Tags & Packaging

I’ve been working on making some changes? improvements? to some of my displays and packaging!

First up: price tags for festivals!

I love using hanging tags because it doesn’t harm the frame or leave sticky residue on the glass. In the past I will just take my tag punch and use white cardstock and that has worked wonderfully, but I thought I could elevate them and make them unique.

I spent some time thinking about what I could do different, and as I finished a watercolor painting it hit me: I use scrap watercolor paper for testing colors before putting it onto my piece, and then I just put it into the recycling when the paper is full. What if I used that paper as my hang tags? They’re making use out of something I’d normally get rid of, saves me money as I no longer need to buy cardstock, and it jazzes up my hang tags!

Continue reading “Tags & Packaging”

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!

Hello, WordPress Followers!

Hey guys!

I just wanted to let you know that I’m doing some remodeling on this blog. I’m adding pages, moving things around, and changing the overall look of the blog.

Why am I doing this?

In the next couple of weeks, I will be shutting down my website over on Shopify and transforming this page into my full time website! As soon as I close that website down, this will become http://www.backtothedrawingboardart.com!

For my store, I have opened up an Etsy store and am adding new products and transferring the products from my Shopify site over to Etsy

So as I work on this, please forgive the dead links, random comments on various pages, and general confusion as I work this out. I’m hoping it gets better as each day passes! The blog should continue to work as normal 🙂

Hope all is well with you guys! Thanks for your patience as these changes progress 🙂

– Shawna

Attica Founders Day Booth and Update

Hey everyone!

Yesterday was my first outdoor festival, and I’m really happy with how everything turned out. The bumps in the road that I experienced all last week worked out in the end, the weather was absolutely perfect, my booth looked great, and I made some new contacts.

Before I get into any more detail about how the show went, I know a lot of you have been anxious to see the finished booth!

Remember my initial design sketch?

I think I came pretty close to creating that:

The jewelry displays turned out perfectly! They hung on chains that were anchored to the ground, and although there was a little bit of a breeze, when there were gusts of wind we didn’t have to worry about the boards going anywhere! The mirror was a great addition; a lot of customers appreciated being able to see how certain earrings or necklaces looked.

We had to do some tweaking with this back wall after awhile. The table was supposed to be farther left, but because of the extra oil painting display, there wasn’t room for both chairs on the right of the table. The print display ended up blocking the sign, so we moved it over to the right side of the back wall, and it looked much better there 🙂

The hanging displays for the originals worked out great! We’ll be doing some tweaking to them to make them better (especially for windy days), but for yesterday they were perfect.

Highlights of the day:

– One of my customers works in the framing department at the local Michael’s, and he really liked my work. He sees a lot of different things, so it was a huge compliment that he liked what I did!

– Meeting a lot of new people, and putting faces to names! Thank you to everyone who took the time to come visit, check out my booth, and chat with us!

– We were getting ready to pack up, and a woman came back who had visited earlier. She really wanted a necklace and was afraid she was going to miss getting back to us! That really encouraged me 🙂

– So many compliments on the booth, the art, and all the little details! So many people loved the cut outs on the jewelry and then the free gift boxes as well. Someone even commented that they loved how the purple shopping bags I had for carrying purchases matched the booth colors.

Hard parts of the day:

– This wasn’t during the day, but getting those note cards done was so stressful! My ink arrived early afternoon Friday, and I still didn’t know if the printer would work with the computer. During the kid’s rest time, I redid some of the note card designs on the computer, thinking maybe the files had corrupted or something along those lines. That afternoon, I went to work on printing, and not only did the note cards I redid print out beautifully, but all the other ones I had saved from before did too! We’re still not sure what the problem was, but hey, it’s working now and that’s all that matters!

– Packing the van so everything we’d need right away was up front and things we’d need last was farther behind. We didn’t know if we’d be able to park right by the tent or would have to walk far for unloading, so packing was something we took extra time to figure out in the morning. Everything fit, and it was super easy to unload, especially as we were able to park right behind tent 🙂

– This is a really really silly hard part, but it was definitely a struggle! We were situated behind the pulled pork guy, the reuben sandwich guy, AND the kettle corn guy! Anyone who knows me well enough knows that those three things are huge weaknesses for me. It was so hard to not go buy from them all day, but we had brought our own food, and didn’t want to spend our hard earned money from the festival on food. We ended up not purchasing food at the festival, but having the breeze blow the smells into the tent all day was almost torture!

