Shanda’s Journey

More Charlie…

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | September 6, 2013

oops by Shanda McCloskey


scientist by Shanda McCloskey

It Feels A Lot Like Wrestling…

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey | August 30, 2013

…to write a story, create the best character in words (and then in art),

…then tweak the story, tweak the character (words and art),

…..then tweak the story, the character, question your purpose in writing… or life for that matter, etc. (repeat until you need therapy).

AND THEN ADD in drawing a character CONSISTENTLY!? I’m telling you- writing/illustrating picture books is so hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here are 3 out of 6 views I’m trying to make of Charlie. There’s a 4th in there, but I’m undecided if that one looks similar enough. She started off very young and sweet in my earlier sketches on this blog, but the more I work on my story, hear feedback, and draw, this is who she has become- I hope I’ve made the right choices  :)

Some of you told me that you enjoyed seeing the sketches before they were colored so here you go…



Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | August 29, 2013


charlie_headdownShe seems a little older in the two top ones. But which do I want … younger or older? What is most appealing to you? to kids? And should I make her hair black? Maybe that would lighten up the features?


Continuation of Character Studies & Technique Experiments

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | August 21, 2013



This is another view of Charlie from a story I’m working on. I started this sketch in pencil. Scanned it. Painted it digitally with some things I’ve learned (from Will Terry) in combination with my gut feelings on how to move the digital paint around. It’s pretty cool how un-digital it looks! I mean, I think so :) Stayed tuned for more studies of Charlie!


Lesson #6: Draw More


I was proud of myself this week. I drew almost every day. Drawing is just as important for an artist as exercise is to every body, and we KNOW this, yet we can slip into times where we don’t do it for days, weeks, and even months. After I had my little girl, I was so mad that I’d let 6 months pass by without making art. Now, to my defense, having a baby just about did me in, but it is what it is, and that’s no way for an aspiring illustrator to be.

I am feeling like I really have to make some choices that will define how I spend my time from now on. Some of those choices is to draw more, every day if I can. I found that when I spend more time drawing, I feel more prepared for an illustrative future (like I’m getting somewhere), which makes me feel happier and calmer, which allows me to be more “present” while playing with my daughter. They say, moms who take care of themselves, take better care of their kids. I can see now.

And each day that I drew, it felt progressively more natural, and even easier maybe. If that’s the case, can you imagine if we drew (almost) every day for years and years? I believe we’d actually get pretty good!

I am working on the look/feel of a girl character in a story I just completed the first draft on. Looking forward to the feedback I get at my critique group this Wednesday night! They are wonderful, and I know it will become a better story with their help.

Here’s my progression through this week…




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!



Digital Painting Progress & A New Sketch

Filed under: Illustration,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | July 6, 2013

Gabby's Hair by Shanda McCloskey

So far, I am enjoying this process. The ability to take more risks with colors, strokes, and lines (because it is easily reversed if I don’t like the result) is priceless. It’s pretty freeing and liberating. I am so glad I decided to try this new digital territory. I feel like it’s going to be important in my journey to publication.

This morning I had the luxury of a quiet morning alone with a cup of coffee and my current favorite music :) I know I need to draw every day if I possibly can, even if just for a quick few minutes. So, I camped out in my yard and drew my neighbor’s house across the street. A single dad lives there. It is too cute that he hangs a wreath on his front door! 


Burt's House by Shanda McCloskey

FREE Art Workshop for kids at the Ball Ground Library

Filed under: Events,Shanda's Journey | July 2, 2013

FREE Art Workshop for kids ages 6-12! Wednesday, July 10th, 10:30 am with local illustrator (me)! limited spots, call the Ball Ground Public Library at 770-735-2025 to register.


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…



photo 4

Thanks for stopping by!






Lesson #3: Give Your Blog Readers Good Free Content (& they’ll probably be excited about your books too :)

This lesson I learned from my Southern Breeze Illustrator Coordinator, Elizabeth O. Dulemba. About 5 years ago, she started offerring a FREE coloring page every Tuesday on her blog. Every Tuesday. For 5 years (and still going). Wow!


Readers loved it. Teachers loved it. Librarians loved it. Kids loved it! Her blog blew up! Coloring Page Tuesdays are hotter than hotcakes! Now she has a super nice platform of readers to tell about her new books when they come out! Genius! And she did this by GIVING!

So, the lesson here is the title above: Give your blog readers good, free content, and they’ll probably be excited about your books too! At this point, they would probably be willing to buy your books for their kids, kid’s friends gifts, nieces, nephews, classrooms, or themselves.

Well then, what can I do on my blog that could serve a similar purpose? Of course, I would not copy Elizabeth’s coloring page idea, so I thought about my own strengths, experiences, and what I enjoy. At this point in my journey, I like to experience lots of books and learn from them. Especially picture books. Reading with my daughter is my favorite way to spend time with her. We are both into books, and can have a lot of fun together. I’m not the best to get on the floor and play each day, but reading is different. We read together just about every day.

Our Reading Chair

Our Reading Chair

I love to see what books she asks for again and again. Reading together is such a great way to learn what kids respond to, and the breadth of their understanding of a story. It’s that stuff and so much more! Here’s a great quote from The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books:

A picture book may seem like a simple proposition- a decorated story. In fact, a picture book contains several modes of expression and can contain multiple layers of meaning. What a picture book “means” to a child is more than just a story with illustrations. From an early age, children learn what a book is, how to hold it the right way up, the order in which to turn the pages, and how to read- first the images and then later the words. The imagery may be “realistic” or entirely graphic. Imagery and colors may form patterns throughout the book, accruing meaning as motif; white space may imply content and demand that the child mentally “fill in the gaps”; and the illustrations may expand on and extend the information in the text. Sometimes, the illustrations may even tell a different story. This tension between what is said and what is shown makes picture books a unique and exciting form of graphic expression.

So I’ve decided to offer up picture book suggestions that my daughter and I both enjoy and why. I’ll share my point of view, and then she’ll share hers :) But I’m also going to add an art element to it, and we’ll demonstrate a project to do with your little ones that expand on the book and are fun! And there you have it! I think I’ll call it “A Picture Book & A Project”.

I try to do it once a week, and my projects will be suited for young kids for now, My daughter is just about to turn 3. But as she grows, so will the complexity of the projects.


Which books will she pick??

Be on the lookout for “A Picture Book & A Project”. Coming soon!


P.S.- Notice anything different about the look of my site? It’s nice to change things up every so often :)

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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author