Boathouse, School, and Public Speaking, Oh My!

Can I let you guys in on a little secret?

I hate public speaking.


Okay, so maybe hate is too strong of a word….how about I thoroughly dislike public speaking?

Being in front of people and having them look at me gives me the heebie jeebies. I break out into splotchy hives under my neck like this:

HIVES!!!! In my WEDDING pictures!!!! Thankfully this is just a mild case…

I’m always afraid I’m going to say something wrong and make a fool out of myself, and being the center of attention is not my cup of tea.

But I love my job and Boathouse Mouse more than I hate speaking in front of people. So when my son’s fourth grade teacher asked if I’d be willing to come in and talk to them and the fifth graders about being an illustrator, I jumped at the chance!

It was a lot of fun visiting with the kids this morning. I spoke for about 40 minutes (which flew by!) and then there was Q&A time for about 10 – 15 minutes afterwards.

Some things we talked about were:

  • Who makes up the team that makes the Boathouse books (there are four of us!)
  • How long it takes to make each book (about 6 months for the whole book, with about 5-10 hours on each page)
  • How I come up with each illustration idea
  • How I design each character; we walked through the process of designing Boathouse and learned what ‘anthropomorphic’ means
Explaining which parts of Boathouse are made up and which are real mouse based
  • What supplies I use; they got to see the difference between the watercolor paper they use in school vs. what I use for illustrations, see my special graphite paper, and hear why I use three different mediums for coloring
I’m showing them where the graphite is gone from being transferred to the final paper
One of the kids feeling the difference between cold press and hot press watercolor paper
  • How the skills they’re gaining in school help with publishing a book (reading, math, public speaking, computer, etc.)
  • I broke down each step of the process; they were surprised at how much work really goes into a book!
  • Aaaand they may or may not have gotten to hear an excerpt from Book 2! But oh man, they were not too happy with me when I wouldn’t read any more!

I had to be careful about what pictures I included; I wish I could include some pictures of the kids getting excited about Book 2, but I don’t have permission to include any kiddos in my blog. I do have permission to include the boy’s head in some of these pictures, but it also helps he belongs to me 😉 My eldest was also at the presentation, but she was my photographer extraordinaire (aka she took over 1,200 pictures!).

Q&A time!

I had such a great time that when the fourth grade teacher asked if she could tell other teachers about the presentation and see if any of them want me to come talk to their classes, I of course said yes 🙂

Maybe public speaking isn’t so bad after all? Or maybe it’s not so bad because it’s over and I don’t have another engagement lined up at the moment 😉


Do you like public speaking? Give me your best tips for feeling comfortable in front of a group! And let me know if you have any questions about the illustrating/book making process!

Boathouse Goes to School

Back in November, a woman from my church approached RV and me about buying Boathouse books for a preschool class that she helps to teach. They were going to be doing an author/illustrator unit, and would love to use Boathouse as their featured book. It was exciting to hear that a school was going to be using our book for a project, and we looked forward to seeing pictures of what they did.

About a week ago, Kim called me out of the blue. The school was going to be having an open house/exhibition night, and would I be interested in coming in to see the kids’ projects and hand out the books to the kids in person.

Um, YES!!!!!

It was so much fun meeting all of the kids, hearing about their favorite parts of the book, and seeing their Wanderer projects.


They made little Boathouse figures, almost like a paper doll. He has his hat, his marlinspike on a cord, his tool box, boat plans, and Wanderer for them all to fit in! It’s even laminated, so the kids can play with them and not worry about them ripping. They even made an extra one for me, which I am going to frame for my office.

Bhm wanderer

They also drew pictures of their favorite parts of the book! Most of them loved the seagull and when Boathouse was on Wanderer.


The kids and parents were all excited about having their own copies of the book; kids have been going home and talking about the book and the projects, and the parents had no reference of what book they were talking about. The principal even came in and bought a couple copies for kids in her life as she was excited about the book as well.

