Growing Up Artsy

Introducing HJ’s Draw Show!

Check out HJ’s awesome new show – she named it :) – that teaches kids how to draw things! HJ loves art and wants to be a teacher when she grows up. So from now on, when I highlight a book (A Picture Book & A Project), HJ will have a drawing lesson to go with it!

Here is HJ’s cousin, Laney! She followed the steps to make her own spook-tacular jack-0-lantern with chalk!


While I was gone, I had a baby!

Filed under: Events,Growing Up Artsy,Shanda's Journey | September 5, 2014
Me and Beni

Me and Beni

If you saw me at the New York SCBWI conference or the Atlanta SCBWI conference, you might remember that I was expecting my second little one. I had lots of energy then, and I accomplished much on my “to do before the baby comes” list (including attending my first national SCBWI conference in NYC!) But soon after, I hit the wall… where it took ALL my energy just to do basic tasks like showering or tying shoes. Every woman who has ever been 8 months pregnant, knows this truth :) So for a while there, I couldn’t tie up the loose ends on my projects or submissions, because I was too distracted to do my best work. I had to close my “book” (so to speak) to give this season of life all my attention…

And here she is… Beni Lois McCloskey! Named after her precious daddy (Ben) and his zealous grandmother (Lois).

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Beni Lois

Beni Lois

Beni Lois

A lot has changed adding a second child. Having 2 kids is pretty crazy! I still have pregnant brain, and have to write down things like when I bathed each kid last and if I took my vitamin yet. It’s like my short-term memory is struggling to function, but I hear that’s pretty normal… hopefully.

Our home also went through many changes leading up to Beni. My husband and I used to share an office/studio together upstairs, but we had to move our bedroom up there to make our old bedroom, Beni’s. My husband now rents an office outside of our home, and we squeezed out a little space in our living room for a studio for me. It’s tight, but good. Here are some photos of my new office…

Shanda's Studio

Shanda’s Studio (behind the couch)


Shanda's Studio

Shanda’s Studio

Dana Tanamachi print (frame made by my dad) hangs above the cradle (made by my Pop), in the living room near my desk.

Dana Tanamachi print (frame made by my dad) hangs above the cradle (made by my Pop), in the living room near my desk.

And here is Beni’s woodland room… (I was dead set on using lots of white for some reason :)

Beni's Room

Beni’s Room (Garland made by my cousin Audrey, the moss B made by my mother-in-law Barb, the table under the lamp was made by Ben’s grandmother Lois, the bookshelf was made by my grandfather Pop, and the painted furniture was painted by my mom!)

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I painted the flowers on the wood plank that my dad prepared above the mirror.

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My husband, Ben, trimmed our crepe myrtle and hung a branch!

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photo 3There you have it! Now I have 2 beautiful girls to inspire me! Hopefully, I’ll be posting new work again soon. I am working on it :)



A Picture Book & A Project: “Little Red Writing” and Pencil People!

"Little Red Writing" by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

“Little Red Writing” by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Isn’t this a cute gift idea for a kid?! I wish we had a birthday party to go so I could give this :) Valentine’s Day is coming up, too. Not bad for a $22 surprise. I found the pencil toppers and pencils in the dollar section at Target, the composition book at the grocery store, and the book at the bookstore.

Okay, back to the picture book and project!

One day, Little Red and her classmates get to write their own stories. As Little Red begins to write, she finds that there are many challenges she has to overcome to make an exciting story. She even has to face a scary pencil sharpener with quite big teeth!

Photo Feb 08, 10 12 56 AM

Photo Feb 08, 10 11 29 AM

Shanda: This book had me at Melissa Sweet- one of my favorite illustrators! And she does not disappoint! Of course I also can relate to the perils of writing a story. There are many layers to this book, so that kids of ALL ages can enjoy it. HJ is 3 years old, and she loved the excitement of the story. Older kids can really see nouns, adjectives, adverbs, EXCLAMATIONS!, and run-on sentences come to life. This would be fantastic to use in a classroom before a writing challenge.

HJ: It’s really awesome when the mean wolf came! (She likes to say the “GRRRRR!” parts.)

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The project for older kids: Write you own story (with illustrations) in your very own composition book, just like Little Red!

The project for younger kids: Attempt to write your own story in your own composition book, just like Little Red! I think HJ enjoyed just playing with the pencil people best :)

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She started off saying she was writing a SCARY story!

