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PAY ATTENTION! Everything and everyone can be a source of wonder and inspiration.

It’s been four years since my first children’s book came out. One thing I’ve learned since then: to pay more attention to the people and things around me.

EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE can be a source of wonder and inspiration: a snippet of conversation, a secret smile, even someone’s shoes. Ask yourself questions about the people and things you see around you, invent reasons why people look or act the way they do, what happened to them, why they chose to wear that particular piece of clothing today.

Now that I illustrate as well as write, I look for visual details about people that I can add to my inner visual library. That way, the next time I’m sketching a particular type of person (old, young, person of colour, different walks of life) I have more that can go into my creative melting pot, not just visual clichés and lazy stereotypes. This really hit home during the Illustrators’ Intensive at SCBWI-LA this year, when we were asked to draw various types of people by memory and from visual reference. I don’t want to be a lazy illustrator! And of course this applies to writing as well. I want my worlds to be populated by fascinating individuals with authentic personalities that my readers are dying to know more about, not boring two-dimensional stereotypes.

But back to what I’ve been trying to improve in own illustration process: I’ve always preferred drawing characters much more than backgrounds, which is why I rarely draw them in my web comics. Now I’m trying to get better at it and lo and behold, I find the more I practice, the more comfortable I become. Go figure, eh? I’ve been drawing a lot of TREES lately. I draw big trees, little trees, scary trees, alien trees, saplings etc. Experimenting with different ways of drawing foliage as well. NO, I don’t have any book projects where I have to draw trees right now….but I know I will someday, so why not get better at something I don’t enjoy doing? And it’s working. I’ll post more on this topic in the future.

So go forth and pay attention, all! Your creative inner lives will be enriched as a result, I promise.