Picture Books – Length & Layout

When I’m working on picture book dummies but I can never remember how many spreads I can have! I usually use Debbie Ohi’s templates. Although lately I’ve been marking down tiny boxes in my sketchbook that are literally thumbnail sized to help me explore pacing and page turns as I work through revisions. As illustrators we do have a number of options for using those pages. Most of the hardcover books in my own collection are 40 page self-ended. I asked around various kidlit groups and have been reassured that the vast majority of picture books are 32 pages. A browse through one of my local libraries revealed very few 32 page self-ended books but many 32 page separate-ended books but 40 page picture books were definitely not a rarity. If you’re not sure what I mean by self-ended, separated-ended, or endpapers there are links at the bottom of Debbie’s post that explain. I also found this endpaper Q&A with Cecelia Yung by Robin Rosenthal over at PenandOink very helpful. My conclusion: when writing, write with 32 pages in mind. When illustrating, focus on variety, pacing, and strong page turns. I thought I’d share what I’ve dubbed my Picture Book Layout Cheat Sheet – a handy little reminder of the possible options with examples that I can refer back to. If you’ve found other unique or interesting layouts I’d love to hear about them.

PB layout cheat sheet

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

I haven’t blogged since February but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. My tag-line for the year 2018 has been Get It Done or Make It Happen. Which means I’ve been very, very, busy.

Besides working away on my writing & illustration projects, I’ve been hard at work upping my art game as well. In the spring I was commissioned to paint a mural to promote kindness at Gesner Street School. I hear the kids were thrilled to see their “Gesner Rock” in the mural.


I  participated in my first Plein Air Festival – Paint the Past at Kingslanding. It was really refreshing to get outside and spend an entire weekend painting. Meeting & chatting with the other painters was the icing on the cake. I plan to add the paintings to my Art Page soon. Here’s a look at my look from the first day. Stay Tuned for the final works!

Paint the Past 2018 day 1

I spent some time teaching art. Several classes to young kids and two sketching workshops for adults. Here’s a sample for one of the kids classes.

collage fruit sample

All this in addition to attending the SCBWI Canada East conference, a trip to visit the inlaws, summer camp (I love camp nursing!), & a family vacation/road trip. It’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling a little too busy!

Making the Most of a Lousy Situation

Lesage image 1
He didn’t mind me sketching but asked me to sit at his feet mid-sketch instead of on the chair.

Over the holidays my son had an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. Thankfully, it was a slow reaction that responded quickly to treatment. He spent almost 6 hours in the Emerg’s trauma/recovery room hooked up to a monitor. Luckily, I keep my sketching supplies in my purse & my son grabbed his tablet on the way out the door so I was able to turn our visit into an extended sketching session.

Lesage image 2
It was interesting to revisit the same subject but with a series of close-up views. 

Six hours is a lot of sketching time in a small room with no view! Perfect for re-visiting my subject with different approaches and media. He was a great model & such a trooper! No tears and an extremely positive outlook despite the scary situation.

Lesage image 3
He changed positions so I tried again with a brush pen but he decided to get more comfortable .

I’d never choose the Emergency room as a sketching location but I am glad that I had my sketching supplies. Sketching helped relieve my anxiety and pass the time. And the sketches are a nice memento and reminder of a lesson learned: Read the Label EVERY TIME!




Drawing From Life


I spent a few hours last night making these ornaments at an Art Sale. Drawing faces is my default, no thought mode & I’ve also taken a liking to drawing pets. Plus, I prefer to draw tiny so this really is the perfect product for me. Sketching people live (in front of the recipients or gift-giver) is very rewarding. The kids always light up as they watch your scrawls and scratches turn into them. Adults are impressed too. I’m brave & dive right in with a permanent marker – no pencil planning – and the sketches are done in less than 3 min. All those years of doodling faces in the margins of my school notes are finally paying off!

Getting into the Holiday Spirit with GIFs.


