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‘Every branch has to learn how to grow’

Sometimes I struggle to share my artistic process. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I’m tempted solely present my best and finished work. Whenever I post a work-in-progress image on Instagram or Facebook I have to refrain from descriptions like “I know the hand is disproportionate, but I’m gonna fix that!”. I’d also love to delete all the posts on this blog from two years ago because my work has changed a lot since then. But the reality is, the process of making images, and growing as an artist, is beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of.

This past week I’ve spent a lot of time sketching at my desk. Mostly sketching bears. (Bears are super fun to draw, by the way!) I haven’t finished any of the pieces yet, as I’m trying to be more efficient by working on a batch of pictures in stages, rather then bringing the pieces to completion one by one. I think this will give the series a stronger cohesiveness (if that makes sense).


I find sketching weeks are the hardest. I spend hours drawing, erasing, and then re-drawing the plans for each illustration. Thanks to the invention of cameras and the internet, it’s easier than ever before to collect reference photos. However even with the help of technology, it’s difficult to get the correct perspective and proportions for animals and humans without access to real models. It takes A LOT of practice and time. Illustration is hard! (Does anyone have a bear or 8-year-old girl that I could borrow to model for an hour? That would be great.)

BUT. But. But. But. This process is still wonderful and worth sharing. And I’ve already experienced that the work gets easier with time.

I’ve been listening to “Every Age” by José González today, and it so perfectly describes the beauty of process, growth, and the struggle of art/life. I’d recommend listening to it, if you have a free second. Here are the lyrics below:

Every age has its turn
Every branch of the tree has to learn
Learn to grow, find its way,
Make the best of this short-lived stay
Take this seed, take this spade
Take this dream of a better day
Take your time, build a home
Build a place where we all can belong
Some things change, some remain
Some will pass us unnoticed by
What to focus on, to improve upon
In the face of our ancient tribes
Feels so clear, feels so obvious
To each one on their own
But we are here, together
Reaping what time and what we have sown
We don’t choose where we’re born
We don’t choose in what pocket or form
But we can learn to know
Ourselves on this globe in the void
Take this mind, take this pen
Take this dream of a better land
Take your time, build a home
Build a place where we all… can belong




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New Birthday, Baby and Thank-You Card Designs with Mr.Buttonman

It’s September! This means back-to-school for many poor souls and back to work for me! I had a lovely 2 week vacation in August, and am ready to jump into some new projects this fall. There are some exciting things coming up, but I can’t share all of them with you quite yet :)

What I can tell you is that I’ve finished designing 5 new Mr.Buttonman folded greeting cards. The new baby card will be available in pink, blue and/or green. As of today, they are up on my Etsy shop. Yipee! When folded, the cards are A6 size  (148 mm by 105 mm) and printed on 300g satin white paper, blank on the inside and come with a kraft paper envelope. I’ve chosen to do a print-on-demand approach this time, which means that the cards will be lovingly cut and folded by hand after each purchase. This is to reduce paper waste and help me determine which cards are the favourites before making any big orders. They are available for individual sale, but also in packs of 4 or 5, similar to last years Christmas cards.




Ciao for now :)




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First Embroidered Goldilocks Illustration

It’s finished! If you’ve been following my Facebook page or Instagram account, you’ve probably seen some of the sneak peek photos of this illustration for Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.

I tried to document my process this time, as I often forget to do that and this is one of my most detailed embroidered illustrations, thus far.  Everything, the leaves, trees, rocks and tiny pink high tops were cut, attached and stitched by hand.  Some parts took an especially long time until I was happy with them. For example, I stitched and carefully un-stitched and then re-stitched Goldilocks’ head about 3 times. I’m not going to lie, I had a few moments of “Why the heck am I doing this?!”.  But now that it’s finished, I’ve forgotten all the pain (almost).





Here’s a photo that shows the dimension of the final piece.


Thanks for reading!

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Sketches and Flying Penguins

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been busy with business logistics and planning for the future. While I love the business side of  illustration, I find that it can easily take over my time. Before I know it, two weeks have gone by and I haven’t made a single illustration. So this week, I stopped the planning and started sketching.

