Book Cover Design Process for Secretly Yours

Earlier this week I showed you my latest book cover for Secretly Yours.  Today I thought I’d give you a peek at how it came together (although we’ll skip some of the tears!)


I started with the photo.  I feel strongly about using all my own imagery so that my clients always have unique book covers.  Happily, I am a photographer as well as an illustrator so it’s easy for me to get the photo I want.  Easier, actually, than trying to find a stock photo that matches my vision.  I coerced a couple of friends to let me shoot them in a snowbank after church (thanks Crispin and Allison!  Your hands are lovely!).  I really wanted a pink mitten and ended up buying a pair for the shoot.  I had thought that I just wanted hands, but ended up liking the shot with a bit of their bodies showing the best.


Next, I spent an evening watching a girlie movie to inspire me while I did some girlie lettering (Scents and Sensibility, I give it a C+).  I do all my art on the computer but for whatever reason I still need to do lettering with a pencil.

sy3Back to the photo, I decided it needed more snow (We are having a winter that is more snow than slush).  Photoshop magic.  Next I created the header and footer graphics.  These will be consistent across the series, just in different colours, and we wanted them to give an impression of flowing water to go with the series title of Riverbend Romances.  This book is all the pink! All the time!  Valentines story, what can I say?  Not much, actually, I haven’t read it yet!.  Anyway, pink.sy4And then, there was a week of…struggle.  Art is pain, people!  Not always, but I really struggled with finding a way to digitize my calligraphy that made me happy.  Many hours with little progress.  But it had to be done and I’ve come up with a method that makes me really happy.  I’m looking forward to doing the rest of the series, which should be a breeze now that the branding is sorted out.  And I’ll skip a few days of drama now that I am friends with the pen tool in Photoshop.  So that’s how it went down.  What do you think of the cover?  You can view it a bit closer up here.  




Cover Reveal: Secretly Yours


Here’s the cover for Secretly Yours by Valerie Comer (my mom!).  It’s the first in a series of seasonal romance novellas set in the fictional town of Riverbend.  It’s a bit of a departure for me to do a photo cover, but not too much of a stretch as I am also a photographer (no stock photos here, folks!).  Stay tuned, later this week I’ll give you a behind the scenes peek at the making of the cover :)

My Part-Time Floor Desk


In the past couple years (since having kids), I’ve found that my back was not what it used to be.  Sitting for a hour or more at the computer was really starting to hurt.  What was the deal?  Was I falling apart?  Was I just getting old (a scary proposition in my early 30′s, I’m planning a lot more life with this body still)?  In addition to the sore back, I also had bad knees, a messed up hip (since being a teenager) and a diastasis recti (thanks to the pregnancies).  Suffice it to say, I was not feeling strong.  In my research for dealing with the DR, I found Katy Bowman’s blog and realized that all these ailments were thanks to my poor alignment.  Too many years sitting in chairs, too many years walking around in positive heeled shoes.  Too many years not walking enough period.  The result was a body not really equipped to handle the stress of my pregnancies, and now I was paying for it.

But what to do?  I started walking every day, switched to minimalist footwear, and started some stretches targeted at realigning my pelvis.  The difference was incredible, so much less pain.  Plus, it turns out that walking is my favourite exercise ever, no more running for this kid.  But the root of the problem was still too much sitting in chairs.  Too much of the same position.  The obvious solution is to sit less, and I have been becoming more active in general, but illustration is a rather stationary passion.  I mean, I’m sure there is someone out there who can walk and draw at the same time, but I am not that talented.  So my workstation had to change.  I was moderately interested in standing workstations…sort of.  Let’s be honest, it looks like a lot of work and I am on my feet chasing my children all day.  But Katy says that it’s not that you can’t sit every, it’s that you should avoid chairs as they do the work for you and force you into the same position over and over until your body adapts to it.  So when you sit, you should sit on the floor.  Deal.  I was pumped to try out a floor desk.

Craig was less pumped. He wasn’t super excited to sit on the floor instead of our extremely comfy (but embarrassingly old) office chair, and he worried that having the computer on the floor wouldn’t be as safe with the kids running around, what if they knocked over a monitor or something.  Our computer is in the living room, so that’s a valid point.  After some pondering (while I walked!) I came up with a compromise.  I moved a coffee table beside the computer desk, creating a two level workstation.  The tower is in the middle, and everything else can be quickly shifted back and forth.


