Sunday, September 17, 2017

Silly Squirrel Chasing Dog

While transferring old files from disks to a new backup drive, I rediscovered several old dummy books and a variety of sketches for various projects. One project in particular I had a lot of fun going over again. I've had this picture book idea, My Dog is Crazy, bouncing around for many, many years and it has gone through various drafts, rewrites, dummy books, critiques, submissions and around and around and around. It's had some interest from editors, but not enough to make it past the final hurdles to get bought. So, it has sat in wait for a while. I just may try to tackle it again.

This illustration came from a sketch from an early dummy book which I still loved when I found it, so I painted it. Once again, #colour_collective provided the nudge I needed with the color Vert Pré.

Samantha Rose Edwards tried to hold Marvel, really she did, but Marvel is crazy. Zip-zooming, splish-splashing, squirrel-chasing crazy! 
Crazy squirrel chasing dog a fun children's book illustration by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved


Monday, September 11, 2017

Getting Illustrator Recognition

Every so often I do a google search for various things: my name, my design company name, and my book titles. Yesterday I did a search for the book I illustrated for Pelican Publishing, The Mermaid's Gift by Claudia Cangilla McAdam. I came across something interesting and wanted to let you know how it played out. I found a fun website selling my book. There's a wonderful review of the book and a nice ending note about how beautiful the illustrations are. But... my name was nowhere to be found.

This is a problem I've noticed around the web on various sites and social media. Often times illustrators don't get the credit they deserve whether its for illustrated books, posters, packaging etc. Being an introvert, it's not easy for me to speak up. So, part of my campaign to make sure illustrators are getting recognition is:

Be Bold and Brave

Fear Less illustration by Traci Van Wagoner
©Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

So, I contacted the website and politely pointed out the problem and informed them that illustrators, especially for picture books, need to get credit as well. Guess what? They responded. They added my name! Yay! The last paragraph of a beautiful description and review now reads:

This gorgeous picture book beautifully illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner is an inspiring  gift for all ages!

Italian Children's Market
I'm sending a shout out to Isabella Centofanti at Italian Children's Market for not only carrying my book, but also doing the right thing.
Thank you!



Always keep in mind, it can't hurt to ask.

Have you noticed an overall lack of illustrators getting credit? Any other illustrators out there notice this problem? Have you done anything to help get illustrator credit? Artists unite.

The Mermaid's Gift writtey by Claudia Cangilla McAdams and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
The Mermaid's Gift, Pelican Publishing, 2015

 "The Mermaid's Gift stands out among the many versions of this tale for its showing (not preaching) of the very qualities we hope to instill in our children: love, courage, faith, and perseverance."
Italian Children's Market



More posts about The Mermaid's Gift.
See sketches, process and more.

Click "Books" to find additional links for purchasing the book

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Balloon Lift Off 7: Castle in the Clouds

Up, up, up into the wild blue yonder to the castle in the clouds. The red balloons keep flying. Hold on little girl, hold on! Keep up, puppy, the best you can.

I hope my painting and this adventure will uplift your spirits in troubling times. Keep on dreaming.
Another Red Balloon adventure by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Balloon Lift Off: 6 Balloon Crossing

In case you've been missing the balloon adventures, here's another one for fun, Balloon Crossing. The color inspiration was Buttercup. I keep debating about how much noodling to do on these. I like the loose and energetic feel, but I also like to noodle things -- sometimes too much. That's one of the reasons I'm really loving painting on the iPad. I create most of these paintings with my finger first, and then I bring in the Apple Pencil when I want more detail. My art has loosened up a lot and I think feels more fresh.

Where do you think the balloons will take the girl and her dog next?

Balloon LIft Off 6: Balloon Crossing by Traci Van Wagoner an illustrated adventure
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Shocking Pink Fairy Tale Queen

I don't usually paint with such a shocking color, such as pink and stinky, but #colour_collective inspired yet another break from my color palette with Shocking Pink, although I do love to use purple and that worked well with the pink.

