Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In My Bath, and Author interview

Beth Bence Reinke, the author of In My Bath has a lovely interview posted here on Beverly Stowe McClure's Blog. I think you will really enjoy how she arrived at the story and the inspirations that helped her create such a winning work.
I was pleased to have been chosen to illustrate her story. The images she describes can only contribute more fun to bathtime.
          Beth Bence Reinke

Look what I got!

Last week I received my first copy of my latest illustrated children's book "Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too!", by Sylvan Dell Publishing, written by Sherry North. The book is due to be released this August.

It's such a great feeling holding a new book in my hand. It always brings back memories of all of the hard work that goes into illustrating a children's book.

I dedicated the book to my dog, Sunshine. :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vanessa Brantley Newton ~ An Interview

What helped you decide to become a Children's Book illustrator?

 Desire and need.  I desired to see picture books that I saw when I was a child and most of those illustrators and writers are long gone but their stories and pictures are indelibly printed on my brain forever. I wanted to give that same gift to some child and perhaps some adult as well.  I have also learned through the publishing industry that there is a great need for African American children to see themselves in picture books. It is my joy to create character that not just African Americans can relate to, but a very multicultural generation.  It does my heart good to see a child beholding themselves or seeing a character that reminds them of themselves or Mommy or dad, Grandma or Auntie or a playmate.  It's priceless!

Did you have formal art school training, or are you self taught?

  I am largely self taught, but I have attend both The Fashion Institute of Technology as well as The School of Visual Arts both in New York.

How did you go about breaking into Children's Book Illustration?

 My husband has been without full time employ for close to 7 years.  9 11 really took a toll on his work as an AreoSpace engineer.  I hadn't really been doing much work in the field of illustration working as a full time phlebotomist and then I was laid off as well and we had no income coming in. I started painting again to bring a little money in.  Before I knew it I was pulling out all my books on children's book illustration and writing. I ate them up and studied and honed my craft.  My husband and I picked up some part time work to bring money in, but we needed more.  I purchased a copy of  "The Children's Writers and Illustrations Market"  It became a bible so to speak for me. I studied it and read it everyday.  My living room table was filled with piles of artwork that I had created.  My husband became so frustrated with our living room looking like an art studio.  I was asked to clean up the living room and I really tried, but I couldn't do it fast enough.  A friend called to say that she was coming over.  I tried to remove as much art work as I could before she got there, but I still had a pile of work there.  My friend and I spent hours talking and she started asking me , "Who's artwork is this?"  I told her it was mine and apologized for having it all over the place.  She turned to me and asked, " Do you know what I do for a living?" She and I never talked about work or anything of the sort it was to stressful for me.  Anyway, I said," I have no idea."  She then said, " Vanessa, I work for Scholastic Inc. I am a Chief Editor of Read and Rise Magazine and we are looking for your kind of work.  YOU ARE HIRED!"  I've been working in children's books ever since.  Boy am I  glad I didn't clean off that table.
he he he he!!

What motivates you and how do you stay inspired?

 Looking at other artist and illustrators work, reading all kinds of children's books, visiting illustrator blogs and collecting vintage children's books.

What do you love about being a Children's Book Illustrator?

 The ability to play and create characters that live inside my head. To bring them to life on a piece of paper and then give them stories to live out their imaginations and thoughts.

What types of challenges do you face when researching information for your illustrations? 

 I wish that there was a book for illustrators that had pictures of what I needed as reference for a story that I am illustrating at the time.  I know that there is stuff on the internet, but sometimes it's hit or miss for me. I want to create such reference hand book for illustrators.  Like, when you need to see a child walking home from school you would be able to see a picture reference of the child walking from every view and in a spring scene, winter or fall.  We would be able to see it from different perspective as well.

Tell us about your workspace. Do you have a studio? 

