Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sleepy Sugar Plum Dragon and Friend

Day 25, Inktober 2016 Dragons, Tired

Sleepy Sugar Plum Dragon and Friend pen and ink by Traci Van Wagoner
This drawing has tugged at me all year to paint it since creating it last year during #inktober as part of my dragon collection for the prompt word #tired.
So I did.

I've painted dragons in various colors: red, green, gold -- the usual, so when I saw the #colour_collective color prompt, sugar plum pink, this last week, I was inspired to try that out. What do you think? Do you like pink dragons? Hmm, what kind of magic or abilities would a pink dragon have?

I do believe the little girl is having sweet dreams as she cuddles up with this cute and dusty pink dragon.
Sleepy Sugar Plum Dragon and Friend by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cute Winter Animal Gift Tags

Get your own free printable Winter Animals Gift Tags

Winter Animal Cardinal Gift Tag by Traci Van Wagoner

Last year while doing some winter paint play, I painted some cute winter animals. I decided this year they would make fun gift tags for the holiday season. Since it is the season of giving, I'm giving these away for your own personal use. All I ask is that you visit my website and hit the subscribe button so I can email you a pdf. I promise I won't be inundating your emails, just the occasional free activity page and updates on the goings ons in my studio.

The tags have a fox, reindeer, and a cardinal. Print them on paper or card stock, trim and enjoy! Happy Holidays!

Winter Animal Gift Tags by Traci Van Wagoner
See full page of Winter Animal Gift tags on my website
Get your free pdf printable at Thanks a bunch for following my creative journey!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Balloon Lift Off 9: Balloon Parade

The red balloons have got caught up in some kind of parade!

I had fun over the Thanksgiving holiday last weekend to paint this scene, inspired, of course, by the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I didn't go out into the massive crowds to see the parade myself, instead I joined the parade with the five red balloons, the girl and her dog. It was a beautiful crisp day in New York, and I'm pleased with how I captured that fall feeling.

Balloon Lift Off 9: Balloon Parade by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, Balloon Parade

Can you name the big balloon on the left?

Stay tuned for more adventures. You can now bring the adventure home with a print, poster, book bag and more from my Redbubble store, and you'd be helping out an artist. Please feel free to leave a suggestion of where you'd like to see the balloons go.

As a bonus this lovely weekend, here's another painting I did the day after Thanksgiving while sitting on my roof deck in the now empty roof garden enjoying the slanting fall sun. Have a wonderful weekend!

Roof Garden at 299 NYC by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, Roof Garden at 299 NYC by Traci Van Wagoner

Monday, November 27, 2017

Balloon Lift Off Prints

Now you can get the red balloons series as posters and more!

I've had a lot of interest in my Balloon Lift Off series of paintings, so I am currently putting them up on my Redbubble store as prints, posters, cards, cool tees and more. Check it out and support an artist by buying something for yourself or for a friend.


Cyber Monday awesomeness is on. Save 25% sitewide. Use code CYBER25

Balloon Lift Off Prints and More on Redbubble by Traci Van Wagoner
Balloon Lift Off by Traci Van Wagoner

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Hot Chocolate Comfort

Everything is better with hot cocoa on a cold winter's day

I started this painting last year during the holidays and didn't get chance to finish it, so this year as the weather turned colder and the days shorter, I pulled out my Holidays folder of sketches and WIP half finished paintings and ideas, and this one stood out as a perfect fit for the SCBWI Draw This prompt, Comfort. So, I finished it.

I always loved the feeling as a kid of playing outside all day with my cousins and family, iceskating, tubing, sleigh riding, playing Fox and Geese in the fresh snow, and of course the occasional snow ball fight and snowman making, and then coming inside frozen to the bone to find steaming mugs of hot cocoa. Ice cold hands melt and cold bones warm while wrapped in Grandma's soft afghan. Nothing better that that at the end of a full day of winter play. This is the comforts of home.

Hot Chocolate Comfort by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, Hot Chocolate Comfort

What is your favorite winter activity? What is your comfort of home? Feel free to share in the comments and enjoy the changing of the seasons.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Falling in Love with Fall

This week I decided to embrace fall with some fall color paintings.