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Busy, busy! But in the end, things got epic when some of the pencil people took something from the other pencil people…

Thanks for stopping by! This post is dedicated to the new life and new story of Ellie Pearl Jones! Born yesterday! (She’s the daughter of my cousin, who is really like a sister to me :)

Also, sorry I haven’t posted in quite a while. I’ll tell you why soon…

Shanda & HJ

A Picture Book & A Project: “The Day the Crayons Quit” and recycling crayons!

Cover from "The Day the Crayons Quit" by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by oliver Jeffers

Cover from “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve never given much thought to how I treated my crayons when I was a kid…. but now I know… crayons are people too! I’m glad they finally spoke up :)

SHANDA: I love this book SO much! It really brought me back to when I was a kid! I felt like the Critic on Ratatouille when he tastes the food at the end, and it takes him all the way back to his childhood :) There’s plenty to laugh about in this book too! HJ and I could be kids together for a few minutes! Great job Mr. Daywalt and Mr. Jeffers!

HJ: She cracked up when Peach Crayon wouldn’t leave the box because he was naked :)



So we made a whole bunch of old naked crayons for our project…

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Then we broke them into small pieces and divided them into the spaces of an oven safe mold. *Note- SCRATCH the paper cups you see in the photo. It works better without them. Also, they would turn out much cuter than ours did if you used a silicone candy mold that had cute shapes like flowers or something. Melt them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

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Then allow them to cool completely, and use a knife to “pop” them out!

We bagged some up for church (for HJ and her cousin, Laney :)

Happy considerate coloring!

A Picture Book & A Project: “I’m Bored” and how NOT to be bored with a potato!

"I'm Bored" by Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012

“I’m Bored” by Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012

This kid is so bored she starts talking to a potato that thinks SHE is boring! So, she has to set the record straight: Potatoes are boring and kids can do ANYTHING!

SHANDA: I am taken with these cute, yet wild illustrations! And I love the illustrator’s success story. She really thought she was more of a writer, but was discovered big time at an SCBWI portfolio showcase!

HJ: (She likes to say “I’m bored” in a potatoey voice). If you can imagine that.

Now, grab a potato, a parent, a knife, paint, and paper! The best way NOT to be bored with a potato is to make potato stamps! Have fun!


Here’s a great link to show parents how to cut a potato stamp!





We made a gift bag with our stamps… but kids can think of lots of cool stuff to decorate! What can you come up with?


A Picture Book & A Project: “Little Mouse” and drawing a mouse!

Sometimes your mommy might call you her little mouse, but that’s silly because you’re probably nothing like a mouse at all!

"Little Mouse" by Alison Murray DISNEY HYPERION BOOKS, 2013

“Little Mouse” by Alison Murray

SHANDA: I have been hungry for a new book! So, I let myself walk into a bookstore and judge the books by their covers, literally! I didn’t read this before I bought it. I just loved the art, and took it home :) Lucky for me, the writing is lovely too. It’s really a book of comparisons and what animals you might be similar to. I am drawn to the color palette, lines, and shapes this illustrator uses. My favorite page is the precious hug at the end. The simplicity isn’t too simple for me. This is the sweet spot I’d like to find in my own work.

HJ: I like this book because I’m not like a mouse either!

 Final mouse drawing :)

Here’s the project… Learn to draw a mouse on your own! Watch the video below…


How to draw a mouse: tutorial by a 3-year-old from Shanda on Vimeo.

Lesson #5: Kids Are Amazing (a lesson from Pirate Portraits at the library!)


I just got home from a fun morning with 18 of the coolest kids in town at the Ball Ground Public Library! And they’ve got SKILLS! There’s just something extra neat about younger kids and their confidence in their art. I’m used to teaching big kids (high-schoolers) who are much more scared of failing. I was really nervous at first teaching these younger ones, but I was reminded how amazing kids are. They made me feel so welcome and comfortable and happy :) Just another reminder that I’m in the right place, pursuing the career of my dreams. If I keep doing stuff like this as an unpublished illustrator, I’ll be “fit as a fiddle” when I need to do workshops and talk to kids, etc. as a published illustrator.

Look how great these portraits turned out!…



I think it was a hit! And I’m so grateful for everyone who came today! And thanks for letting me know you had a good time!



