpie. As the title of the book conveys there were initially only two main characters in the book. But through the creative writing of the author I saw a subplot and illustrated three more characters into the book. It was a great fun to illustrate and I am privileged to get to work so much with Donna at Sylvan Dell. She is such a gem!

Published by the Sylvan Dell Publishing
Written By Bettina Restrepo
Illustrated by Sherry Rogers

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cora Cooks Pancit

What have I been working on? Mainly this book: Cora Cooks Pancit for Shen's Books.

Cora loves the kitchen, but her older brother and sisters always get to help with the real cooking while she gets stuck with kid jobs like licking the spoon. When her older siblings head out for the day, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama's assistant chef. She chooses to make her Grandpa's pancit recipe, a Filipino noodle dish.

The pancit recipe is included in the book, and it's delicious! My husband and I made a big pot of pancit a few weeks ago, and we've already bought ingredients to make it again. Mmmm...

Amazon says the book will be out in April, so look for it in April or May in your bookstore!

-Kristi Valiant

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winston Wednesdays

I thought I would post the newest installment of Winston Wednesdays Here.... the others and this one will be found on my personal illustration blog each Wednesday. If you have little ones, you might want to take a peek each Wednesday to see what happens next in the Adventures of Winston the Wonderhound.

Having been Bumped right out of the moat, Winston and Roxxanne found themselves directly in front of a tearful young lady. Although they were already dripping wet, her tears threatened to keep them from drying off at all.

"What is the matter?" Winston asked.

"I have such a HUGE problem," replied the young lady. " A DRAGON has broken into the kitchen at the castle, where I am the cook. "

"Wow!" Winston was amazed. "Is it still there?"
"Y...Y... YES!" sobbed the cook. "And it is EATING all the fine china!"
"Bummer." Roxxanne had to put in her two cents.

"And, if I can't get all that china back before tonight the Queen will have my head!"

"Oh," said Winston, " she wouldn't do that .... would she?"

"She certainly would," the cook wiped her eyes with the edge of her apron, "and tonight is her birthday party. She plans to serve soup from her Royal Golden Soup Tureen."

"And, I take it that was eaten too." Winston guessed.

"Absolutely," replied the cook,"along with the silver ladle and all the fine crystal. What am I going to do?"

...........good question...... tune in next Wednesday.

Working sketch for this segment.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I try to avoid caricatures as much as possible. They're my least favorite artistic pursuit,but it's such quick, easy money at $150 an hour, that I usually do them anyway.

These are two from a batch that I did for some teachers at a school that I appeared at some time back. I would encourage you to try your hand at caricatures if you think you have a knack for it. You get booked into an event, you sit there and draw as fast as you can for two hours and up, and pick up a check on the way out the door. I always groan when I take in a caricature job, but I don't have to wait for a month or more to get paid, which is a big plus.

Gift caricatures are my preference. Someone calls and wants a caricature of their Aunt Millie for her retirement party. They usually meet with me with one or more photos for me to draw from, then I go on over to my coffee shop and draw it up. These were done in graphite, but most of my caricatures are drawn in ink on paper, then scanned into Photoshop to be colored.

Let me know if you have any questions about caricaturing and making money at it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The tiny house

There is a wonderful tree near the roadside with a strange configuration. The top seems to be divided from the bottom by a crossing of roots and stones. Under that crossway is a tiny hole in the lower portion. I always wondered if there used to be a tiny house right there. I suppose the inhabitants have since moved away and that is why it is so dark now, but I just like to imagine what it might have looked like when those tiny creatures made it their home.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year... a bit late

Well, this a bit late, but I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends, and had time to reflect on the true meaning of CHRISTmas!
My husband and I took a friend of ours who's an international student here in southern Indiana up to Wisconsin to visit my family for Christmas. There is a crazy amount of snow in Wisconsin this year - close to 30" when we got there! Our international student from Korea had never seen so much snow, so we had lots of fun with snowball fights and giddily playing around in snow. It reminded me of winters when I was young - we would dig snow tunnels through our backyard (see the photo below). When I was little, our small city in Wisconsin would flood all the football fields at the elementary schools to make them into ice skating rinks. We would ice skate for recess! These kind of moments that transport me back to being a kid are incredible bits of momentum for writing and illustrating picture books. May your new year be filled with childhood memory momentum too.

Happiest, magical, New Year to all....

Friday, January 2, 2009

Artist's Agents, 101

Happy New Year, Picture Bookies! Why not check out my latest article for The Prairie Wind, the SCBWI-IL's online newsletter. The article is called "Artist's Agents, 101", where I share with readers the basics of what an artist's agent's job is, and what they can do for you.

I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year!