This time of year, while I enjoy the fall colors and the crisp cool air, I'm always filled with melancholy. I love the seasons and the change of weather, but I also miss summer so when it's not here. And while I enjoy winter, I'm not generally excited for it to appear -- mostly because it gets dark so dang early.

The first painting, Fall Walk, has some cotton candy sky, the color prompt for #colour_collective and splashes of fall colors and a couple in silhouette walking through a park with a city in the background. It think it captures my melancholy fall mood pretty well.
Wall Walk by Traci Van Wagoner
Fall Walk, @2017 Traci VanWagoner
Fall Friends 1, Boy and Turtle, by Traci Van Wagoner
Fall Friends 1, ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner

Fall Friends

I enjoyed playing with the fall colors so much, I decided to embrace the change of season and dive into the autumn color theme. While I was relaxing and painting in swatches and textures and broad strokes playing with different brushes in Procreate, the boy and turtle popped out and insisted on being painted.

And while painting them, a girl popped into mind, so I painted her and her cat. They are all happy it's fall!
Fall Friends 2, Girl and Cat, by Traci Van Wagoner
Fall Friends 2, ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner

Do you love fall or does it also make you a bit sad? What is your favorite season?

There may be more kids popping out of those fall colors. We'll see. In the meantime enjoy Fall Walk and Fall Friends and go out and enjoy the crisp fall air and colors too!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Balloon Lift Off 8: The Haunted House on the Hill

The Red Balloons Keep on Flying

It's been a while since I painted more of the red balloon series. I couldn't pass up doing something spooky this week in honor of Halloween with a color scheme prompted by colour_collective and the color Ash.

The last in the red balloons series showed the girl floating toward a castle in the clouds and now she's coming back down and floating over a haunted house on a hill with a jack-o-lantern and a ghost. Eek! Her pup looks up at her from the middle of the island. Will he ever catch up with her? Will she ever come back down? Where will those balloons take her next?
Balloon Lift Off 8: The Haunted House on the Hill by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved
Balloon Lift Off Series 1-3 available in my RedBubble Store, art by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Thanks again for joining in the adventure. You can now get Balloon Lift Off paintings 1-3 in my online store as posters, prints, cards and more! Check it out. I'll be putting more up for sale soon, so be sure to follow along and keep up on all the latest.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Headless Horseman Spooky Art

Have a Spooky Halloween!

Illustration Friday's Spooky prompt was perfect for this week. I'm sure that was the idea. 

I've always been fascinated by the Headless Horseman and since that's pretty spooky and since it's Halloween, I painted this for some spooky fun. Have a spooktacular day!

Headless Horseman, spooky art by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Madame Animalia a Picture Book Character

Concept art for my picture book project, That Dragon Must Go.

The Wondrous Madame Animalia, Trainer of Animals both Rare and Fantastical.

Madame Animalia character concept art for That Dragon Must Go by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

I had started this character color study for last week's #colour_collective with the blue of the sky, but work project deadlines took over and I didn't get a chance to finish, so this week's Deep Saffron worked just as well with the tent and Madame Animalia's pants.

I've posted other characters and setting concept art for this project that you can see here. I have a completed a rough sketch dummy for this book and am in the process of creating a final dummy for submitting. This project took over this month instead of doing Inktober, and I'm thrilled with the progress I've made.

And now it's time to go sketch. Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to follow or subscribe to be on top of the latest updates. If you'd like to see more of my work, be sure to visit my new and improved website.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Cute Cheetah Family in the Jungle

Cheetah Family in the Jungle children's art by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

Children's Illustration 

I was going through some old files to see what struck my fancy for this week's paint play with the color Midnight Green for #colour_collective
and these little cheetahs jumped out out me, begging me to paint them. I mean, just look at those eyes. How could I resist?

I had so much fun creating this adorable cheetah family in Photoshop with some fun brushes and my signature style texture. The characters came from some sketches I did while designing an animal racing game for a client

Thanks for stopping by, I hope my painting brings some smiles and perhaps some illustration work as well.

Don't forget to subscribe or follow me to keep up on the latest news, paintings, behinds the scenes peeks, and the occasional art tip. If you're interested in getting my art on posters, cards or more, please visit my Zazzle store TVW Creations or my new RedBubble store.

