Illustrating “Robbie to the Rescue!” Part 3

(To read Part 1 and 2 of this process click HERE and HERE.)

After I did rough color sketches for Laurie Nowlan’s entire book, I started transferring the drawings to illustration board and painting. I use prismacolor pencils to outline my characters and acrylic paint, thinned with water to the level of a wash, to paint the colors. You can get nice vibrant hues using acrylics, which brightened up the autumn pages at the beginning of the book.

This story follows two brother robins as they go on a southern migration to Florida, the twists and turns they encounter along the way, and how they help each other as siblings. They encounter a nasty storm, which knocks the younger brother, Robbie, for a loop.

The older brother, Ben, has trouble with one of his wings, and suddenly little Robbie is the sibling that has to look out for his older brother.

Robbie steels himself and finds the strength to get both himself and his brother out of danger.

And to see the sunny conclusion of the story, you’ll have to get the book!

Since the cover art is so critical to the appeal of a children’s book, the author and I went through several sketches of the cover illustration before we settled on the right scene and feel for it. We wanted Robbie alone on the cover, but did not want to give away too much of the climax of the story.

I envisioned Robbie swooping through the stormclouds with a determined, serious expression; and after discussion with Laurie we tried a more cheerful look and we both liked it better.

I did a color sketch and added some lightning to create a little more excitement –

and then painted the finished art.


“Robbie to the Rescue!” is available now through BookBaby HERE.

Through the Travel Poster – an illustration

My next illustration in Lodging magazine is for an article about the resurgence of people using travel agents to help plan their trips. The editor didn’t have the article written yet – that happens  sometimes with their monthly deadlines – but she sent me the theme & general ideas, so I had to build from that.

It seems that millennials who enjoy ‘experiential’ vacations are looking more often for travel agents who can guide them to find activities and restaurants off the typical tourist path. A lot of folks are happy to have someone’s expertise when they are spending a sizable amount of money on a special trip.

I first sketched three very loose ideas and sent them to the editor – a ‘magic carpet’ agent, an agent in a suitcase, and an agent guiding clients to walk right into the travel posters in her office –




The editor loved the idea of walking into the posters, so I tightened up that sketch.  I asked her if there were destinations that were hot right now and she suggested Canada, (their national parks will be offering free admission this year because of the nations’ 150th anniversary), Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and American cities like NYC and LA.


This was approved, and I made a few more minor changes in the finish, which I drew in prismacolor pencil and then painted with washes of acrylics thinned with water, on illustration board:




Church Illustration Finished Art

In my previous post I wrote about the sketch stage of this illustration of a lovely church in Doylestown, Bucks County. Once I transferred the pencil sketch to illustration board, I started painting with acrylic washes. I dampened the sky area and painted in a golden haze, since the service starts around sunset, and filled in the burnt orange roof.


Then I painted in the cool shadowed sides of the building and added more orange to the sky..


I painted the warmer sides of the building and the cool colors of the stained glass, bell and slates on the steeple roof.  I added some stone detail since the church has variation in the color of its stones.


Next I blocked in the foliage and archetypal red church door.


And then more the walkway, bushes and the church sign.


At last I painted the people in the procession, trying to keep it loose but accurate in the details of the vestments and religious objects.


And the final scene . . .


Illustration for a Children’s Music CD Cover

My friend Steven Piperno and his wife Katie have been writing and performing their delightful songs for kids (and their grownups) for years now, since before their own kids were born.  Their upbeat sing-and-dance-along songs teach good lessons too, and are heavily inspired by the antics of their own kids.  I illustrated the cover of their first CD Are You Ready?  Here We Go! a few years back, and was happy when Steve called to get me to draw something for their second CD Smile.  I first looked at the songlist for this CD and pencil-sketched some ideas for the cover:


The first sketch was for the song If I Had a Farm, the second for I Love Trains, the third for Smile.  Steve went with the third, since we figured we could flip the image and the animal parade could then be continued onto the back cover of the CD.  I roughed out the design, leaving room for the songlist and other info on the back:


I then tightened up the drawing and made a marker color sketch –


– and then transferred the drawing to illustration board and started painting with acrylic washes:


I experimented with some computer-generated color backgrounds to add a little more color. Steven finalized the cover, inserted the extra text, and the CD full of great kids’ music is now available on his site, where you can also hear some of the songs.  I highly recommend it for young children!