The proof is in the image

part two of the previous post on making good content in your books. This will be about the visuals. What I see people doing ineffectively for illustrations and then a quick step-by-step of my first illustration of my upcoming baby book. This Wednesday, I will share with you the webinars and courses I took that gave the most value, and then go into detail about each one. one week at a time. One thing I would love for anyone who reads this post to do, is to connect with me here or on Facebook and Twitter, and tell me first, if these things are of any value to you, and second what it is you’d like to know from me.. I hate wasting time (unless it’s sitting and vegging or hanging with the kids.

Not enough action or emotion. One of the first things people see and respond to are faces. So to engage your reader visually you need to have an illustration that holds your reader’s attention, and tell a story as well (hopefully complementary to your text, and unless it’s an early reader, it doesn’t have to be literal, Jan Brett is great example of that kind of subtext telling). Often characters stand or show little or no emotion. The more natural your characters, even when not “real” the more likely  your readers will relate to your work.

Not clearly “read”. A quick way to see if your illustration is read easily is to make silhouettes of the objects. Can you still tell what it is you’re looking at? If not, it could be hard to read visually. Another thing you can do is import the illustration in a digital art program and desaturate the color so all you can see are the black, white and grays. Is there clear contrast and flow(action) between all the elements? If not it might be hard to read. You might want to reconsider those things if it’s not something that is clearly SEEN by your reader.

Style is not clear, appropriate or consistent. Style is important not only as a way of identifying the artist, but also for keeping your reader within the story. You don’t have to have the same style from book to book, but for the most part, you should have the same style within the book (unless there’s a very good reason not to).It needs to suit the story and the text (literally and figuratively). If not, in my opinion, you shouldn’t put your book out until you’ve addressed these problems.

Unfinished or poorly conceived drawings. We all start somewhere. but truly, you know a master when you see it. There is no space that looks or feel like it’s forgotten or not designed. “Finished” is such a subjective term, but even when you’re talking about whimsical or childlike drawings, they aren’t awkward or ill-considered and even when simple (Think Mo Willem). Much of this is confidence and practice.

I have a few ideas for what I consider quicker books. The first I’ve started is an interactive sound book, directed at babies. In doing this, I wanted much more simple, clearer forms. I’d actually played with this style a bit a while back with some interesting results:

Blog 1a

Blog 1b

blog 1c


So in designing Little Beep, and the rest of the characters I want to go with good saturation of color and basic forms. This is what I started with:

Beep, beep 1 copy. spread


I needed to think about the size of the screen, as well as the print form. I want it to read well as a “spread” (what this is) and as a page. For me the best is to make sure there’s text and image on all the pages unless there’s a good reason not, as well as making sure the text is clear and easily read.

Part of the way through I decided to take my own advice, and desaturate:

val2 Beep, beep 1


Since I really wanted Little Beep to be yellow, I pushed the pixels in another direction. I’m mostly pleased with the end result, and will finish tweaking ALL the illustrations at the same time when it’s finished to make sure they are consistent. I hope you’ll check it out when it’s done!

val 4a Beep, beep 1 Beep, beep 1aa copy

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Happy New Year: Here’s to improved Indie Children’s books

pen and ink on bristol, Agy Wilson ©

       So, I start the new year, the reblogging effort with a gripe (Happy New Year, by the way). It’s all good though, I think it’s something that may help one person and I will be rereading it and taking my own advice on a regular basis. Further, the person may be the one creating the book or it might be the reader of the book you connect with.



     Children’s books. Most people have an idea of them, and nearly everyone I’ve ever met has an idea for at least one, they wish they could put down. With the advent of the self publishing revolution, quite a few are actually putting pen to paper to pixel. All are a labor of love, most involve a great deal of work and sometimes investment. But there aren’t that many that are good books for kids.