 We are in the process of moving right now.  Packing and boxes.  I have taken a small little area in our daughters room for now to work in while she is at school.  It's just big enough for me to do my digital work in.  If I am working on collage or a larger piece of work I go downstairs to our dinning room and work there.  In the house that we are moving too now, I will have a studio to work in and I am excited about that!!!

How do you work or how do you approach an assignment? 

First with lots of excitement! he he he he!  I do lots of research on what it is that I'm going to be illustrating if it's a children's book.
 I read the manuscript over and over and over again.  I do some character sketches and then I do lots of research.  I will go to the library or look through some of my own books.  Sometimes Lori Norwicki my agent, will brainstorm with me.  When I feel like I'm ready, I do some really loose ugly thumbnails.  They are just me.  It's storyboarding that gets me sometime.  It's one of the hardest things for me.   Once I feel comfortable with my thumbnail I start laying out each page. I like work in spreads when doing books.  If I am working on a greeting card or ad, I start with some inspiration. I visit blogs of my fellow illustrators or purchase some fashion magazines and news papers just to get a bead on the project.  Then I do some rough sketch and then after approvals I dive in!

Do you make school visits? library talks? book siginings?  How can interested parties contact you?

I do lots of school visits as well as library readings and a few book signings too. They can contact Coy L. Curry who manages appearances and appointments for me.

Have you been published? If so, where can we find your books. 

Yes.  You can find my books at Barnes and Nobles and of course

What are you working on now? 

 I am working on three books right now.  Magic Trash, One Love, and Zulay.All of these will be released later this year.

What is something about you that kids might like to know?

  I love, love, LOVE watching cartoons.  I enjoy watching hours of Chowder, Dexter's Lab, The Power Puff Girls, Finius and Freb and Sponge Bob as well as my old favorites, Bugs Bunny, The Flintstones, and Top Cat.

What advice would you give to those hoping to write and illustrate children's books?  

I love what I get to do every single day.  I hone it with reading both good and bad children's books. I watch children. I enjoy being with children.  I would say you have to somewhat like children and think a little like them. For me a lot like them.  Do some research of your own. Go to Barnes and Nobles and look at what they have on display. Purchase  a few children's books and then purchase some books on writing and illustrating children's books.  Develop a great portfolio of work YOU LOVE.  Put only the best stuff into that portfolio.  If you are worried about not having things to put into your portfolio not to worry. Give yourself some projects. Get an old fairy tale and illustrate a spread or two. Do some of the illustration prompts for Illustration Friday. This will build work for your portfolio.  It doesn't have to be a hired work. It's your personal work and this is fine.  Write everyday. I don't care if it's note to your child or family member a thought or idea for a book. Just write and draw something everyday. Lastly, believe that it can happen. You all have heard how hard it is to break into this business.  Question is, " How badly do you want to write or illustrate children's book?" I was determined to do this whether I publisher picked up my book or not. I knew that I had something to say and something to draw and I did it, scared, but I did! Oh one more thing, "If you are going to survive out here you have GOT to develop a strong and very thick skin. Learn to take criticism very early on.  It's nothing personal just the natural part of the business of creating illustrations and stories for the publishing industry.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nikki Boetger Illustrator