This color really took me back to my early days of toy design in toy school at FIT with all the girly toys and, of course, Barbie. I spent a lot of time combing the isles of toy stores back then, and it never failed, you turn a corner and -- BAM!-- an entire row of nothing but shocking pink plastic girly toys everywhere and most of it perfumed. Thus, pink and stinky.

These characters came from sketches for one of my picture book projects. I think I like them, so you'll most likely see more of them in some form or another. Shocking pink may not be the right colors for them for the story, but it was fun here.

Since I've been spending a lot of time exploring color this year with these weekly challenges, I might as well ask, what's your favorite color? Or colour?
children's fantasy art of a Queen and King with their pets by Traci Van Wagoner
© 2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Illustration Friday: Shoes

I painted these shoes for Illustration Friday's prompt, which is "Shoes", in honor of my favorite pair of shoes and, well, they're orange and sunny and fun, so there's that too. Oh, and a dog, because you know dogs are awesome!

What are your favorite pair of shoes? And/or are you a cat lover or a dog lover?

An illustration of orange shoes and a dog with a cityscape behind painted by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Balloon Lift Off 5: Wild

Happy Saturday! I've been on another Balloon Lift Off paint play adventure with the red balloons, the girl, and the dog. This one grew into WILD the #scbwidrawthis prompt for August. It started with a bunch of trees, some hills, the balloons, girl, the dog, then one cave popped up with a mama bear outside and her cubs inside, then more caves, more bears, and what to do bears love? Honey. So, in came a bear eating honey from a beehive, and more beehives, and bees. So, yep, wild. And I'm left wondering how the dog will get through all those bears and bees to follow his girl.

I hope you're enjoying this wild journey! If you have suggestions of where you'd like to see this balloon adventure go, feel free to comment with your ideas.
Wild, the red balloon adventure continues by Traci Van Wagoner
Wild, ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Balloon Lift Off 4: The Lighthouse

I usually post my paint play inspired by Colour Collective earlier, but I'm a bit late this week since I have a tight deadline with sketches to finish for a book for Pelican Publishing (more on that later).

I stole a few minutes (okay, more than just a few) from my sketching time to paint another adventure with the the red balloons using Cordovan as the color inspiration to post to #colour_collective on twitter. I'm trying to keep a logical storytelling sequence to this series, so I also used the teal ocean color from last week and have the girl being swept in from the ocean this time.

Did she travel across the entire sea? I shrug. Perhaps. I was going to paint her in the middle of the ocean with the dog on a boat (which you can see a peek at the dog in a boat possibility with the time-lapse video on instagram), or passing a Cordovan colored pirate ship, but this is what came out when I put finger to iPad with Procreate. I go where the wind takes me, so to speak.

The first image is what I posted for #colour_collective, and the second one is because I felt I needed to push the lighting a bit more, so I spent a bit more time with it. Which one do you like better?

children's illustration feature the fourth of a red ballon advetnrue by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved
Children's adventure series told by illustration by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Balloon Lift Off 3: Swept Away

The red balloons are still flying.

This week I was inspired to continue with my Balloon Lift Off series with Swept Away inspired by #colour_collective weekly color Vert Réséda as the background color, which screamed ocean to me. Once again, the color inspired the art and the balloons won't let me go, so this is what happened:

a red balloon adventure in pictures by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Will she ever land? What will she see in her travels? How will her dog keep up if she is swept out to sea? Stay tuned, I'm sure there will be more of their story unfolding here. Have an adventurous weekend everybody!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Don’t Fret, Fred, Your Day Will Come (hopefully sooner, since it’s already later)

spot illustration from Don't Fret, Fred by Traci Van Wagoner
Fred from Don't Fret, Fred Version 1
I’m happy to say that Fred is finally ready (again) and has ventured out into the wide world all shiny and new.

I revised and polished the manuscript, sketched out the dummy and completed (or should I say, redid and reillustrated) three samples spreads and it is now out into the world for consideration by agents and editors. Whoopee! And to tickle your curiosity, it is being seriously considered somewhere. To be named later if it comes through.

Don’t Fret, Fred is a wild romp of a tale in which Fred discovers that exciting things can happen when you look up from your e-things and use your imagination.