During the day, the floor desk makes a great spot for the kids to hang out and draw.


And as an added bonus I can move one monitor down for when they have TV time.  This gets them to sit on the floor instead of a couch, and I can get work done more easily at the desk.


When I have dedicated work time, I move everything down and work on the floor.  I use a stool for my tablet because I like the height better.  People often ask me how I sit.  Well, the point is to change up your position often, so I usually sit cross legged, but I’ll stretch my legs out or kneel for a bit to change it up.  If I’m just checking something quickly, I’ll squat.

I was a bit shocked by how hard it was for the first couple weeks!  My back was very sore and I was taking a bath with epsom salts every night.  This was because my core was so weak that it wasn’t used to holding itself up for more than a few minutes at a time.  Pretty sad.  I’m not in perfect shape now, but I can sit easily for a couple hours, which is a great improvement.  I probably should have started with a few minutes at a time and built up my strength…but I didn’t.

Anyway, this is what works for us! I’d thought I’d share with you guys in case you are also suffering from a sore back from too much chair time.  And it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, just adding some variety to the way you sit can make a big difference.  Also, it should be noted that I had this coffee table in the basement, so it was a free experiment.  If you have any questions, be sure to let me know in the comments!  Would you ever work from a floor desk?



Hard at work…or maybe just pretending to work while running back and forth with the camera timer?  I promise, I did work after though.  New book cover coming soon with some fun hand lettering!

Figure Drawing with YouTube


People often ask me where I went to art school.  The answer is?  I didn’t.  I have no regrets about this, I’m pretty happy with the education I’ve cobbled together over years of my own practice and research.  I’m also pretty happy about not being horribly in debt, especially as it was always my plan to stay home while my kids are little.  There are a few things I missed out on though, and getting to go to figure drawing classes is one of them.

I know that not all Christians (or people in general, I suppose) are comfortable with the idea of drawing naked people, and that’s fine, but I really have no issue with non-sexual nudity.  It’s just bodies, people, and a great way to learn to draw the human form.  That said, I’ve never taken figure drawing classes.  I know that a lot of school offer them, but nothing in my small town.  So when Muddy Colors (my all time favourite art blog) shared this great resource, I was very excited to try it out.

I’ve been using Croquis Cafe’s 20 minute videos for my warm-up drawing this week and it’s been fantastic.  I’m really bad at it.  Really bad.  Those sketches in the title image are my best of the week.  By far.  This is great, there’s lots to learn and I’m excited to see my progress with regular practice.  Having a set warm-up routine also keeps me from staring at a blank page thinking “I should draw….something…to warm up…”

Croquis Cafe is put out by On Air Video and can be found here (and in case I wasn’t clear, these people are naked, but no porn, I promise)

And New Masters Academy has both nude and clothed models and can be found here (I haven’t tried them yet, but they look like great videos)

Do you practice figure drawing?  Got any tips, or resources for me?

Beren and Luthien Update


Here’s a progress shot of my Beren and Luthien piece (to be finished this weekend?  that would be nice!). Because I promised to show you art every week and all my sketches were really terrible and will remain hidden.

Getting started with Zen to Done


I mentioned in my New Years Goals post that I’m trying out the Zen to Done productivity system to try and be more organized.  I am a stay at home mom as well as an illustrator and a portrait photographer, so I have a lot of little things to keep track of.  And I am bad at it.  I can mostly stay on top of work because I force everyone to communicate by email, but I am constantly forgetting things people tell me when I’m out.  Or really, anything that people tell me in any way except email.  This is a problem!  Enter Zen to Done.

Zen to Done is apparently a simpler form of Getting Things Done, with a greater focus on habits and priorities.  I have heard of GTD but never read the book, so I can’t compare, but ZTD sounded like a better fit.  Part of the ZTD system is to only focus on one or two habits at a time, so that you have a greater chance of succeeding at it.  I’m starting with the first two habits: Collecting and Processing.