What helped you decide to become a Children's Book illustrator?
I decided very early in high school to focus on going to art school. I attended Columbus College of Art & Design and during that time you meet with advisors to see where your strengths are. I originally wanted to work in the animation field, as a storyboard artist, but my advisors really pushed me to consider Illustration as a field. I researched and talked to teachers and other illustrators and decided it did fit my lifestyle and allowed me to do more with my talents. So, I moved my major to Illustration and am SO very happy I did.
Did you have formal art school training, or are you self taught?
I grew up drawing on the back of place mats in restaurants, on the back of school papers and in handmade sketchbooks. As I moved up through school, art teachers acknowledged my abilities and made extra effort to challenge me in art. In high school, teachers really suggested this to me and so I researched the idea and knew right away that going to art school was meant for me. I attended Columbus College of Art and Design from 1997 to 2001 and graduated with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts and Illustration.
How did you go about breaking into Children's Book Illustration?
It actually happened by accident. I was working on building a strong portfolio and felt I was in NO way ready to start submitting to publishers or other children's illustrating markets. I had started a blog to start to get feedback on my work and start to be involved in the online community. The editor on my first picture book found me by visiting my blog. I was VERY nervous, but it really gave me confidence to say that I was ready to start submitting and to, well, JUMP in!
What motivates you and how do you stay inspired?
Right now I work as a part time Illustrator and still work a full time day job as a graphic designer for a library system. Whenever I need motivation I head to the children's department to just flip through picture books. It is great therapy and really helps to get my artistic juices flowing.
What do you love about being a Children's Book Illustrator?
I love getting emails from parents and their children telling me what they liked or loved about the illustrations. It reminds me why illustration is so important to promoting literacy. I also love being able to start from the beginning and reading the manuscript for the first time and starting to envision what the pages might look like. They never end up as they were in the beginning stages. The evolution of an illustration can be an amazing process to watch!
How do you work or how do you approach an assignment?
I like to start by just reading the story, over and over and over again. I keep a notebook and each time I go through the script I get new ideas. After I feel like I have a good amount of notes. I then see it as a puzzle. How should the pages turn?, Where does the actions happen?, How can I make this interesting to parents as well as children?, are some of the questions I ask myself. Then I start to make more sense of my notes and formulate a plan for the book. During this process, I like to run ideas past the editor or art director, to makes sure I am not steering away from their vision. Once I have a good game plan I start thumbnail sketches of the layout, sort of like a storyboard. And it goes from there....

Do you make school visits? library talks? book siginings?  How can interested parties contact you?
Though I haven't done many visits as of yet, I am very willing to do school and library visits and book signings. It is a lot of fun to talk to people about books and literacy, but put an illustrator's spin on why it's so important. You can find contact information for me on my website,
Have you been published? If so, where can we find your books.
I have two picture books out now. 
What's Wrong with Mud? written by Gillian Colley This book is available for purchase by contacting me or by visiting
Lemur Troops and Critter Groups written by Rena Jones This book is available for purchase by visiting or the publisher's website at

What are you working on now?
I am finishing the second book in the Critter Series, Stork Musters and Critter Clusters and working on the third book, Pony Strings and Critter Things. I am also working with my agent on some projects that are considered, "unmentionable" at this time.
What advice would you give to those hoping to write and illustrate children's books?
This business is a lot different for authors than it is illustrators, in my opinion. It is a very hard business to get started in, but once you get your feet wet it is very rewarding and worth every rejection letter you have received or will receive in the future!!! 

Nikki Boetger

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mark Hicks Author/Illustrator

What helped you decide to become a Children's Book illustrator?
It has been a life-long passion. As I child I would write and illustrate stories whenever I could. (Often in class to the dismay of my teachers.) I loved books and I loved drawing. It just seemed like a natural thing to do.

Did you have formal art school training, or are you self-taught?
I’m self-taught and proud of it. I tried taking a drawing class once in college. On the first day of class there was a bowl of fruit on the table.  Ever since fourth grade I had drawn a bowl of fruit on the first day of art class. I was already working as an artist and I certainly didn’t want to draw any more bowls of fruit. So I changed to a business class and started learning more about drawing and art on my own.

How did you go about breaking into Children's Book Illustration?
I knew I wasn’t going to just jump into freelancing and become a children’s book illustrator right away. I knew I was going to have to prove myself, so I started out by doing art for children’s magazines and other publications and eventually started submitting samples of my work to children’s book publishers. My first book assignment was about postal workers. Not the type of first book assignment that I had dreamed of, but it was a start.

Have you been published? If so, where can we find your books?
You can find my books in the library, bookstore, online, and on at my website,

What are you working on now?
Some magazine assignments, a couple of book ideas, and some inventions.