Things I’ve learned or have to change for next time:

– Have more things at different price points. I hadn’t thought about this too much because at the last show I had the gift tags which were a nice low price. I didn’t have anything like that this time, so I’m not sure if that affected sales or not.

– Have a sale/discount. My husband volunteered his entire Saturday to come help me, and halfway to through the day he said next time maybe do something like get a necklace and earrings as a set for a certain price, or buy two prints get $5 off. I had thought about that before, but it slipped my mind.

– Have my giveaway sign be clearer, easier to read, and standing up! If I hadn’t been mentioning it, I don’t know if anyone would have really entered.

– Figure out how to anchor the original print displays for wind. They were blowing pretty good, and we were afraid the originals might fall off and break if the wind was any stronger. We’ll be replacing the nails with small L hooks as well so the pieces will be better secured.

Fun tidbits:

This festival was only my second show, but first outdoor show. It fell exactly six months after my first show! My displays have changed so much since then, and we’ll see how things change from here on out!


When is your next show? Are you going to do AppleUmpkin?

I don’t know, and I don’t know. I need a break from shows right now to concentrate on some projects that have been held up while I’ve been prepping for Founders Day. I would love to do AppleUmpkin (our village/town’s big festival), and I had been offered a space from someone who lives just off the main road of the festival for free, and I need to touch base with her. If that is no longer an option, I need to get moving on getting an official application in as it’s due by the end of the month, if I decide to do it. It’s a bigger fee, more work for the application, and it’s two days instead of just one. As soon as I know my next event, I will let you all know 🙂

Thank you all for your support and encouragement the past couple of months while I was getting this all together, and for those of you that stopped by to see me yesterday! I can’t wait to get started on other projects tomorrow, so be looking for sneak peeks within the next few days over on Facebook!

It’s Crunch Time!

24 hours.

In just 24 short hours, I will be arriving in Attica to start setting up my booth for the festival on Saturday.

Am I ready?

Yes and no!

I’m getting really really excited about it. I’m very anxious and nervous that something will go wrong, but seeing all the months and hours of planning and designing and hard work come together is really awesome.

What we’ve gotten done since the last update:

– Booth tests are about complete! Everything is coming together nicely, and it looks AMAZING! Here’s a sneak peek:

– All the displays are built, even the one I decided I needed at the last minute.

Originally I was only going to have the two wooden displays hooked together for all the originals and just replace ones that sell with back up ones. However, I thought the oil painting overwhelmed the watercolors and didn’t flow nicely:

I quickly designed a new display, and we went out and grabbed supplies, and now we have an oil painting display!

– Necklaces are complete! Woo hoo!

– The tent is waterproofed (which is perfect as there’s a slight chance of rain on Saturday) and the tent weights are made. My boys and husband made them for me, and they’re perfect!

What is left to do:

– Finish up prints and note cards. I was able to make some prints last week, and they turned out great!

However, this week my computer and printer decided to stop playing nicely, all my settings have been changed (and are still off), and we’re waiting on one last ink tank to arrive today (cutting it too close, eek!) in hopes that I can get these done before Saturday morning. If I can’t, it will be okay, but the note cards are my biggest seller, and I’d love to have them available tomorrow.

– SLEEP! I’m having a hard time sleeping this week for various reasons, and I don’t want to go into Saturday exhausted.

– Pack up! I have to finish gathering the supplies (like tape, hammer, etc) and putting everything into plastic totes. After we drop the kids off in the morning with their grandparents, we can pack everything into the van. I hope it all fits! 🙂

Bumps along the way:

– A literal bump (and bruise!) would be my leg. The first day we did tent testing, the wind was CRAZY. It was shaking the tent sides so much that it caused the table to crash over into my leg not once but twice.

I decided the tables needed to be anchored not only for stability reasons but safety reasons as well, and they’re not going anywhere now!