Just seeing how loved this character and book are takes my breath away. I love being part of this project, and seeing others excited gets me all that more excited as well!

Me - Edited

However, the overall experience was a little strange. Parents were taking pictures of me talking to their kids and even having me pose with them. Kids were squealing when they met me, and I even had one little boy who kept coming back to talk about the book and was giving me hugs when he had his picture taken with me! I am just not used to that kind of attention!


A huge thank you to Kim and the school for a wonderful night, it was such an honor to be invited!

And stay tuned….Book 2 is close to being finished and will be available soon!

Boathouse Mouse FAQ

Hey everyone!

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Boathouse, and I thought I’d but together a FAQ blog post or two answering them:

How do you know RV? How did this come about?

RV is actually the dad of one of my good friends. I’d worked with him on a smaller project before (designing a logo for Mission Navigation), but nothing on this scale. RV is an author and has an awesome fiction series (seriously, you should check them out.) He emailed me late December last year with an idea for a children’s book series about a mouse who builds boats and goes on adventures, and was I interested in working with him as his illustrator. I gave it some thought (about two seconds worth) and said yes!

Continue reading “Boathouse Mouse FAQ”

Where are you, Boathouse?

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how Book 1 is coming along and when the expected release date is going to be now that we’re past our original target of September.

My answer? It’s coming soon!

We’ve run into some bumps in the road:

All of the final drawings took a lot longer than I expected them to. I originally thought they’d take me a week, maybe two. However, each illustration took on average 5 hours of work to complete. Considering there were 19 or 20 illustrations total, that’s about 100 hours of work around having summer vacation ending, kids going back to school, and other obligations I have. I grossly under calculated my time, and it took about 2 weeks longer than I anticipated to finish it all.

Working while the kids color with me

I had to learn a new program for doing the book layout…and then get and learn another program. I am not technologically adept by any means. Thankfully, I have a tech guy for a husband, who learned the program quickly, then walked me through exactly what I needed to do for the book. The second program was more designed for books, and gave us the correct format for what we needed for the publisher.

We decided to switch publishers. We now have a publisher that is better for illustrated books, which improves the quality of the book while keeping costs down.

There was a page spacing error in our proofs. When I redid the layout when switching programs, I forgot to put a blank page in causing pages to not line up properly.

The good news is this:

The second proof is being printed right now.  We’re hopeful to get the copies later this week or early next week. Once we look those over, which I think is more a formality, we can set a release date.

Book 2 is going to move a long so much faster!!!! I know what I’m doing now, and I’ve been able to go back through my process for Book 1 and cut out a few steps so I should be able to move faster and more efficiently. I’ll also already know the program, and we’ll know what to look for when we do the final edit before sending to the publisher.

I have Book 2 here, and will be starting my initial sketches any day now! I can’t tell you anything more than that, but I’m super excited to work on this book!

Stay tuned for the official release date either here, on my Facebook page, or on RV’s website!

Boathouse Mouse Update: Rope, Rope, and More Rope

September is just around the corner, and the anticipated projected release of A New Adventure, A New Name is quickly approaching. I am busy working on final illustrations when I can, and should be done in just a couple of weeks.

However, I think I may have not thought this project through enough when I began, and it’s giving me troubles.

Before you start to worry, no, I’m not wishing I hadn’t taken this project on. I’m loving it, and am eagerly awaiting working with RV on the rest of the books. Instead I’m regretting some of my illustration choices when I was working on all the initial sketches and other drafts of the pictures.

Most of the pictures have cute and fun things to draw, like this:

Other pages have not so fun things to draw, like this:


In case you were wondering, that is a pile of rope. It will take up about a third of one of the illustrations. It’s not crucial to the story, just something I thought would be a nice addition to the picture.