     I’m not of the ilk that think adults and values don’t have a place in children’s literature. I am of the mind though that no one ever listened to a heavy lesson in their entire life and came away happy about it. And nonsense really does have to have a certain bit of (consistent) logic in it for people to get—ask Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. So some quick points to think of when you’re setting your masterpieces out for others.

  • Who is the target audience? Writing is and should be different for the four year old or the eight year old. One of the reasons picture books are particular challenges, is making them appeal to young and old. An adult will buy the book, and if it’s truly loved, the youngster will want to hear it over again. And over and over and over and over….
  • Is it a story? Better still, is it a GOOD story. In story there is a beginning, a middle and an end. There will be tension, even if not out and out conflict. And your main character will change somehow- it’s about the journey, man. Modern publishing wisdom is to have the characters resolve their own problems. I’m not put out by an adult or other character impacting your story, outcome. But agree for the best stories, and it’s a good message to send to kids, you can trust others, but you can trust yourself as well, is also a great thing to internalize.
  • pen and ink on bristol, Agy Wilson ©

    pen and ink on bristol, Agy Wilson ©

  • Is your language appropriate as well as subject? If you’ve written a reading primer meant for third grade, you need to know what words are not only on the grade word list, but what words are not. As well as what things would pique a third grader’s interest. Picture books, having one or two “rich” words, that can help spark a love of words, conversations and goad a young reader are always welcome. There’s a physical READER there often for such a thing (it not only should be a word full of all that promise, but also something generally familiar- it’s embarrassing being asked to explain something you cannot) and becomes a well-loved connection between the reader and the audience/viewer.
  • The rhythm of the story, carries a great deal of the interest as well. If it’s a run on it becomes incoherent, if it’s staccato in say, a bedtime lullaby, it’s counter intuitive. You can use the length and sounds of the words and sentences to convey feeling of the story. When I wrote Annie, I had to consider all the sounds as well as syllables and meanings of the phrasing I used. If you tune into reading the words, the rhythm becomes apparent.
  • And last is your story something your reader really wants to read? There is nothing wrong, to write for oneself only. Unless you’re trying to write for others as well. You have to satisfy the child within you, it’s true. Realize though kids are savvy enough to know when they are being read “down to” or lectured. There’s a world of things that are fascinating for young and old, just remember to keep the fascination alive during your whole process. PLAY! Words, sounds, humor, ideas, the more joy you take in crafting your work, the more likely your readers will make your work their own.

  •    The next process post for next week  will be about the images for storytelling. I have a few reviews and a coloring page planned for this week, so I subscribe if you want to know when there’s new content!

     I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know what you think about it or any other thing on my site. You can check my books out presently at Amazon print and Kindle.

    The glory of reading, colored pencil on Bristol, Agy Wilson ©

    The glory of reading, colored pencil on Bristol, Agy Wilson ©

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    Where to start

    I was thinking the other day about one of the incidents in art school. My father was a paper engineer,  so I grew up with closets full of paper, and lots of alone time. I got lost in drawing (and reading and singing and writing, but the upshot, is it was wallow in Agy time). It started with my mother wanting me to be quiet, and getting at first the obligatory “oohs” and “ahhs” to seeing people’s reactions when I really did a good job. Ma appreciated the quiet, I learned to draw, Mostly by hook and crook for the longest time. But as usual I digress.

    When I ran away to art school and had to PAY for materials, is when I learned fear in the arena I loved, and it was a first. Sometimes it was a choice to eat for a few days or buy that luscious piece of Strathmore or Rives BFK, Now it would be a contest as I love to eat, but back then, the paper always won out. But here’s the thing. I would often stand in front of the paper terrified to make a mark. Because it might be the WRONG mark. A mark I couldn’t undo, a mark I hated. Eventually I learned about the joys of newsprint, and the quick study and the meaning of marks and how we view valuable or not (and it’s only within recent memory, I include my vast experiences as valuable- and remember the original meaning of giving me this stuff was to shut me up, and we see how that worked out.