– Technology. I have no idea what happened to my computer, and neither does my super smart husband. I have to print out of the Windows operating system (which we normally don’t use), so we’re not sure if it’s a bad Windows version or what. It makes me appreciate Linux (the operating system we do use) so much more! Note: next time buy a printer that doesn’t need Windows….

– The weather. Over the course of the week, the weather prediction has been all over the place. Originally it was going to be 85 with 80% chance of thunderstorms. The latest prediction is 67 and no rain, and I like that a lot better! We’ve made as many changes to the booth in anticipation for any kinds of weather, so we should be set no matter what happens.

Questions I’m getting:

Are you ready for this to be over?

Yes, but not in the way you’d think!

I’m looking forward to it being over so I can have my dining room back. Normally I store my art things in the basement, either in my office or studio, but as I’m testing the booth on a regular basis, I really don’t feel like carrying everything up and down the stairs a bunch of times. Maybe I’m lazy, but I don’t want my shoulder or back injuries to flare up before the show.

I’m also looking forward to working on the new projects I have lined up. They’re a combination of geek, epic and awesome, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Boathouse Mouse illustrations are also screaming my name, and I can’t wait to get back to working on them again!

If you’re in the area tomorrow, stop by and see me! The festival is from 11 am  – 5 pm at the Attica Veteran’s Memorial Park on Exchange Street. We’d love to see you!

Outdoor Booth Progress Update

It’s hard to believe that my first outdoor festival is less than a month away! I’ve been really busy the past couple of weeks researching how I wanted to display everything, ordering the supplies, and finally starting to put things together.

Here’s what I have managed to complete:

I bought all the fabrics for my signs, displays, and table runners. I happened to find all the fabric I needed/wanted either on the clearance table or on sale, and then had a coupon that covered all the fabric!

I ordered the tables for my booth. I went back and forth about what size I wanted, and ended up going with three 4 foot long ones. I wanted my booth to feel as spacious as possible and be able to rearrange my booth as needed. Because I am hanging a lot of my products on the walls, I was able to get away with the smaller tables. Finding them on sale was a huge bonus, and then having them fold in half for easy storage was even better! They can be adjusted in height; I think I’m going to use the counter top height for the booth.

My cat claimed the table boxes; he was very upset with me when I eventually unpacked them:

And my youngest loved using them as a fort to play with while I was deciding which height I liked best:

I ordered tablecloths. I was planning on making these as the wrinkle resistant ones were so expensive. However, I found some on Amazon for a great price! They just came today and although they’re wrinkled from the packaging, I think they’ll be perfect. They’re a bit bigger than I thought, so if I decide I need a bigger table at any point, I should be okay with the tablecloths I have now.

I’ve started making the jewelry displays. I knew I wanted them to hang on ribbon inside of a frame, but couldn’t find any frames I liked in the size I wanted within my budget. I decided to go buy moulding and make my own, but I found great sized bulletin boards at our church’s garage sale!

Thankfullly I found a tutorial on Pinterest that helped me figure out how to take the frames off of the corkboard, because man, these frames were put together very well and took forever to take apart.

I found some white sparkly fabric that I thought would be a great backdrop for the jewelry and painted the frames black. I think they look fantastic! Now to make more earrings as my inventory is quickly disappearing!

What I still have left to do:

Make my original art work display board. I finally decided on what I’m going to do for those, and we just bought the supplies this past weekend. My hubby will be cutting the boards to size for me this weekend, and then I can get moving on getting those finished!

Waterproof my tent. This isn’t completely necessary as my tent is water resistant, but I don’t want to take a chance on ruining my products!

Make tent weights. I could have ordered these, but they really are expensive. We’re making them instead, and once the PVC pipe is cut to size, I’ll be able to get those made up in an afternoon.

Make more products! Paper for prints and ink for my printer are arriving today/Monday, so I’ll get those made up quick. I have to make note cards and more earrings still. I also have an original piece that is so close to completion, and I want to try and get that finished up if at all possible.

