Newly Published Children’s Book ‘Once upon a Poodle’

onceuponapoodle_coverblueI am very pleased to announce that my friend, award-winning author Chrysa Smith, has just released her first full-color picture book entitled Once upon a Poodle, with illustrations by me.

Chrysa’s easy reader series, The Adventures of the Poodle Posse (which I also illustrated) was given a Mom’s Choice Award, a Dove Foundation endorsement, and a top pick on Amazon’s Children’s Bookshelf.


With Once upon a Poodle Chrysa takes us back to the first poodle in that family.  When Woody (a main poodle in the posse series) goes on a hunt for a new brother, all sorts of adventures are in store. His attempts to find a suitable creature to join the family only bring chaos into the house. Feathers fly, gardens are harvested, and nuts are cracked in tale that embraces fun, problem-solving, and learning what family is all about. I had a lot of fun bringing Chrysa’s story to life in illustrations!ouap_wp5
According to one reviewer, this is a great tale for parents who are bringing a new sibling into the home. It is suggested as a read-aloud for young children, a bedtime storybook, a great lead into the posse series and a story for dog-lovers of all ages.
To purchase a copy of Once upon a Poodle you can see my Store page, or the author’s site

ouap_wp3You can find out more about the book and Smith’s school presentations by contacting her directly at – she’s a lifelong feature writer, pet-lover and children’s book author. ouap_wp2Chrysa’s journey as a children’s book author is also featured in the fall issue of Bucks County Magazine – you can see the article online at


Cows & Waffles

lodging_badapples_wpdetailMy latest illustration for Lodging Magazine is for an article about hotels keeping their dining areas germ-free. It delves into some of the nastier problems that hotel managers have to deal with – foodborne illnesses, sanitation laws and damage control responses. Not a lot of pretty images came to mind for my illustration, so I decided to go wacky with it.

The article begins by stating how people often like to get away to hotels where there are lovely bucolic scenes out the window, cows grazing and sheep frolicking nearby – but the visitors don’t realize that the flies around livestock are one of the most common ways for germs to spread. While flies buzzing around a dining area seemed off-putting to me, I thought some barnyard animals would be funnier and less openly icky. I sketched a cow and sheep in line at a hotel breakfast buffet.


Whenever I’ve been at a hotel for breakfast, the most entertaining thing is watching people use the waffle machine, so I drew the cow using that. The editor asked me to include a bowl of apples in the drawing, since the article’s title is ‘Bad Apples.’ She approved the sketch so I painted it – acrylic paints, prisma pencil on illustration board.




More Poodle Pics 2

I’m continuing to illustrate Once Upon a Poodle by Chrysa Smith, coming down to the wire now.  Here are a couple new illustrations (others are shown in previous posts, scroll back to see them) :



Illustration for a Fall Children’s Concert

lenapechamberensfall16detailtwOnce again the Lenape Chamber Ensemble has asked me to create a fun illustration to advertise their semi annual concert for children. This ensemble has been performing outstanding classical chamber music since 1975, and its musicians are among the best that the New York/ Philadelphia area have to offer, and have come from as far away as California and Europe. My friend Mary Eleanor Pitcairn has supported and produced these concerts since their inception, and she and her daughter Elizabeth Pitcairn are remarkable musicians themselves, as well as devoted patrons of musical art.

The program for this concert includes Handel’s Water Music, which he wrote in response to King George I of England’s request for a concert on the River Thames. It features movements related to dances of the era, such as minuets, bourrees and hornpipes. You’ll recognize the hornpipe if you listen to it here. I thought about the hornpipe that is a traditional sailors’ dance, and chose to draw cats for my illustration of sailors performing the music, while two break out into a hornpipe on the deck.



I heartily recommend taking your children or grandchildren to these Lenape concerts, they are formatted especially for young children – the musicians talk about the music and composers in simple terms, demonstrate their instruments, play short snippets of the elegant music and explain how the instruments speak to each other, and take questions from the children. It often ends with all the children dancing to the final musical piece, and it’s a delightful experience for everyone!


Poodle Posse Picture Book: a few more pics

The new picture book I’m illustrating for easy readers is progressing – Once upon a Poodle, by Chrysa Smith, and it should be ready for publication sometime in the early fall.  A few bits & pieces –






I’ll post more updates as we go along.


