my writing process – a blog tour


Hi and hello.

Melissa Guion asked me to hop on this blog tour about process and I said yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

The first time I met Melissa was on a camping trip, of sorts.  She hula hooped … like a champ.  I am both suspicious of and fascinated by people that can hula hoop.  The second time we crossed paths was the same camping trip one year later.  We slept in a converted van together.  She brought me coffee in the morning.  We fell in love with Portland, OR’s tap water.  Nowadays she just comes to my house and we eat seafood and drink gin drinks and I try to convince her to buy a house in my neighborhood.  Melissa is top notch … many thanks to her for getting me involved here, today.

OKAY!  Questions …

what am i currently working on?

a weed is a plant out of place.web

Currently I am working on something that has nothing to do with writing or professional illustration.  I have two solo shows coming up at the end of summer/beginning of fall (Land Gallery, Portland OR  Sept. 11th/Art Star, Philadelphia, PA  October 11th).  So I am working on pieces for those shows most/all of the time.

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Book-wise, I most recently finished TELEPHONE!, written by Mac Barnett.  TELEPHONE! is a take on the game of telephone/whisper down the lane/grapevine with birds.  Birds with personality.  So.  Much.  Personality.  I loved working on this book … not only because it was a chance to work with Mac, who is a smart, fun, funny fellow, but also because I got to work with Chronicle Books again.

how does my work differ from others of its genre?

My style comes in two flavors:  quiet/moody and loose/perky.  Sometimes people describe my work as “whimsical” … but I truly dislike that word.  Whimsical.  Work of whimsy.  Oddly, I don’t disagree with it’s definition … but the sound and general, quick to draw use of “whimsical” doesn’t sit well with me.

Am I answering this question?  I don’t think I am answering this question.  Not well at least.  I don’t tend to think of my work outside of itself in reference to other work.  I love working on children’s books.  I love visual narratives.  In the end I hope that my sense of atmosphere, love of color and shape-y-ness mixed with my interest in pattern speaks to people … young and old alike.

why do i write what i write?

HA HA HA!  Joke’s on you … I don’t write.  I would like to.  I hope to.  I have some ideas that I am poking around with a pencil.  I think it’s my next thing … but as of yet I don’t/haven’t written a story for publication.

Why do I draw what I draw?

For books like the LITTLE series, MATHILDA AND THE ORANGE BALLOON, I am looking to keep the feeling light and fun.  There’s a merriment to the characters, who are more often than not, anthropomorphic beings, and I love loose line work with bright colors and playing with negative space for those sorts of stories.


Work that I’ve done with Cynthia Rylant and HUMBLEBEE HUNTER with Deborah Hopkinson felt more meaty and weighty to me.  Darkish fairy tales and stories involving Darwin have a different feel to them than owls who want to go to bed.  The work I generate for these stories I think a bit more about light and depth of field (even though I flatten it out all the same) and I am more precise in my line work.

With TELEPHONE! and I HATCHED! my hope was to begin to bring these two worlds of drawing style closer.  It’s my newest direction to focus on what my brain calls “shapey and patterny.”

how does my process work?


I would like to say right from the start that I do not recommend my process for general use.

Okay.  The first phase of my process involves a lot of sitting and thinking and staring.  I usually do this lying on a hardwood floor.  I obliquely and lightly think about the project at hand and then try to think about nothing.   I clear my mind and then let the subconscious rip.

The second phase is a list making phase.  I try my best to catch the wisps and bolts of ideas that came to me as I was lying on the floor.  I make a lot of lists … on scraps of paper, in different sketchbooks … and then I ignore them.

Phase three is loose doodling.  Sometimes it’s doodling that has nothing to do with the work at hand.  Also any reference/inspiration research is done.  I collect a lot of images online.  A total image hoarder.  I love feeding my visual brain.

three birds

Procrastination.  This is a big part of my process.  Sometimes my house has never been cleaner.  All of a sudden, neglected artwork gets hung all at once.  My garden breathes easy with a focused fury of weeding.  Procrastination is worrisome but key.  It gets peppered in throughout the beginning of phase one and two and three.

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After all of this nonsense it’s buckle down time.  And I suspect that I spend so much time in a nebulous, time wasting zone because when I am in the real work zone it’s all encompassing.  I get “in the zone”.  I become serious and near humorless and can’t socialize in ways that maintain warm friendships.  During this time I generally have a solid idea about how the larger ideas will play out.  I figure out color palettes as I go along and will, here and there, make instinctive/inventive decisions.  So within all of this focus and general foundation I like to throw in possibility.  It doesn’t always work out.  Sometimes it creates a problem that forces me to figure out an even better solution … other times I have to scrap a piece.

So it goes.

And now it’s time to pass the mic …

Amy Martin!

The first time I met Amy was on a camping trip, of sorts.  We slept in the converted van that Melissa and I would share a year later.  When I am in Portland, OR I get to stay with her and she brings me coffee in the morning. Amy is the author illustrator of SYMPHONY CITY and the forthcoming NIGHT LIFE.  Amy is a genius.  A real raw dog.

Liz Wong!

The first time I met Liz Wong was never … I only know her via the interwebs and through Twitter.  But I like her style … art-wise and sass-wise.  Her book, QUACKERS, makes its way out into the world in 2015.  Until then, peep more stuff here (psst … she’s a gem).

Follow the tour on Twitter:  #mywritingprocess