Finally finish the necklaces. If you follow me on Facebook, you know I’ve been having trouble with them. The first chains I bought tarnished within a day or two of being out of their packaging. The next chains I bought were too big and bulky for the pendants. They look fine in this picture, but in person, they really detract from the pendants:

We just bought new chain, but now the clasps I have for making them into necklaces are too big for the chain. I’ll be grabbing those this weekend sometime, and hope to have them finished for good early next week.

Finish buying supplies. I don’t think I need that much, just a chair for sitting during the festival, a dolly/hand cart for carting things back and forth for set up and take down, waterproof spray for the tent, and bungee cords. I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of things, but I won’t know for sure until I do the first test run of getting the tent set up, which will hopefully happen sometime this week.

Make my signs for the booth. I’m making a banner for the front of the tent, and then a big one for the back wall of the booth. I was going to have them made for me, but they were just too far out of my budget to justify it.

Things I’m learning:

Doing outdoor festivals is not cheap. I’m making sure that I am sticking to a budget and trying to get sales or use coupons whenever possible, but it’s definitely more expensive than I thought.

Be flexible knowing that things will probably change with booth designs and displays. I know this is going to be a learning process and that I’ll be changing my displays regularly, but I want to make sure that what I have now can be used in multiple different ways and looks great while I’m figuring this all out. Being on a budget makes it harder, but I refuse to go into debt for this!

All of this work is mostly a one time thing. For my next outdoor show, I’ll just have to tweak designs and make sure I have enough products as I’ll already have my tent, tables, and displays. The frustration and stress I’m dealing with now is almost over, and shouldn’t be this bad again.

I’ll be updating more once things get farther into completion. June 6th is coming up waaaaay too quick!

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!

Announcement: More

I’m finding it really hard to believe that April will mark the one year anniversary of Back to the Drawing Board.

Where has the time gone?!?

This past year has been a flurry of activity. In one year, I have completed 5 drawings, 12 paintings, and 4 murals, as well as set up at my first arts and crafts show and have sold numerous sets of note cards, earrings and prints.

I realize that this is only March, but I want to give you a head’s up for what is to come in Year 2:


More time in my studio.

More time working on new products and projects.

More time developing and tweaking my skills.

Many of you who know me personally are probably asking yourselves how can I do that? I have three kids, a husband, a house, I run a daycare out of my house and have numerous other things that I have on my plate.

Yes, that is true. But changes are coming.

You see, my youngest child will be going to kindergarten this fall. Many stay-at-home moms jump at the chance to go back to work at that time, and that is a fantastic thing.

However, I am not normal, and have never claimed to be. I will not be going out into the world and getting a job. I want the freedom to be here when my kids need me, and staying at home allows me to have that.

In fact, I have already resigned from my day job: I will no longer be running a daycare out of my house, effective end of the 2014-15 school year. This was a really hard decision for us, but there are so many things going on in my life and with my family, that now was the time to stop.

One of the side benefits of this decision is that I can be here for Back to the Drawing Board. My business has grown so much in this past year, that I’m actually where I wanted to be in Year 3, but wasn’t expecting it until Year 5. I never in a million years would have dreamed that I’d be this busy with projects, but I am so so so thankful that I am here in this place. I have so many fun projects coming up, and they need more of my time and attention.

So with all that being said, keep an eye out in April for some fun anniversary things. Who knows, there might be new products launching, big sales going on, and maybe a giveaway or two!

What would you like to see Back to the Drawing Board do this year?

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!

Hollands Vault Mural, Part 5

The mural is finished!

I spent about 6 hours working on it today; most of the work had me crouched down pretty low or even laying on the floor 🙂 I will be heading back next week to finish erasing pencil marks and then seal it. I think my youngest will miss this project; he loves getting to watch movies in their theater room!

Before doing the final reveal, here are some more progress images. Today I…

painted a rock wall while laying on the floor…

added a couple cute doggies…

blocked in a couple pretty ladies…

finished a Wonderful girl (I’m sorry the pic is blurry)…


and a princess…


and a cowboy…


and added some fun details that I’ll share in the full reveal next week!

 To see the other progress updates, click here.

I can’t wait to reveal the entire mural next week! What is your favorite part so far?