A Painting a Day: Polka Pigs

For the final Day 7 of a Painting a Day, I’ll post my Polka Pigs. As I mentioned previously, I love drawing animal instrumentalists, and this trio was inspired by my grandfather (clarinet), Mr. Pondl (accordion) and a tuba player (can’t remember his name), whom I heard play in my grandparents’ house in Allentown, PA, when I was a child. They were excellent musicians (all born in Austria), very stoic as they played; but there was one piece where at a certain point they would all stop playing and call ‘y-y-y-yip!’in a falsetto – then plow back into the polka – so funny and endearing! polkapigs_smallwp

Thanks to everyone for hanging on for the full week of paintings! You can see Days 1 through 6 by scrolling back through my blog.

Animals and Musical Instruments

Reprinted from the blog of the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts:


On June 24, Scatter Joy’s new exhibit “Fantasy Tales” opens, featuring the work of members of the Bucks County Illustrators Society. Pat Achilles is not only one of the founders of this incredible group, she’ll be showing her work, too. Here, she shares some of the inspiration that shapes her work.

“My father was very musical and I have always loved drawing musical instruments – I’ve done a series of little animals playing instruments for greeting cards, and for years I’ve illustrated posters for the Lenape Chamber Ensemble with little musical menageries too. Strings, horns and woodwinds are beautiful in their design as well as being functional. I think that’s one reason I chose to draw the Pied Piper for ‘Fantasy Tales,’ to work a beautiful instrument into fanciful story.”


Are you coming to the Fantasy Tales exhibit by the Bucks County Illustrators Society? Our opening reception (everyone invited!) is Friday June 24 from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm at the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts, 305 Horsham Rd, Horsham, PA.  More info on my blog post .

The Pied Piper

piedpwp6I’ve been working lately on an illustration of a scene from the fairy tale The Pied Piper of Hamelin. I was happily pushed into creating this portfolio piece because of a project initiated by the Bucks County Illustrators Society, of which I’m a founding member. BCiS is producing a portfolio book of members’ work, due out this June, and it looks to be a really interesting, beautifully illustrated publication.  Each member chose an excerpt from a fairy tale-like story and created a full page illustration for the scene. piedpwp2

I’ve always been fascinated the tale of the mysterious Piper who showed up in the medieval town of Hamelin, when the plague, spread by rats, was rampaging through Europe. The legend evidently originated in the town itself, which at one time had a 14th century church containing a stained glass window depicting the story. The Grimm Brothers version of the legend is grim indeed, with the angry Piper, stiffed by the town councillors after he drove the rats from the town, leading the town’s children away to destruction as well.

piedpwp3When I rewrite the story I intend to make it a lot funnier and kid-friendly, with one particular rat being the Piper’s comrade-in-arms throughout their adventures.

I did a lot of pictorial research for the illustration, with probably the most challenging part being the architecture of medieval German towns. The most fun was giving a lot of action to the crowd and especially the rats. In this post I have a few of my rough sketches for the piece, which I eventually combined into the finished illustration.  Tomorrow I’ll post some step-by-step images of painting the finished illustration.


To see samples of the work of some of the illustrators participating, take a look at the gallery page on the BCiS website. And if you are interested in purchasing a copy of the Bucks County Illustrators Society’s portfolio book when it is printed, please leave me a comment or email me, and I’ll give you ordering info when it’s available.

My Illustrations for a Rescue Dog Book: The Adventures of Charli

charli1wpMy friend, interior designer Franca Caserta, never dreamed she would write a book.  Then a little rescue dog came into her life, a dog whose adorability saves it from getting reprimanded too loudly for the many scrapes it gets into around Franca’s lovely home. Charli is the rescue pup that Franca says rescued her – and when she started taking pictures of Charli and posting them online with Charli’s thoughts added in, Franca won a lot of hearts, and unwittingly wrote a book about Charli.

Franca had plenty of great photos of Charli when she first spoke to me about the book, so I had good reference to start sketching. She wanted the scenes I drew to be fairly true to the photos with just a little whimsy thrown in, and since it is Charli’s personality that everyone came to love online, I agreed I should stay close to the candid situations in which Franca snapped Charli.

A few pencil sketches below.


Franca’s book is a series of vignettes in this pup’s life, each page a funny little moment in a day, and you can tell Charli has a special place in her heart. I think anyone who owns a rescue dog, or owns a dog that gets into a fix sometimes (I guess that cover any dog owner) will enjoy Charli’s adventures.


At the back of the book Franca has included many photos of the real Charli, so you meet her for yourself. If you’d like to get a copy of The Adventures of Charli, it will soon be available on, but if you are in the Bucks County, PA, area you could stop by The Learning Experience in Doylestown (1715 S Easton Road) on October 10 where Franca will be selling and signing copies of the book from 11 AM to 2 PM.