The hardest part


Is the start of the project.

I have a very cool project starting with Charlesbridge Publishing. After several years of making opportunities for myself – searching for independent authors or publishers who were looking for illustrators for their words – someone contacted me for my illustrations. And I am so excited that one of my favorite publishers will be my first big break into the business.

But I am writing this post about the hardest part of the process – the start. Envisioning the project can be both exciting – imagining that final product on the shelves of bookstores nationwide! – but it is also the most daunting. How will I decide how to tell this story through my images? Is this the best way to do so? What am I missing?

It’s difficult bringing other people’s words to life, but I find I enjoy it as much as I do creating my own unique characters. My challenge is to infuse a bit of myself into someone else’s vision, our visions becoming one. Usually, I’ve worked alongside my author, hearing their praises or concerns throughout the process. This time, I am dealing with the Art Director, a role I once saw myself in at a startup company, and one that I’ve always been drawn to. This person is going to fuse author and illustrator visions together in a way I haven’t experienced yet in my years in this business.

It’s really, really scary.

I have to keep telling myself, they chose me for a reason. They like my style, and they believe in me (“They” being the art directors, who might be scary in my mind, but who I know to be very kind, wonderful ladies). But there’s that voice of doubt that still tells me, you’re going to screw this up.

This is a voice I am very used to. It has been with me since I was a child. And I see it in the students I work with. Envisioning the potential for one’s work is the most daunting, exhilarating feeling possible, and the best part is, we get to feel this feeling time and time again throughout our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, the most difficult part for a child, or an adult artist, is starting. And envisioning that shiny finished piece of artwork on display for everyone to admire. But as an art educator, I have the double duty of being an artist who deals with the same struggles of my students, and then the teacher who shares that experience with her students and takes her own advice.

So I say to my students, and I say to myself:

Bare with the process. Do you want your work to look good now, or later? Keep pushing through, this is just the beginning.

This is just the beginning.


preliminary sketch of a chimney swift bird, trying to get the proportions and unique characteristics of the bird and bird’s nest