Archive for January, 2012


Illustration Interview

January 27, 2012

This time, I’m not interviewing a writer. It’s time for art.

Karen Windness!

Have you always been an illustrator and how did you get your start? I have been telling stories with pictures for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure most children do this, I just never stopped.

What did you have to research for this book? I always research my subject matter, but I try not to look at the reference when I draw. I have a quirky, somewhat cartoonish style, and if I draw something directly from reference it won’t look like it belongs in the whimsical world I’m creating.

Who’s your favorite character/drawing and why? My favorite character from “Hooray for Boys and Girls” is the little guy who’s always wearing a bomber jacket and old aviator helmet. He’s based on my first nephew, Kail. Although, Kail was just an infant at the time, so I had to guess what he’d look like in a few years. I was wrong, but I still like that character best. 

What part was most difficult to illustrate? It was my first book, so I had a real learning curve on just about everything. How to break up the text for each page, how to do the story boarding, the size of the book, the medium – which ended up being a mix of watercolor, colored pencil and sometimes pastel. I also didn’t have a good handle on how long a project like this would take and I grossly underestimated my time commitment.

What are you working on now? I’ve actually been hired to write a middle grade novel for tween girls. I also have several book projects in the works as always. I love both writing and illustrating, but it’s been nice to have someone else doing illustrations for the novel. (It has graphic elements.)

Tell us a bit about your process to create illustrations. I always start with a lot of sketches. I want to get a feel for the best possible character choices. Character is the most important thing to me. Then I will separate the text into the appropriate number of pages and do thumbnail (very small and rough) drawings of what will happen on each page. I then blow those sketches up and do tighter sketches. Once I get approval on the tight sketches (or make changes) I will do a final sketch, transfer it to board or paper and then do my painting. Most often I will also scan the painting and make touch-ups and alterations in Photoshop.

What are three of your favorite books? Oh man. Just three? My desert island choices would be Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger and  The Princess Bride, William Goldman.

Karen studied illustration with a children’s book focus at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design where she was a valedictorian graduate in 2002. She has been an active member of SCBWI for over nine years. Her first illustrated book was published in 2006: “Hooray for Boys and Girls” West Woods Press. In addition to illustrating children’s books, Karen is best known for her pet portraiture (, and has also created several art licensing lines.  She is currently the co-illustrator coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and lives in Thornton, CO with her husband and two young sons and two dogs.Karen’s blog can be found at:


Illustrate or Write?

January 20, 2012

Are you one of those people who can dabble in both art and writing? Do you dream of creating your own picture book and joining the ranks of Dr. Seuss or Jan Brett? It’s possible, but not likely.


Not to burst the bubble, but beginning to understand the bizarre world of books, especially books for kids, is essential if you want to publish. There is a process. If you’re not going to self-publish, it’s important to understand how the industry works.


A few books can be written, illustrated, and sold by the same individual. However, what people don’t usually know is that writers and illustrators are different breeds and treated as such. If you write a picture book, your publishing house will find an illustrator to represent your work. Illustrators submit their work to an agent or publishing house in a similar way as writers. Portfolios are accepted and kept in a pool for publishers to match with an author. Only an obvious novice will submit their writing and illustrations together. Don’t do it, unless of course, you are a brilliant illustrator who happens to have a brilliant story. Otherwise, join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), attend a conference, and learn the process. It’s a tricky business but can be done. In the meantime, keep writing or illustrating. And maybe, just a Slim Jim maybe, do both.