I’ve been toying with the idea of animating one of my illustrations for a while. So when the prompt for the Make Art That Sells holiday contest arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t resist. The prompt is to illustrate your favourite beverage with a festive touch & I’ve been on a London Fog kick lately (Earl Grey tea with steamed milk & vanilla syrup). The contest winner will have their illustration animated by someone on the MATS team but since it was on my mind anyway I decided to use the opportunity to learn! It was so much fun to create! I hope you enjoy my gif to you. 😀

Happy Valentine’s Day!


It’s Valentiny time again! I almost didn’t enter Susanna Hill’s contest because I’m tired, I’m busy, & I have a lot of projects on the go. The usual! But then I got a little carried away making Valentines for my family – I made 5 & there’s only 4 of us! So here’s a quick little 87 word Valentiny & Valentine just for you.

(The rules: Valentine’s story for kids where someone is confused – max of 214 words. You have until Feb 14th to enter. Lots of great prizes too!)


“Brains… Brains…” The zombie smiled at Zack. Then it moaned again. “Brains… Brains…”

“Eeek!” Zack hid behind a tree.

The zombie shuffled closer. “Brains… Brains…”

Zack darted under the slide. The zombie stumbled after him. “Brains… Brains…”

Zack dashed under the picnic table. The zombie followed. “Brains… Brains…” It stretched one arm down towards Zack, a heart-shaped box in its hand.

“Brains… Brains… I love you for your brains,” it said. “I mean, will you be my valentine?”

“Oh!” Zack laughed. “That’d be nice Zonya.”


Screen Printing Fine Detail

As I mentioned in my last post, I was commissioned to make a tank themed lampshade. I  used Liquitex gel medium to adhere photocopies of my sketches to the lampshade.



I love these tanks! I really really really wanted to do these on a tank top. Get it? A  tank top – pun intended. Cheesy – I know. I have some iron-on transfer paper kicking around so I made an iron-on transfer tank for myself.

tanktop.jpg copy

But my other half insisted that screen printing would be much better & we do have a marketing plan. So I picked up a screen printing kit (a bit of an investment as I typically prefer DIY). 

Screen printing fine detail has a learning curve & it’s recommended that beginners start with easier (no fine detail) designs. But who has time for that?

I got it right on the 4th try. Not bad considering.

I photoshopped my sketch to increase the line size. To do this click on Filter – Other – Minimum. I set the minimum line thickness to 2 pixels, 3 pixels may have been even better. I printed this image onto tracing paper.

I used Diazo photo emulsion  &  exposed it in the morning sun. I don’t recommend using the sun – yes it works & is super quick. But it is hard to get the exposure just right.tanks2

I tend to learn best by trial & error. So it did take a while, but this morning finally – Screen Printing Success!


Now I’m anxiously waiting for the laundry to finish so I can print these onto an actual tank top!


It’s finally summer and I’m dreaming of hot sunny days at the beach.

Can you tell?


I took a break from a commission that has me drawing lots of army tanks to do this piece for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 2nd annual pretty much world famous illustration contest. The theme is DISCOVERY. (You have until the end of the week to enter!) The prizes are great! First place wins Mark Mitchell’s Illustration course – which I did last year. His lessons & critiques really helped move my learning along.

Don’t forget to check out the other entries over at Susanna’s site!

Peer Critiques

This past week at the school, as part of our special project, I talked about critiquing. The students really enjoyed reading each others stories. I gave them this form as a guide for giving feedback, emphasizing the need for kindness and helpfulness.

Guided Critique 

I had them critique one of my stories first. Afterwards, we discussed the experience of giving and receiving feedback. A few weren’t thrilled with their feedback, even though it was kind. This was a great reminder on why being kind is important. I told them it was up to them to decide if they wanted to make any changes. It was great to see that a few did. 

My favourite comment: “I wish I was in your story.” 

On Tuesday we start the art & illustration part of the project.