Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to become a Giraffe in 7 Steps

In a couple days I'll be heading to New York City for the Annual Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Winter Conference, where my portfolio will be on display during the Friday evening showcase. I should be able to exhale at this point... or at least after I've collected my book and any remaining postcards.

I feel confident approaching the SCBWI conference than I did last year. I'm not going to lie - it took a lot to get here. It's hard becoming a giraffe! At least it's hard to make one's portfolio into a giraffe, but here's how I did it:

Step 1: I planted an Idea seed late in the year 2011. The seed was for marketing materials. Yes. Postcards.
Step 2: The idea flourished into "Aww's" and other kudos and encouragements to "turn this (postcard concept on right) into something."
Step 3: The "Something" became a story.

Step 4: The story became a (mild) obsession. 
Step 5: The obsession became sketches and artwork.

Step 6: The artwork became completed illustrations, which required placement. The portfolio began as a storyboard sketch.

Step 7: Refinement: laying down that last finishing coat to really LOOK like a Giraffe.

I would like to say "The End," but I think we're just getting started. 

If you too are attending this year's NYC conference, feel free to say "Hi!"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


My job as a Graphic Designer is relatively faceless. I am the purveyor of cute craft projects, copy writer, photo re-toucher, and a package assembler. I make something - we agonize over the details - then it's off for print, manufacturing and sales. Next project.

Luck would have it that I occasionally get to dabble into children's crafts, which are incredibly fun. Working with pom-poms, jumbo pipe cleaners, and wiggle eyes just entices nostalgia. It's also inspired  me to return to my interest in picture book illustration. Only in the past year have I re-activated my pursuit to become published. Though I met my publishing goal recently, I am trudging alone with my passion for the picture book audience. When the strain of trying to start-up (and get nowhere) has overwhelmed me, I have to remind myself of why I must to keep going.

Until recently, my "why" is that I feel like I owe something to the community. Reading did not come easily to me. In fact, my struggle persisted through the fourth grade. Up to that point, picture books assisted me in comprehension and spelling. I know I don't have the key to teaching, but as the "maker of all-things cute," I know have the skill to inspire the urge to learn.

But now there's something else hidden in my drive, which I only discovered last week: validation and pride in my work. While browsing through images of Brain Noodle (giant pipe cleaners) projects, a photo stole my breath in a way that I have yet to recover. The picture depicts two girls clearly enamored with their giraffe and turtle critters. On the surface, sure - it's two girls enjoying their toys. Those are not just toys - these girls took time to assemble something I designed. Not only did I design these critters, I made these for them. Nobody needs to know that I had a hand in the creation of this kit, but it is incredibly touching to see something I created, being appreciated. As a Graphic Designer, I am paid for my creative skills and that alone. It is not my name on the box; I do not need credit for making this kit, but I feel like this picture has validated everything I've been working for.

Now as a picture book Illustrator, I will get to see the impact of my work. I can meet with my audience vis-à-vis. I know the day will come when I will have a fan. This child will be able to tell me directly that they liked my drawings. I can curtsey and say "Thank you very much!" because I really appreciate their attention. Everything I make, I do because I enjoy doing it and I know there someone else out there who will value what I do in a way one cannot attach to a salary. It's just sad that it didn't dawn on me until now, that I can make a positive impact someone. It's life-affiming for me.

So I wanted to take a moment just to thank *Mari and her girls for the review. It's gratifying to not only see stuff we make being used, but even more-so when we (I) get to witness care and thoughtfulness being expressed through action. It's true - actions do speak louder than words. It's a bit of a cliche, but it's valid. Also, I think it's serendipitous for the specific projects to be selected, because I just so happen to be working on a picture book story about a giraffe and turtle going on an adventure together.

*In case anyone is curious, Mari's blog can be found here: and the post which inspired this spiel is linked in the text. 

Thank you!

Saturday, January 05, 2013


I'm starting my 2013 with a made up word. Portfolio-izing is the act of "accessorizing" or enhancing one's portfolio. By "one" I mean my own. As you can see in my snippet above, I've transformed my portfolio into a giraffe pelt. The WHOLE portfolio looks like a giraffe now. This is just a close-up of the finished patterning:

Lately I've been playfully gussying up my portfolio for the Annual SCBWI NY Conference. I'm beside myself with giddiness to get back into the city to show off my collection. I'm spending my weekend deciding on the interior pages and assembling my dummy book. This is what it looks like for me to "plot" out my portfolio pagination:

I've got a lot of work to do, but I'm confident with the pieces I have completed. I can hardly wait to have my completed giraffe portfolio. Some of the "interior" bits can be found in my online portfolio. A few more pages will be making their way into the final book.