    self portrait 1


    But WHERE and HOW you start tells you a lot about what you feel about your journey. When I go swimming, I jump in with both feet, over my head, must get the belly wet. Other people dip their toes, cautiously wading in.  When I draw, I  usually work the whole page and try to not start in the middle (static-ville, man!). I try to start upper to middle left hand corner, but sometimes it’s right. and I often have a very good idea of what I’m going to draw before I start. Just as when I go touring around via car, I like to not only know my destination, but have an idea where I’m going.  Some people like to see where the road takes them, and others have an itinerary waiting for them at the end of the road, or perhaps even along the way. This is an important thing to know about yourself. First, it makes it easier for you to honor your own process, because just as with the things I talked about swimming and Sunday driving there really isn’t a CORRECT way to do it,  it says more about YOU. And if you’re having problems, it’s easier to pinpoint and jump start. Once I realized my trepidation at making the WRONG mark on that luscious piece of paper was the problem, I was able to reason through it. Could I buy another piece of paper? Yes, and I was willing to go hungry for it. Could I make a WRONG mark RIGHT? What the heck was a wrong mark, anyhow? Absurd. It became easier and easier. I never not want to value a piece of paper. A tree died so I could make art, and I think the trees are vastly underrated in this place.  I’m in the process of creating a coloring book as a half way for people who want to be creative but are standing before their own luscious, delectable scrumptious paper, as a way to dip their toe, check the road map and  make that mark. Think about what you want and if you want it enough. If you’re brave enough, why not jump in? The water is fine.

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    Better late than never!

    Such a bumpy start, but I happily announce that Charlotte Johnson Bennardo and Kandy Kay Scaramuzzo are next up on the blogging tour.


    Thank you Margot Finke for inviting me to answer question about my process! If you don’t know it, I’ve worked with Margot before, creating a couple of covers for her, and formatting her books for Kindle and CreateSpace.  She’s got a whole smattering of books, especially for the reluctant reader, with Aussie flair and adventure thrown in!


    Charlotte Johnson coauthored the Sirenz series with Natalie Zaman.  Frenemies Meg and Shar can barely get along, but one fashion crime later, and they’ve been enlisted by Hades as Sirens one reviewer wittily coined “Confessions of a Shopaholic” with a paranormal twist. An original take on a fun kid-friendly mash-up,.. mythological paranormalcy, friendship and fashion. What’s not to love? And coming up a new venture, a fashion mystery (what shoes do you wear with that? Flats are good for running, perhaps studded sneakers?)  Blonde Ops.  Available May 2014.

    Kandy Kay Scaramuzzo has worn more hats than the seventh generation Texan hat. She’s  worked in horse, cat, dog, and snake rescues and has been a tester observer for therapy dogs for nine years, as well as running a therapy horse riding program for autistic children for five. One of the horse’s she’s rescued is Pie: an Old Horse (Who Knows What He’s Doing),  Pie really needed to tell his tale. Being discarded after an injury, AFTER  working long past retirement age, this is an uplifting story of redemption, love, inspiration and kindness.

    I look forward to their responses!

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    This is a test. Hope it works!

    Let’s see where this posts, I have to remember to make this an adventure and not a chore, and most of the good stuff I know is serendipity. Now here I go!

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    My home page as blog may take some setting up…

    I’m so happy to be here, under my own name, with my mostly reconstructed website, taking part in a blog tour! This is my very first post under these new constructs, and I’m hoping for great things to come up, which is easy to do because I love what I do. I will be reviewing and interviewing (and sharing some of my other blog entries from past blogs) talking about my process and my friend’s processes. I hope to take part in a few blog tours as well as having some of my wonderfully talented friends Guest blog. Anyhow, before anyone goes to sleep, even if I’m squealing with delight, to get to it!