And please check out my children's illustrator and author website for all my latest work. I have recently updated it so it's all fancy and brand spankin' new! Check it out. Thanks!

Friday, October 13, 2017

A New Picture Book Project: Ruth Asawa

About celebrating the little things and the BIG things, like getting another book illustration job.

Ruth Awawa: A Sculpting Life cover sketch by Traci Van WagonerRuth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler and illustrated by me from Pelican Publishing

I realized that I haven't shared the good news that Pelican Publishing hired me to illustrate another book. Yay! In February of this year, Kevin, Pelican's Art Director, emailed me with a different type of manuscript about a real person with which he thought I could have some fun. I read the manuscript, a biography about an artist I'd never heard of before, Ruth Asawa a Japanese-American artist. With a little web research, I was hooked. Check out my pinterest board where I've collected a ton of images and research on Ruth and her work. It's stunning.

I emailed Kevin with my terms and schedule, and guess what? A few days later...

Yipee! celebratory art by Traci Van Wagoner I got the job - Yippee!

So, I did this quick celebratory illustration and sent it to Kevin.

Here's a run down of what I've been doing and the progression of this project.


The Contract fold from Pelican for the new picture book job, Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life for Traci Van WagonerI got contract and initial payment and the researching began, starting with Ruth -- amazing information and images. I also found David Zwirner gallery. I sent an email explaining the project and asking if they had any information they could provide, and/or sculptures to see in person.

Prep for text dummy for Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler to be illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

I completed a text dummy and dove into more research.

Sketching begins on Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler being illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
Sketches began where I explored and learned more about Ruth and got to know her and her work. And then I needed more in depth research.

Color Final for Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler, illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
I painted the first color sample in which I established the painting style and basic color palette.

They loved it.

Final sketches in progress for Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life written by Joan Schoettler, illustrated by Traci Van WagonerIt was time to finish off the sketches. Oh yeah, and more research for the nitty-gritty details of all the scenes.

As I was finishing off the sketches, I heard from Jonathan Laib, the curator at David Zwirner. Earlier this year the gallery became the executors of the Ruth Asawa estate. They were preparing for an opening featuring Ruth's work, and he graciously offered to show me some of the smaller sculptures before the show. Laura, his assistant, called a couple days later and invited me to the gallery for a private showing of a few of the smaller sculptures. It was amazing! (Thank you, Laura and Jonathan!)
Photo taken by Kurt Keller of Traci Van Wagoner at David Zwirner Gallery with Ruth Asawa sculpturePhoto taken by Kurt Keller of Traci Van Wagoner and Jack McDowall at David Zwirner Gallery with Ruth Asawa sculpturePhoto taken by Kurt Keller at David Zwirner Gallery of Ruth Asawa sculpturePhoto taken by Kurt Keller at David Zwirner Gallery of Ruth Asawa sculpturePhoto taken by Kurt Keller at David Zwirner Gallery of Ruth Asawa sculpture

(photos by Kurt Keller, Ruth Asawa sculptures at David Zwirner with Traci Van Wagoner and Jack McDowall)

I was totally mesmerized when I saw these in person. The photos don't do the sculpture justice. There is a magical quality when you see them in person with the looped wire interacting with itself and the air.

“My curiosity was aroused by the idea of giving structural form to the images in my drawings. These forms come from observing plants, the spiral shell of a snail, seeing light through insect wings, watching spiders repair their webs in the early morning, and seeing the sun through the droplets of water suspended from the tips of pine needles while watering my garden." ~ Ruth Asawa

With a renewed energy after seeing some of these amazing intricate sculptures in person, I finished and sent the final sketches.

While waiting for approval, I was thrilled to be able to go to the gallery opening at David Zwirner where I had the opportunity to see a couple rooms filled with Ruth Asawa sculptures,* and I was able meet Jonathan. He is open to the idea of having a book opening there next fall when the book comes out. Stay tuned for updates on that.

The sketches were very well received with only a few minor revisions needed, and I got wonderful and encouraging comments from the author. I love it when what I'm doing and trying is well received and understood.
"Thank you for choosing Traci Van Wagoner to illustrate Ruth Asawa’s story. Her story sketches cover my dining room table like a gift, complimenting my words with her illustrations. Traci’s research flows throughout her illustrations. Her creativity and designs fit Ruth’s story well.