You see, my thought process went something along these lines:

“Hey look, there’s empty space that needs filling! What can I put there? Hmm…let’s see…it’s a boat, and what would boats have in this general area? I know! Rope! Let’s put a pile of rope here and it’ll be fantastic! Yes! Brilliant!”

Let’s just say rope is not the easiest or fastest thing to draw. Note to self: less rope in Book 2 if possible!

It does look pretty amazing when it’s drawn, though, and will look even better when colored, and that makes it all worthwhile.

Projects and Illustrations Update

The past couple of weeks have been awesome! I’ve been really busy working on a few great projects, and thought I’d share some pictures in progress:
Project #1: Epic
I’m not sure what this piece will be called yet, but we’ve been referring to it as “Epic”, so that might just stay as the title 🙂 It’s hard to show previews and talk about this piece without giving it away, but it’s going to be a drawing/watercolor painting mixed media piece of awesomeness, and will feature key characters/locations from favorite books and movies.

This project has been in the works for over a year. It was originally going to be an oil painting, but I’ve been struggling trying to get all the detail in with oil. It just wasn’t working for me; I felt like I was losing all the detail and it wasn’t looking as amazing as the piece deserved to loo. I went back to the people who commissioned the piece and asked if a watercolor drawing would be okay instead, and they were totally on board with that 🙂

Project #2: Rivendell, the second in the Lord ofthe Rings series

Well, I’m getting my geek on with this piece as well as the “Epic” piece! After completing A Bastion Against the Darkness (Minas Tirith), I started compiling a list of other Lord of the Rings and Hobbit locations in hopes of doing a series of these drawings. One of my top picks was definitely Rivendell, but doing it as seen in the Hobbit movies.

I had a meeting with the winners of my gift certificate from this year’s auction, and guess what they chose as their piece?

Rivendell from The Hobbit!

It’s slow going as there is soooo much detail, but the going is easy so far (knock on wood!).

Project #3: My favorite anthropomorphic animal, Boathouse!

Have you seen on Facebook or on RV’s blog our big announcement? We have a tentative launch date for Book 1! We are hoping to have it available as early as September. I’m making great progress with the last few sketches; I’m sure it probably sounds like I keep saying that, but I keep tweaking each picture, adding more detail, making sure each piece is accurate. It’s a long process, but I know that from here on out I’ll have a better idea of what the process will look like and it’ll go soooo much faster!

To see RV’s blog post about the release date, check it out here! Make sure you keep checking back here, on my Facebook page, and RV’s blog for more updates as they happen 🙂

I’m also reworking part of my website, signing up for more online art classes that I’ll take this summer, sending out applications for more festivals, and keeping up with house/wife/mom/babysitter duties. Just over a week from now, school will be out, my daycare will closed for good, and I’ll be full time working on my art! It’s very bittersweet.

Which of these three projects are you most excited about seeing completed? Let me know in the comments below!

Behind the Scenes: Illustrating Book One

Can I confess something to you guys?

When RV approached me before Christmas about illustrating his children’s book series, I jumped at the chance. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years, and hey, I could cross something off of my bucket list! Woo hoo!

However, part of me wanted to back out. All these fears crept in and I would start to panic. I mean, how am I supposed to take some one else’s character that they created and bring it to life as a visual image, all while being true to my work yet true to the original idea? What about the setting? I have no idea what boats really look like or the other settings from the book. How am I going to color it? What about layout, how are my illustrations going to work around the text? How in the world am I going to fit the time into my crazy life to do this and do this well? What if my illustrations are awful and ruin the books for RV?!?

The first few times I would send an image to RV, I would expect an email back saying that I wasn’t a good fit for his book and that he was going to find someone else. As you can tell from my Facebook posts and RV’s blog, aside from a few tweaks and adjustments here and there, we are moving along in the process and all of my fears have been (mostly) irrational.

