Celtic Doodles


‘A’ with animal head and simple spirals, and key pattern background.

A while ago I needed a small sketchbook for a specific purpose. The small Moleskine book was the perfect size, and it came in a 3-pack. This meant I had two extra Moleskine journals that were just begging to be filled. So as a way to keep my knot work skills up to date I decided to do a Celtic alphabet. The top of each page is a continuation of one long knot panel that will, once I get to ‘Z’, be formed by one line. The tops of the letter panels will also be even with each other. Those three horizontal lines are the only ones that I’m measuring or using a straightedge on. Also, because I’m doing my layout directly in the sketchbook, I have to erase a lot and some of the pen lines need to be cleaned up in Photoshop, along with correcting any mistakes I make. But for the most part, I’m trying not to do too much digital touch-up.


‘B’ with spirals inspired by the Lindisfarne Gospels.

This is meant to be a fun exercise for myself, so I’m not slavishly following a particular manuscript or exemplar. I’m picking letter-forms that I like and that I think will make interesting little pieces of art. I’ll try to post the letters as they get done. Perhaps one day I might color them too.



Doll Bones

Doll Bones Cover

Holly Black (The Curse Workers series, Spiderwick Chronicles, etc) has a new book out. Doll Bones was released May 7th by Margaret K. McElderry Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). I was lucky enough to pick up an ARC at the ALA conference when it was in Seattle this last winter. I sucked it down like lemonade on a hot day. It’s the kind of book that makes me sigh when I’m done. And I don’t normally read middle grade fiction. Doll Bones is a story that I don’t really want to classify by genre. It is a mystery, a horror story, a coming of age tale, all delightfully rolled into one.

I won’t go into the mystery because I want to leave it for you, the reader, to discover. The horror aspect of the story is that slow, steady building of dread you find in good Gothic horror. No monsters jumping out of closets or that nonsense. But what really shines here is the story of the three main characters, two girls and a boy. We get to see (and feel) their relationship as it passes from childhood to the cusp of young adulthood; the things they are willing to leave behind, and the things they are not. It is sweet and touching, and creepy and mysterious. I loved every minute of it.

Read it.

A Thank You

Over the weekend of April 19-21 I attended the SCBWI Western Washington regional conference in Redmond. I could talk about all the fun stuff I did and the cool things I learned, but there was something different this year. For the first time since I started going to these conferences (six years?) I put my portfolio on display.  My excuse (whether valid or not) was that I didn’t have enough pieces worth showing. But at the 2011 conference, I got hooked up with an illustration critique group and it’s safe to say that if I hadn’t, my portfolio would not have been there.

So as a thank-you to these wonderful folks, they get the spotlight today. Their websites/blogs are listed in the side bar. Please check out their work.

In alphabetical order here’s my fab five:
Amanda Sartor does amazing digital and traditional work with sometimes a dark twist. Well, perhaps more than sometimes. She’s been doing covers and some interior illustrations. And recently she found out that two of her pieces will be in Spectrum 20, a collection of top-notch fantasy/sci-fi art. Let’s hope for more good things to come her way. Oh, and here’s her blog.

Kathryn Dennis has co-written (with Melissa Mahle) a middle grade adventure novel, ‘Lost in Petra’. It just received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. As the subject line in her e-mail to us said…OMG. You can read the review at the book’s website. She also does delightful digital art that you can see at her blog.

Liz Wong got her certificate in Art for the Children’s Market in the same class that I did. See won the best portfolio award at last year’s regional conference and she is also one the instigators for putting this group together. Because of connections made at that conference, she came to the attention of Alexandra Penfold, former editor for Paula Wiseman Books at Simon and Schuster, and now a new agent at Upstart Crow Literary. And now representing Liz.

Susan Pope, the gracious host of our gang, will soon be receiving a certificate from the University of Washington in Natural Scientific Illustration. She intends to put it to use illustrating non-fiction books for kids. Check out her art and stay tuned.

Zack Rock, an egregious punster who also happens to do fabulous watercolor illustrations, had two pieces selected to be on display at this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair. To be selected takes beating some pretty long odds, and his stuff is worth it. Read about it on his blog and see it on his website.