After the trip to Bologna, I made the goal to bulk up my website with more samples of children’s book illustration. I’ve decided to do a series of children’s classics with embroidery. The first story will be Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. This is going to be a longer project, as the illustrations will be quite detailed.  However, I’m hoping it will demonstrate the possibilities of embroidery for picture book illustration. From all the research I’ve done, there are not many children’s books with embroidery. As this is a medium very dear to my heart, I want to change this! Below are some beginning sketches for the new series.


On a different note, I finished a new illustration of a flying penguin today. This is a re-work of a digital illustration I did a couple years ago.  Sometimes it’s fun to re-visit artworks and imagine them in a new way. I’ll be putting prints of this up on my Etsy shop, for those of you interested.




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Airborne- Illustration Friday Post

I’ve submitted one of my older illustrations for this week’s Illustration Friday Blog. The theme is ‘Airborne’.  This is still one of my favourite Mr. Buttonman illustrations. I sold the original in an art exhibition last summer, but have made a new copy for myself which is hanging in our bedroom at this very moment. ButtonmanBalloonWEB

If I imagine a story around this illustration it would be that Mr. Buttonman has decided it’s time for him to travel the world. Button balloon travel is by far the best mode of transportation for a Buttonman, and the great thing about these balloons is they never deflate. He does, on one or two occasions, end up in places he did not plan on visiting, but overall has a grand adventure. The end.

Have a happy weekend, full of blue skies and flighty thoughts :)




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Happy Birthday Illustration


This illustration is dedicated to my Mom and cousin Megan who both have birthdays today. Happy Birthday to you both, wish I could be there to celebrate with you.

I’m planning on using this illustration in a new series of Mr.Buttonman greeting cards, which will be available on my Etsy shop in the coming months!


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Bologna Book Fair 2015 – Looking Back

I’ve decided to make a habit of going to book fairs every year. The 5 days I spent in Bologna were incredibly inspiring and well-worth the time and money it took to get there. There were some disappointments, don’t get me wrong. But, the overall experience was amazing.  I’ll try to keep this blog concise because there’s a lot I could say!

Bologna as a city was beautiful. It’s a little off the tourist map, and we were fortunate to have sunny weather the whole week. We even got our first sunburns (but only on half my face, nice right?). We stayed in an airbnb place close to the Bologna Fiere and could walk there within 10 minutes. Our hosts were super friendly and helpful in recommending places to eat and to go when we weren’t at the fair. We also randomly ran into two good friends from Vancouver. We happened to be standing in the same Piazza at the same time. That made my week! Here’s a few photos of Bologna and us outside the Fiere.

BolognaBlogPhotos1I was pretty nervous going to the fair, but as soon as I stepped through those doors I felt at home.  It hit me that: all of these publishers and illustrators are people who love children’s books. When you realize that you’re in the company of people who love the same thing as you, it’s hard to get down. Here are a few photos from inside the fair:


You’ll notice that I got my picture with the one and only PIPPI LONGSTOCKING. That’s right. Don’t be jealous because I know you all love her too. Well, actually this was a booth with her books; the real Pippi couldn’t make it out. The foreign agents man looked at me like I was crazy while taking this photo. That stopped me from lifting that little horse over my head.

I’d have to say that I fell in love with the foreign publishers (not surprising). I realized growing up in North America, I missed out on a lot of other books. Not to say that North American books aren’t beautiful. But there are SO MANY books in the world. One of publishers who I fell in love with is Didier Jeunesse.  They have really unique books and some with embroidered illustrations. I was instantly excited when I saw their work. You can see one of their covers in the photo above.

In regards to meeting publishers, there were some disappointments there. I didn’t anticipate that many (if not most) of the American publishers had no editor or art directors willing to review portfolios or talk to illustrators at the fair. Of all the research I did, this was not something I had heard. That was a disappointment for me and made me feel like I flew all this way for nothing. On the flip side, I could understand why this was the case and decided to just browse through the books, collect some business cards and move on. And I was able to cross a few publishers off my list, just from looking at their recent books. After a while I started to get a sense of where my work might fit.