    SO, I was tagged by the Marvelous Margot Finke! I’ve done covers and some formatting for her in the past so was ecstatic when she thought of me (THANK YOU MARGOT!). You can read her entry at her blog  and check out her fun, character building books!

    DDFA COVER 100copy.jpg alternate cover

    I will be announcing and linking to the next merry band of authors within the next couple of days!

    WHAT AM I WORKING ON? Currently I’m creating a coloring book  to strengthen my line work and Photoshop skills, and in anticipation of some future projects. I write and illustrate, and recently finished a book called Duke Day for Annie, a loose retelling of many conversations I had with my friend Ann Searcy about her growing up in Old Orchard Beach, Maine in the 30s and 40s and her friendship with Duke Ellington. I have a couple of co-projects in the works that I’ll be illustrating with friends (they’re in the process of writing). My next writing bits will be finishing my midgrade novel, Sara LeClere, and working on a couple of picture books concerned with environment and cohabitation.  A retelling of country mouse/ city mouse, but with sea slugs and land slugs. No really…  it’ll be great! And a book about recycling, reusing and dealing with encroachment (a little bit anyhow) called Second Story.

    HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS WORK OF ITS GENRE? I think all work is personal, so it’s not different that way. I think most people love their work, at least if they are artists about their work, so it’s no different there either. I think the way my work is different is I’m a little different. I’ve been lucky enough to know a LOT of people from all walks of life and experiences. I feel a great affinity for the differences between needs and wants, between peoples, as well as their similarities. I love our humanity while striving for the best we can be. And being gratefully happy. I hope to bring that to my work: the joy and music of language, the power of learning and the love of connections, especially new connections, as well as thinking and feeling. I hope all that good stuff is in my work. If it is, it may not be different from other genres (and I work in many genres and media) but it most certainly will be mine.

    WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO? First I think writing we all need to write about what touches us, what matters. So there’s that. Duh, right? I know, but you’d be surprised. And truthfully, I grew up hearing about how “weird” I was. Am. But a funny thing happened along the way to the weird camp. I started not only noticing what I had in common with others but shared it, and new connections were made. I think all people, but children especially can feel “out of it”, so writing and drawing what excites me, makes me laugh, weep, laugh, care, laugh, think-  and did I mention laugh? not only gives  me new connections, but I think other people as well. Even the rather short and age challenged ones.

    REVISION Nana's Gift, Createspace cover copy

    HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?  I try to write something every day. That being said though, I admit I’m all over the place. Often it comes to me. Walking, in the shower, especially when I’m sleeping. The way I work in general is to set goals. Often impossible ones, but goals nonetheless. I’m even getting better at achieving them. I don’t want the “fire” to die in me, so making sure there’s always something to do, even on the days I don’t feel much like it actually keeps me motivated and happy. It’s sometimes difficult to illustrate and write in the same period, and some days one will call more than the other to me, but the important thing for me is to keep at it. I like listening to music when I draw, not as much and very selectively, quietly when I write. My favorite is New Age, partially because it transports me, but also it’s hard to hum along, though it still feels visceral to me. Finally, I really believe in embracing your fears and weaknesses. In that spirit I will do better at editing, one of my weaknesses. And in the end, many of my writing friends tell me that is what actual writing is, rewriting.

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    Hello world!

    Hello! I’m Agy Wilson!

    society 6 owl&pussycat copy3

    I hope you’ll take the time to explore what I love to do! For starters: I write and illustrate., make caricatures, calligraphy and freelance for other writers in need of illustration and formatting. I do commissioned portraits, and sell my images for your personal decoration. If you’d rather not do the work, I have several stores around the web. My books are available at Amazon. If you like what you see but don’t want more stuff in your life, there is a Paypal donate button as well. Thank you for stopping by, I hope you like what you see and drop me a line. For more information you can contact me at

    The content contained throughout the pages of this website
    may not be copied or otherwise reproduced without the express
    written permission of Agy Wilson

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