 This story has pretty much always been about that. Even though the journey has meandered to and fro, the heart of the story, the bare bones of a bored kid, Gram knitting and telling a wild yarn which spins out of control and Fred having bring them home has remained the same. Gramps has always been like, here we go again. The happenings, the specific interactions has changed, but the core has remained the same.

This picture book has gone through three major revisions (not to mention the many, many edits, and fussing with words, paragraphs, spreads.) I sent out the manuscript alone many years ago. I got personal rejections with editors who liked the humor but felt there wasn't enough there to pass the last hurdle to acquire it. After a pile of rejections, I put it in a drawer where it sat with all those rejection letters for a looooooooooong time.

Until…

My nephew stirred interest again when he casually said one day, "don't fret, Fred." He remembered the fun repeating line from my book from when I read it to him years before. That gave me heart. I pulled it back out, reworked it with my husband and business partner and my wonderful crit buddies (where would I be without their invaluable input?), and I hammered away at it till I got something I was happy with again.

So, good to go, I created a dummy book and finished sample illustrations.


Don't Fret Fred, version 1, by Traci Van WagonerDon't Fret Fred Cover version 1, written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

Don't Fret Fred, version 1, by Traci Van Wagoner

Don't Fret Fred, version 1, by Traci Van Wagoner



Fred had his debut showing at the SCBWI Winter Conference in NY, I also sent it out to to editors, agents, and hit the twitter pitch parties. I received some interest here and there, but I wasn't quite happy yet and neither was anyone who saw it. Something niggled at me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. In one of the twitter parties, I saw someone was interested in a book with yarn bombing and -- boom! -- the seed of an idea was planted. Then taking a walk in my neighborhood (on what we call the chicken walk) I came across this:

yarn bomboing on the chicken walk by Traci Van Wagoner
Yarn bomb on my dog walk

And the idea clicked. That’s what I needed! Gram is a yarn bomber. I went back to work.

Edit. Revise. Redraw. Sketch. Paint.
New Fred sketch by Traci Van Wagoner
New Fred sketch adding yarn bombing

A new manuscript, dummy book and sample illustrations were born now with a yarn bombing gram. You see her behind the scenes yarn bombing all the places they land, which in the end gives Fred an idea to help bring them home. I think this has tied it all together with humor, surprise, and a bucket load of imagination


Don't Fret Fred illustration by Traci Van WagonerDon't Fret, Fred version 2 by Traci Van Wagoner


Okay, I was done. Sent out some more and received a smattering of interest. Then I received a great comment on twitter from Guiseppe Castellano which basically said (I can’t find the actual comment), “fun, but strange there are purple outlines.”

This was something that had been niggling at me, but I’d ignored for many reasons. It was an illustration style I liked and had developed for various reasons which I won’t go into here. I came to a conclusion that I needed and should and wanted to redo the final illustrations yet again. I wanted to loosen up and have fun just painting and breaking free from a conception of what my style was or should be. So I did, and I had a ton of fun. And this is what happened.

Don't Fret Fred cover illustration. Written and Illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

Children's book illustration by Traci Van Wagoner

Sketch for children's book written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

illustration for Don't Fret, Fred by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

There you have it, the basic progression of this book. It's been a long road, and now I hope I'm at a point where others will enjoy it too and someone will be willing to take it on. One can hope.

And here's my query schpill:

Don't Fret, Fred written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner. Dummy book available upon request.

Don't Fret, Fred by Traci Van Wagoner

Cut off from the electronic world, Fred is worried a day with Gram and Gramps in the boonies will be boring. Boy, was he wrong. While balling Gram’s yarn (yawn!), he asks her for a story. Crazy and out-of-this-world things begin to happen, spinning them up into a wild yarn of an adventure bigger than all of them. Fred will have to use his rusty imagination to get them back home before they are lost in space.

Dummy book available upon request.



I would love to hear what you think of Fred and his yarn bombing Gram. And please feel free to share any pictures or stories you have of yarn bombing in your neighborhood.


If you'd like to see more of my illustration process, click here to see the making of The Mermaid's Gift by Claudia McAdam, published by Pelican Publishing.

Thanks ever so much for sharing in my journey.