What advice would you give to those hoping to write and illustrate children's books?
Persevere. Perseverance is a large part of being a successful writer and illustrator. Don't give up when your art is rejected by a publisher. You can’t give up when others doubt you. Find a way to tell your story and/or show your art.

What is something about you that kids might like to know?
I’m still a child at heart and I love creating fun stuff for kids of all ages. Go here for some of my fun stuff:

What is something about you that everybody might like to know?
I dream of creating for the joy of creating. I have literally thousands of ideas for paintings, books, inventions, sculptures, and much more. My goal is not really to have these projects published or for them to become commercial successes, but simply to create.  However, for reasons I don’t understand, there seems to be unseen forces in this world that prevent so many creatives from fulfilling their dreams by placing insurmountable obstacles in their creative path. And, sadly, I seem to be no exception. But oh, to think what I could do if I could just find the time, support, and resources to match my imagination.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Over the next few weeks the PICTURE BOOKIES GROUP will be featuring interviews with the talented members of this group.
You can look for them on FRIDAYS , beginning June 11, 2010 and we hope you will not only comment on their views, journeys, and accomplishments but will feel free to ask questions, visit their personal websites, explore their books and encourage them to reach ever higher.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Strange Pets

Hello Everyone.
It's been a long while, but I wanted to share with you this
new book that I am working on called, "Strange Pets"
I am working on the sketches right now and hope to have
it finished by Christmas. What's the strangest pet you
ever saw??? Have a good one.

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Books for 2010...

 This past year and a half has been a fortunate one for me as an illustrator. It proves that really hard work pays off... well it may not pay as well financially, but it certainly does pay
in credits, books illustrated,good karma, and nice rewards as the books begin to sell*:).

Four of the books I have illustrated are either available now, or will be this fall. Working with Stemmer House Publishers for Daniel and the Harmonica was a joyful challenge. Due out in September the picture book challenged me to create crowds of people for a young boy's day out in the park with his harmonica. Robert Dubreuil's story asks "What could happen if you play a very special harmonica in a park on a sunny afternoon?"

This book will delight the 4-9 group and may be the beginning of a young harmonica player's career in your home.

Also due out this fall is A Wish and A Prayer, by Beth Bence Reinke. I really enjoyed working on the illustrations for this picture book that asks the question, "Is a Wish better than a Prayer?"
As soon as I have my copies, I plan to read this one at our children's time in church and leave several copies in the church libraries.  A good target audience for this book is the 5-8 year old but it could be used easily for 4-9 because of the gentle message.

Currently available from the publisher, 4RV PUBLISHING, LLC are In My Bath, by Beth Bence Reinke,  is a great book for the pre-schooler and kindergarten to first grade crowd.

If Wishes Were Fishes, by N.A.Sharpe, will be fun to read for all the
havoc it causes for J.T.  For anyone in primary school and even before, this book will have them laughing and most likely trying to do exactly as J.T. does.

 You can order  In My Bath and If Wishes Were Fishes right now and also available for  Pre-order, A Wish and A Prayer by Beth Bence Reinke.

When you order the books, any or all,  just shoot me an email and I will  send you an illustrated, signed book plate for your copy or one you plan to give as a gift.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Coloring Contest!

Starting today and ending June 22nd, I am having a coloring contest for my picture book, Lemur Troops & Critter Groups. The contest is open to children 10 and under. All you have to do is copy the sheet above and give to a child to color. Once the sheet has been colored, scan it and email it back to me and I will be posting them in a special slideshow and album.

Each child who enters will be put into a special drawing for a chance to win a book related prize. If for some reason you can't scan it, please contact me for a way to mail it in.


The Website Revamped!

So I figured it was time to revamp my website. You know... update the portfolio, give it new look that jives better with the blog. I hope you'll check it out and tell me what you think!