In looking at the format of the book, Traci incorporated many different structures on the pages from double spreads to vertical and horizontal styles, and to lovely looping with illustrations within the curls. The size variations of framed illustrations add subtle dimensions, showing the reader the diversity and range of Ruth’s art too…always trying something different, exploring, and experimenting. The double page spreads interspersed in the book are a treat for the reader. They focus on important pages. The four-section page with the train has a real sense of movement. I enjoy the subtle passage of time through the sun and moon." ~Joan Schoettler
Thanks Joan! You made my day!

And I got some wonderful kudos from Kevin: Traci Van Wagoner – That girl is the bomb!

I completed the revisions and sent that over. Pelican decided to send the sketches to Ruth's daughter to make sure we got everything right. She had a few changes and suggestions, but overall she loved what I'm doing. I have one spread to rework, and then I'm set for painting.

Now you are up to date. Be sure to check back for more updates as I move into the painting phase of this project.

*The Ruth Asawa show at David Zwirner runs from September 13 through October 21, 2017. If you're in New York, I would recommend checking it out.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Girl with Ruby Pink Walls

Character Art from Inktober Sketches

Going on an adventure, inktober 2017 character sketch by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
This girl spoke to me from my Inktober sketches and begged me to paint her. I combined the two sketches you see on the left to create the final character I painted. She wants to go on an adventure like the girl and dog in my Balloon Lift Off series, which you see posters of on her wall. Her ruby pink walls were inspired by last week's colour_collective prompt. I painted most of this on my iPad Pro with Procreate, and finished it in Photoshop since the iPad was required elsewhere.
The Girl with Ruby Pink Walls childre's book character art by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

I had originally titled this, Running Away, but I'm not so sure she's running away versus running TO an adventure.

What do you think?

Her pen and ink counterpart in my Inktober series is on an adventure now. I'll be sharing my first week's drawings soon of Around the World in 31 days with Georgia and her Dragon, Swift, so be sure to check back.

Thanks ever so much for stopping by!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Pirate Island Concept Art

Setting inspiration paint play for one of my picture book projects

I didn't get a chance to post over the weekend since Inktober started and that sort of took over everything. I'll share more on that later. I also discovered the Bullet Journal system and had a ton of fun setting that up. It may be exactly what I need to get organized and settled and get stuff done instead of hummingbird fluttering from project to project and idea to idea, around and around.

Anyway, back to the topic of this post, Pirate Island. I had fun working out this setting for a picture book of mine. It involves a dragon and has a pirate flair. The kick-in-the-seat-of-the-pants I needed to get this image and concept out of my head and onto paper (so to speak) was, surprise-surprise, #colour_collective with the color prompt, Old Lace (the top part of the sky.)

Now that I have an image of the world my MC lives in, I can sketch out the scenes of her and her brother and a dragon interacting in the world easier. I'm excited to finally get the dummy book done for this one. I'm quite in love with the final story and this setting.

Picture book writers, do you find it helpful to have a setting image available while writing to ground your characters in their  world? This question goes for illustrators as well, actually. I previously have created character sketches (see below) before doing the dummy book, but not often the setting.

Pirate Island setting concept art for a picture book project by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner

Character exploration art for the picture book project

Gertrude character art for a picture book project by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
Bratford, the brother, character art for a picture book project by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner

Sunday, September 24, 2017

What are You Hiding? Middle Grade Illustration

I decided to try my hand again with another monochromatic drawing, in blue this week, following the #colour_collective color prompt, Pewter Blue. I had fun playing with Procreate 4 while creating this one. I'm trying to decide if I like the messy look and line work, but overall I'm happy with this as a middle grade illustration.

Can you see the dragon?
What are You Hiding? a monochromatic illustration in pewter blue by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

On another note, check out my guest post, Draw What You Know and Know More by Drawing, over at Dani Duck Artist Obscure as part of the Smart Dummies contest this month. Hopefully there's some helpful tips there about researching and drawing. There's also a prize available from Bryony Supper. Go check it out.

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

About standing up for ourselves as artists

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.


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.