The Process:

RV was totally awesome, and when he sent the first draft of the book for me to look over, he sent along initial sketches of the cover and first few pages of the book. This helped me get a feel for what the character looked like and what RV was envisioning for each illustration. He also gave me the freedom to take each of his initial sketches, change things, and just run with it. I got to be creative, yet still follow his lead with his initial concepts and ideas of what he was thinking.

But illustrating really isn’t just drawing pretty pictures to coincide with the story. I’ve spent so many hours researching boats, settings, period clothing, and getting input from RV. It’s been a long process to get just the concept sketches done, but even though it’s time consuming, it’s so much fun!

What I’m Learning:

The more research you do and the more reference images you have, the better your pictures will be. I’m probably not even using half of the reference images that I’ve found, but I have a better understanding of each piece of the pictures from all the research. I tend to like to skip this part and just start working, but I really do need to slow down more and put more effort into the work before I start drawing or painting. My computer screen looks like this more often than not when I’m doing a concept sketch:

I know next to nothing about boats. Thankfully, RV is an expert as he builds boat for his job and as mission work (you can check out Mission Navigation here!). He has been ridiculously helpful with explaining everything. I’ve also been getting brownie points with my kids; now that I have some sort of an idea what I’m talking about (or at least I pretend really well), I’ve been teaching the kids terms and parts when they’re building their LEGO boats 🙂

It’s not always going to go quick, but it’s not always going to be slow! Some illustrations were done in one quick initial sketch (I love you, pages 6, 11, and 13!), yet others took many sketches (here’s looking at you, page 14) or even two weeks to get the idea “right” (that’d be you, page 5….*shudders*). No matter how long the process takes, it’s always worth it to just get the right amount of fun and detail and story in each picture.

Mice feet are super weird. So are their noses. But in order to get Boathouse to be mouse-like and be believable as a mouse, I had to really study what a mouse looks like, even if he’s pretty anthropomorphic. I think I spent a couple days just drawing mice features over and over again to get a feel for what they look like! Most of that was because we had no idea what Boathouse’s feet were supposed to look like; every other part of him came together easily, but man, mouse feet…they’re difficult!

It’s okay to not know what I’m doing. A couple days after RV approached me, I stumbled across an online class that focused on illustrating children’s books that have animals as their main characters, and it was even on sale!!! I mean, what are the odds that I’d find that class when I needed it?!? I took it in January, and it was so helpful. It helped me really figure out what Boathouse should look like, how to figure out the best compositions, all those artsy things that I was freaking out about a month prior to that. I really was able to gain confidence from this class and really add more to each illustration.

What’s next:

I’ll be honest, I don’t know when the book will be out, but I’m hoping that it will be sooner rather than later. A lot of this is taking longer than I anticipated as I’m working 10 – 12 hour days for my in home daycare 5 days a week, and then spending time with my husband and kids as well as attempting to have a life on top of that. I am hopeful the hardest part of the process is hopefully behind us and it should move quicker from here on out.

Now that all of the concept drawings are done, I get to take all the thumbnails and make them the approximate size of the finished product. I’ll be adding in details that I couldn’t add in before (like buttons, detail on a fence, etc), and I hope to have that done this week, end of next weekend at the latest.

After those are done, it’s color testing time, and then finally the final draft which will be scanned and used for the book. Whew!

Gosh, this post has been so hard to write. It’s hard to show restraint and not tell or show you more about the book or illustrations! I hope you all will love the book when it’s done, because I think RV has done a great job writing this book and creating the world of Boathouse Mouse. And I am so very very thankful I get to be a part of this!

In Case You Missed It…

On off chance you don’t follow me on Facebook or RV’s blog, we revealed a cover teaser of the upcoming book 1 in the children’s book series!

Here it is:

For a much better reveal, head over to RV’s blog post; trust me, his reveal post is much better! This is why he writes and I just draw 😉

Stay tuned for more teaser pics coming soon; I just got an updated draft of the book, so will be cranking out thumbnail sketches of each page over the next week or so!