PB&P: “The Paper Bag Princess” and paper bag fashion design!

A Picture Book & A Project: "The Paper Bag Princess" written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko and paper bag fashion design!

A Picture Book & A Project: “The Paper Bag Princess” written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko and paper bag fashion design!

Elizabeth was a beautiful princess about to marry a handsome prince, then one day a dragon ruined everything… or so she thought. The tragedy taught Elizabeth how to spot a bum… and just in time!

"The Paper Bag Princess" written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko ANNICK PRESS, Seventieth printing, 2012

“The Paper Bag Princess” written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
ANNICK PRESS, Seventieth printing, 2012

SHANDA: This book was sent to HJ by some NYC friends. No wonder this book is a classic! The story is super fun and packed with a very important life lesson about the danger and stupidity of being in love with one’s image whether it be a forest-burning dragon or a royal prince or princess. The art has a nostalgic look for me (from the 80’s). It’s funny, unreal, and too real all at the same time. Great for young and older kids. HJ ALWAYS says “AGAIN!”

HJ: I like her paper bag, because I love it!

Image from "The Paper Bag Princess"

Image from “The Paper Bag Princess”


Now let’s embark on some paper bag fashion design! You’ll need: large paper bag, small paper bags, markers, sticky rhine stones, scissors, dolls to dress.



Step 1: Cut holes in paper bags for head and arms.

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Step 2: Design your paper bag princess dresses however your heart desires.

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Step 3: Try them on and play!

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This project could be made more complex for older kids with trimmings, belts, beads, tiaras, etc. Let them get as creative as they want. Happy fashion designing! (I would love to get photo emails from kids who enjoyed this project :) For more books and projects visit “A Picture Book & A Project” category.


Shanda and HJ


A Picture Book & A Project: “Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover” and make a pizza!

"Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover" by Cece Bell

A Picture Book & A Project: “Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover” by Cece Bell and making a pizza!

Rabbit and Robot have a sleepover, and rabbit has a checklist of fun things to do and a certain order to do it in! When things don’t go exactly as planned, Robot helps Rabbit learn to go with the flow and still have a great time :)

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell CANDLEWICK, 2012

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell

SHANDA: First of all, I’m TOTALY into robots right now! Second, this artwork made me smile. It’s simple, sweet, accessible, and highly effective. I just love it. This book is more like an easy reader, lots of pages, with simple words like Dr. Seuss books. The ending and little happenings along the way were cute and subtly surprising. HJ asked for this one several times, night after night :)

HJ: I like when the robot put nuts and bolts and screws on his pizza!

Image from Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell.

Image from Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell.

Now let’s make a pizza just like Rabbit and Robot did… (Make 2 pizzas if you want different toppings on each one.)





Hope you enjoyed this post!

Love, Shanda & HJ!



Lesson #4: Attempt Being Friends with Technology

Work in progress… painting in Photoshop.

Work in progress. Painting in Photoshop on screen.

Work in progress. Painting in Photoshop on screen.

I’ve felt in my gut for a while that I needed to learn some more computer art skills. I already have a good foundation knowledge of Photoshop and I use it often to enhance photos for the  blogs and websites that I help with. Up until now, I’ve only used Photoshop to brighten my artwork before printing it or posting it.  CREATING with it is over my head. But… I took a little course called “Digital Painting in Photoshop” by illustrator Will Terry. He is a great teacher, and this course has eased my concerns so much. I’ve just started my first digital illustration painting in the style that Mr. Terry demonstrates. I literally just started, so… stay tuned- I’ll post my progress :)

I am aware that the competition in children’s illustration is fierce. There are so many really talented folks sending out to the same publishers and agents that I am. So, I feel I can’t be a stranger to the technology that could potentially help me work FASTER to create MORE work for my portfolio. The more I create, the better I will become. Also, I think it’s increasingly more appealing to work with artists who are technically-able, even if just for scanning and sending high res images over the internets :)

My Ben snagged me a Wacom Tablet for my birthday, so I could really give this a fair shot. I must say, I really like it! I would have bet money on me mostly hating it, and that I would have to force myself to use it. But I found that it’s easier! That’s all I need.

Computers in the studio

Computers in the studio

My almost 3-year-old embraced digital painting before I did, so I’m already behind…



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Thanks for stopping by!






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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author