“The next lesson will be on ‘critique,” says Girllustrator Lalena Fisher. “We’ll talk about how we work together as a group. How to find your tribe. How to make a group last.

“We’ll talk about productive critique skills and how to critique yourself.

“So, appropriately we thought, the next prompt is a relationship. We hope you will create an illustration depicting a relationship.”

Lalena has designed characters and backgrounds for the kids’ TV shows Blues Clues and Wonder Pets as well as created graphic designs for the New York Times. The Girllustrators are a group of talented women in Austin, Texas who unite for sharing, support, and shop talk in the field of children’s illustration.

As a group, they’ll talk about ten (10) of the pieces submitted this month. They’ll examine them as if they were assessing their own latest work as if we were in one of their monthly huddles in Austin. If your piece doesn’t get selected for discussion on the 26th, don’t despair. We’ll look at it in a series ‘after party’ session this fall.

Art by Lalena Fisher

Art by Lalena Fisher

In the workshop, they’ll answer difficult questions like How do they know when to add or take away something from a work in progress? What is their checklist for evaluating a final illustration – to decide if it’s ‘working’ and ready to ship? How have they managed to stay friends and together as a group for so many years while remaining honest in their critiques and professional pushing of each other?

It’s one you’ve been waiting for – taught by not one but a SWAT team of working artists, all of whom have wrestled with many of the same issues you have, and over time, have found representation and publishing success.

Come join us for the series! As a registrant, you’ll be invited to all of the live workshops in the series and have ‘lifetime’ access to the recordings. You’ll receive details on how to upload your work and participate when you register.


Some of the Girllustrators

Patrice Barton is the illustrator of the award-winning picture books MINE! by Shutta Crum (Knopf, 2011) and The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig (Knopf, 2013). Her chapter books include the Junior Library Guild selections The Year of the Three Sisters, an Anna Wang novel by Andrea Cheng (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) and The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard (FSG, 2009). She’s represented by Christina Tugeau of The CAT Agency.

Marsha Riti has illustrated 12 books and all of the covers for The Critter Club series of picture books for Simon and Schuster Publishing.

Lalena Fisher has designed characters and backgrounds for TV’s Blue’s Clues and The Wonder Pets, and created graphics for The New York Times. Her educational press clients have included Oxford University Press, McGraw-Hill, and Benchmark. Her first picture book, Pursuit of the Magic Piece was published in 2015. She’s represented in children’s books by Lara Perkins at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Luz Marie Iturbe, fine artist, graphic designer a native of Mexico is writing and illustrating a series of apps that helps children learn Spanish as well as picture books teaching children about craft and traditions.

Vanessa Roeder, aka Nessa Dee, has illustrated six picture books, including The Angel Guardian, Varla’s Gift, and Useless and for Highlights Magazine. A muralist, too, she creates art for children’s magazines, picture books, and homes. She’s represented by Rebecca Sherman of Writers House Agency.

Emma J. Virján is a graphic designer the author-illustrator of the popular Pig in a Wig picture book series, published by HarperCollins. She’s represented by Edite Kroll of the Edite Kroll Literary Agency.

You can register here!


The Hundred Acre Wood map sets a record at Sotheby’s

The original drawing of the map that appears on the end papers of A.A. Milne’s beloved book “Winnie-the-Pooh” sold at a Sotheby’s auction for  $570,000 — setting a new record for the sale of a book illustration, according to this CNN News story

Sotheby’s tweeted about the event on July 10 showing a photo of the framed map, drawn by Ernest H. Shepard for the first printing of Winnie the Pooh in 1926.

“Ridiculous.” tweeted one follower.

While another tweeted, “The sensation of youth and adventure are brimming from this map, as well as a feeling of how young people would perceive the world and mix it in with fantasy.”

Ashdown Forest, located 40 miles south of London reported inspired Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

Did you have a similar little woods in your childhood that you felt ‘belonged” to you, in your imagination at least? I remember one or more from each of the several places where I grew up. Did you populate it in your mind with different animal characters, with their respective dominions?

According to Wikipedia, Shepard modeled Pooh not on the toy owned by Milne’s son Christopher Robin as popular legend has it, but on Growler, a stuffed bear that was owned by his own son.

Some other Pooh sketches by Shepard valued at between $80,000 and $160,000 were included in the auction, the story said.

An oil painting Shepard made of Pooh was purchased for $243,000 in a London auction in 2000.

Shepard is famous for illustrating other beloved children’s books in addition to the Winnie the Pooh books. These include The Wind in the Willows (1931) and The Reluctant Dragon (1939) both by Kenneth GrahameMother Goose, and an edition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Mary Poppins drawn by Mary Shepard

Shepard’s daughter Mary Shepard illustrated the Mary Poppins series of books by P.L. Travers, which began in 1934.

According to her obituary in The New York Times, the physical model for the Mary Poppins character was a wooden peg Dutch doll with coal black hair, “a turned up nose and small, bright blue eyes” that author Travis found in an attic. Shepard didn’t rely on that particular doll for her picture reference but acquired a similar one to draw from.

Our takeaway: Draw the stuffed animals (and dolls) in your life – and for heaven’s sake, remember to illustrate a map for your story. 🙂

See Sotheby’s own account of the sale, the full map and four other amazing Pooh drawings that were part of the auction and a lovely short video here.

Many thanks to my brother Scott, who alerted me to this news item.

Winnie the Pooh book

One more chance for Coloured Pencil Bootcamp, starting August 1

I had the thrill of learning to use artists’ colored pencils ‘the right way’ in last year’s Coloured Pencil Boot Camp taught by fine artist Cindy Wider. The classes were a tour de force of demonstrations, exercises and individualized instruction and critiques, all done on a private Facebook page.

Cindy has a unique way of analyzing and breaking down representational drawing into the simplest steps.

I also seem to remember some good-natured barking/motivating by ‘drill instructor’ Stuart (Cindy’s husband and an artist himself.)

He had only 30 days to whip us into shape, after all. (You can see one of my homework pieces on the right, the apple exercise.)

Apple drawing by Mark Mitchell for Cindy's class

Apple drawing by Mark Mitchell for Cindy’s class

They were both encouraging, though she had the more maternal approach.

Each media – be it graphite, charcoal or color pencil – has its special ‘language’ and Cindy has each absolutely figured out. Her method brings you to a deep connection with your materials. As you develop your subject (the form in the light) on your paper, it comes naturally to life before your eyes. It’s something to experience.

They’re doing it again, starting on August 1: Coloured Pencil Bootcamp devoted to helping you master effective color pencil art in one month.

Learn from Cindy and her team of superb instructors how to handle color pencils with the power, confidence, and professionalism you might have dreamed of but never thought possible for yourself.

In 30 days. Because it’s boot camp.

Discover more the Coloured Pencil Bootcamp  here.