Grandma’s Kitchen Process

Hello! I just got back from my first SCBWI conference and it was awesome… perhaps more on that later. For now, some thoughts on the process for one of my favorite recent pieces, “Grandma’s Kitchen/Two Sugars“.


I often think about my Grandma Ruth, who passed away when I was about 11 years old. I loved visiting her & my grandpa – they lived about 4 hours away, so we didn’t get to see them all the time. My own girls are so incredibly lucky to have access to their grandparents – all four within a twenty-minute drive!  In any case, my grandma’s home was full of neat patterns and spaces that I loved to explore. We took pictures of the house before it sold, just after she passed away, so I went searching for them to use as reference for this little story. It’s strange to think that the house we live in now is just a half hour’s drive from that kitchen!   Often when I visited, I’d try to convince her that my own mother let me have two sugars in my cereal instead of just one tiny sprinkle. I’m sure she suspected the con, but she nearly always let me get away with it.

Thanks, Grandma ;).

“Monster of Lake Quannapowitt” in Athens!

If you happen to be in Athens, Greece next week, check out the international film festival debut of “The Search for the Monster of Lake Quannapowitt”!   Although I won’t be able to make it there in person, I made sure to send a representative :).


Pattern Design: Beagles

Here’s the fun little side project I worked on last week!, an awesome site where you can upload or choose designs to make custom fabric, wallpaper & wrapping paper, has a weekly pattern design contest. This is for the theme “Beagle”(in honor of Miss P, winner of best in show at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show). I think the voting runs through Wednesday this week, if you want to check it out and toss a vote my way!

beagle_pattern_blue_and_brown beagle_pattern_blue_and_green

I worked out two color variations, just entered the sky blue/brown variation in the contest. Here they are zoomed out a bit:


beagle_4_blueandgreenbeagle_1_sketch     beagle sketch

Everything here was drawn digitally, aside from the pencil sketches at the bottom. It’s been really nice to have a theme for my sketching practice, hoping to do more of these in the future.

Snow Trudge: Sketches and Roughs

dog sketchesInspired by our crazy amounts of snow, I’m working on a new little animation. So far have some rough animation and sketches, backgrounds generously provided by the 7-foot snowbanks in front of our house. I’ve taken a bit of a break from animation since I finished up my thesis back in December – it’s super fun to get back into it. 

Next steps include adding rough arms, making cycles for dog blinks, panting, tail wags, roughing in face/hat details, footprints, a few layers of snow falling, then cleanup and color!
Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.13.24 PM dog sketches

purple bird sketch

Another quick post! Here’s a 1/2 hour color sketch of a purple finchy bird that I did last week, been trying to get back into color.


Also posted nine more sketch pages – lots more birds, but also echidnas! Alpacas! Shoebill cranes (those guys are five feet tall)! …And many more assorted animals. Check them out, let me know what you think.


Just added a bunch of sketches to my illustration page. I love using pinterest for reference!

owls, alpacas and friends

Rock Centaur

Two summers ago Nick made a birthday request: an illustration of him as a centaur, rocking out metal-album-cover style.

And this past fall, he finally got it!

rock_centaurI couldn’t resist a teeming audience of monsters.

Here are the color comps I experimented with, many based on famous album covers (can you read my awful handwriting?)


Some of the other location concepts – rock island in a pool of lava, lightning storm on a craggy mountaintop, shaft of moonlight in an ancient forest, at the desert church from “November Rain”, on a cliff over raging ocean waves.centaur_thumbnails_valuecentaur_sketchesNick has been so incredibly supportive throughout my whole MFA program – I appreciate it so much!!

Love you to pieces. Now go rock the faces off a thousand monsters!

Thesis Update: Woo hoo!!

On Wednesday, December 17th, I passed my final thesis review! gargantua

With all of the holiday stuff going on, I didn’t have time to post right away. The final review was an online video chat with David Nethery, the Online 2D Animation Director; Sam Fleming, my advisor; Dennis Blakey, the Visual Effects Director and Stewart Lew, a 3D animation/effects instructor. It was a huge relief to finish up the project and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. There were a few small suggestions to improve the film that I’ll be working on over the next few weeks, but overall it was big success and I now officially have my Master’s in 2D Animation!

Since I’ll be submitting to film festivals, I can’t publicly post the project up just yet, but there are pieces of it in my updated demo reel here:

If you’re dying to see all three-and-a-half-glorious-minutes of the whole film right away, shoot me an email and I’ll see what I can do ;).

I’ve updated the rest of, including the thesis overview, which includes link to the final review book PDF with lots of background and production info for the project. I’ve also spiffed up my illustration portfolio – I’m hoping to have time to create some more overdue blog posts about new pieces in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’ll be working on some freelance illustration and enjoying a bit of non-crunch time.

Collaboration = Awesomeness

Working from home can be a little isolating. Through online classes through Academy of Art University I’ve learned a ton about animation and illustration, but the often lackluster community aspect of sparse discussion boards and “good job!” critiques can leave me a feeling a little empty.

I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to get myself out there with other real people doing the same kind of work, even though my time is pretty limited these days between finishing up my Master’s thesis, working on freelance illustration and taking care of my two lovely, ridiculous, time-consuming children. Through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I’m working with a few other illustrators to start up a local critique group (in person!) and I’ve attended another writer’s critique group to test the waters.

But over the summer, while on a long road trip with the family, I stumbled upon a super way of combining two of my favorite things – drawing silly stuff and playing with Miriam, who’s now 5. We made pages and pages of collaborative drawings (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving) – here are some of my favorites:

In this one, I drew a creature and asked “What is it looking up at?” Apparently a pink tree and a spider sun… and now she has a fancy hat and necklace.

photo 3

One of many princesses I have been commanded to draw:
photo 2

Miriam’s additions: balloons in hand, green rapunzel hair, a skirt, shoes and teeth.

photo 1

photo 3 copy

Sometimes she’d come up with an idea that I’d illustrate, then she’d customize the drawing with color and her own drawing additions.  Other times I started with some simple shapes and then she’d add a bit, and we’d go back and forth until the drawing was just perfect.

Nick and I also collaborated on a fun project back in August – I’ll be posting more on that soon!

Thesis Update: Scenes 52-58

Finally, (*cough* *cough*…this whole “posting regularly” slips so easily…), here are the last few  roughed-in scenes for my thesis.  Now you know how it ends.

Since I finished up those scenes, I’ve also worked on improving the concept of passage of time within the film, to make the day seem longer (to give more impact to the ending) without adding too much more animation time.

This semester should be my final one at the Academy of Art University (fingers crossed!). I’ll need to complete all the cleanup – that’s polishing up rough animation. I’m using my Cintiq and TVPaint to redraw everything and so far the process is going well, just trying to stay on target each week. I love the rough look of pencil tests so I’m trying to keep some of that spontaneous, sketchy line in my cleaned-up drawings, while making sure that the characters stay somewhat on model and not too jumpy with wiggly lines.

I’m also tackling color for all of the scenes, using the super “LazyBrush” plugin for TVPaint. Rather than having to carefully color beneath all of the linework, I can make squiggles on a separate layer approximately where I want each color to go, and then the plugin runs a script that fills in the spaces (amazingly well especially considering that my lines are so rough and pencilly).

Over the next few weeks, I’m hoping to post some more examples from my thesis as well as some other illustration & animation projects I’ve been working on. It’s my goal to get back up to weekly posts…once again, fingers crossed!