For collecting you can use either a simple app or a small notebook.  I am a big lover of writing lists and don’t own a smart phone, so notebook is the way to go for me.  I got a cute little 3 pack from Cartolina (who I love) because…it was prettier than a moleskin.  And you should love your tools, because it will make you more likely to use them.  The notebook lives in a central spot in my house and goes in my purse whenever I am out.  Whenever I think of something I need to do, or someone tells me something I should remember (book I should read, email address, time for a playdate) I write it in the notebook.  I don’t worry about whether it’s important or not, everything goes in the book on one list.  Thus freeing my brain from trying to remember what that thing was that I should be remembering.  I’ve got this habit down.


Next I have the day planner (and this is when my girls got very curious about what I was doing).  So every day I pull out the notebook and write down the things I need to deal with, crossing them out of the notebook list.  If it’s something little, I do it right away rather than write it in, and some things get transferred to their homes (shopping list items go on the list on the fridge, phone numbers go their list, whatever).  I’m still working on this habit.  Sometimes I just use the notebook at cross things off, but this way is much more helpful when I have a lot of big things to do, especially for my work days.


Last is my calendar, this has all my work items on it, blog posts, deadlines etc.  Deadlines get stars so I can see them at a glance.  I’ve got some personal stuff on there too but that’s just because my big wall calendar isn’t here yet, I prefer to keep personal items on there so that Craig can use it too.

So that’s what I’m working on building habits for right now, I’ll post about it again in a month or so when I will be (hopefully) on to another couple habits.  How do you stay organized?  And does it come naturally for you, or are you as bad at it as I am?

My 2015 Illustration Goals


My main illustration goal for 2014 was to work more, specifically to do more covers.  I did well with that and really cemented my style with them.  That was pretty much my only art goal, but you can read about my other resolutions here.

This year I’d like to approach my illustration career more mindfully.  I often feel frustrated because I just don’t have a lot of time.  With being a stay-at-home-mom to two preschoolers, I only manage to carve out roughly 10 hours a week to work.  When you add into that the fact that I also have a photography business, it seems impossible to make any headway.  So my first goal is to be organized and manage my time wisely.  I’m reading Zen to Done right now and working on incorporating the productivity strategies in it.  I’ll post more on that later.  But really, I have to maximize the time available to me, or none of my other goals will happen!  Ria goes to Kindergarten in the fall, so that will shake things up, but for now?  Organization is key.

My second goal is to spend more time on this blog.  I’ve been blogging (or at least posting photos) regularly on Honey and Huckleberries for a long time, but I can’t seem to keep two blogs happy.  However, I really can’t see combining them, so I’m going to try and do better this year.  My second goal is to post twice a week over here.  I’m calling it (in my head) “show” and “tell”.  So at least one art update (show), and one journal type entry (tell) every week.

My third goal is to finish the year with a cohesive portfolio. I’ve been feeling good about the illustration style I’ve been using for book covers, and I’m working on some personal stuff in the same style.  I’d like, by the end of the year, to have finished enough good pieces that my entire portfolio is in a single style.  That said, I want to show a variety of genres, so I’ll need to do personal work to get some fantasy art in there, and maybe some YA/Middle Reader focused art, to round out the Cozy Mystery and Romance work I’ve been getting.

So that’s my goals.  I’m not planning any sort of advertising push at the moment, although I probably will be more proactive about getting work before the end of the year.  And having a fun blog and a solid portfolio is not a terrible way to put myself out there ;)

What about you?  Any goals for 2015?

Beren and Luthien Lines



Back to working on Beren and Luthien.  I recently got a new computer and jumped from Photoshop CS to CC.  That’s a big jump.  It took me forever to feel comfortable with the new version but I’m finally settling in. I am loving this piece, but tragically I didn’t plan it out at all!  I was just sketching and then decided to take it further.  So now I have to figure out all the background, colour scheme, composition…blah blah blah.  It’ll be worth it though ;)

You can see the reference photo here and the sketch here

Book Cover Reveal: License to Shop

LTSblogHere’s the cover art for Kelly McClymer’s second Secret Shopper Mom Mystery (check out the cover for book one).  I actually drew this a while ago, maybe my resolution for 2015 will be to be a better art blogger! You can see how for the full wrap (upper right) I had to tone the lime green to make it print safe.  Sad times, but as most people will see the cover online I felt good about using the punchier green, even if it won’t quite match.