Luckily, many of the European publishers had portfolio review times and a couple Canadian publishers made time to meet with me (the Canadian publishers were the nicest people I met all week, and that made me miss home. Go Canadian friendliness!) I was also able to talk with a few German publishers, in German. All those classes finally paid off!

Looking beyond the fair, the plan is to continue working on my Mr.Buttonman picture book, in the hopes of getting it published.. The fair inspired me to buff up my website more, so you can look forward to seeing new work up here in the coming months.

Thanks for reading and hope you have an inspiring weekend!
















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Bologna Children’s Fair 2015- It’s go time!

It’s the night before my first day at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I just finished my first plate of lasagna in Italy and a lovely glass of red wine. Life is good. I anticipate this week will be exhausting, exciting, disappointing and rewarding all at the same time.

I’m thankful that I’ve got my trusty “translator/husband” by my side to keep me company (I registered him as my translator to get him into the fair. Ssshh, don’t tell anyone. But if you do know of anyone who needs German/English translation, let us know!). I’ve also been notified that my German friends are pressing their thumbs for me, which is always reassuring :) It’s now time to wade into a pool of 25,000 children’s book professionals; bring on the networking!

I successfully finished my first batch of dummy books for the fair, AND managed to design and print some posters and postcards for promotion. I’m calling this a victory already, no matter what happens after this week.

I’m posting a few snapshots from my dummy book below. If you follow my Instagram and Twitter feed, you may have seen these final spreads already. The dummy book is mostly made of sketches, with three completed spreads to give publishers an idea of the final style. I am really excited with these sample spreads and the direction the work is going in. Let’s hope a publisher will be too!


Stay tuned for a follow up on the book fair. I’ll have a lot more to talk about after the next four days! Thanks for reading.

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Illustration Friday: Noise

Well, it’s been about a month since my last personal blog. I must say, I was quite shocked at the increase in views, but also very encouraged by all the thoughtful comments. Thank you!

This past month was a bit crazy, with moving to a new flat and sorting out all the details for that. Thus, I haven’t had as much time as I wanted to devote to illustration. However, I’ve done what I can and have been steadily working on sketches for the Mr.Buttonman picture book.

With all of this sketching, I’ve been itching to bring at least one work to completion. So this week, I decided to do an illustration for the Illustration Friday blog, just for fun. Though I noticed today, that I actually missed the deadline to post it on their blog. I’ll have to be quicker next time! I hope at least you will enjoy it!

The theme for this week was Noise. And here’s Mr.Buttonman being very noisy in the kitchen.



I was quite pleased with how this turned out. It’s one of the first times I’ve put Mr.Buttonman in such a detailed background. There will be more detailed backgrounds in the picture book so this illustration was a good testing ground.

Have a great Friday and make some noise!



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Hello 2015. I’ve got some news for you (and Christmas Market Part 2)

Today I’m writing this blog with some nervousness. Did I drink too much coffee? No. I’m nervous because I’m going to attempt to write a personal blog. Personal?! I usually avoid being too personal here. Why do I do that? Mostly because it’s scary.

However, I will attempt to summarize 2014 and try to explain my feelings as I look 2015 in the eye. If you want the short version, check out the photo below.

Deep breath, here I go:

2014 was a challenging year. It may be the most challenging year in my life thus far. (There are not many years to compete with yet) It began with a lot of good-byes. I hate good-byes. We moved from Canada to Berlin, Germany. I became immersed in a new culture, new language, new home, and new friends. All this new stuff, took a lot out of me. The first month we were here, I slept almost 10 hours every night, mostly from the emotional exhaustion. In the midst of trying to figure out regular life in a new country, I was also struggling to find direction for my art practice.

2014 was also my first year without a day job. I chose to focus on learning German and building my portfolio, rather than making money. (Hopefully, this decision will pay out in the long run! ) This job-less state, introduced new challenges. I had to manage my own time, set my own goals and attempt more freelance work. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m horrible at decision making. Combine this with having a lot of free time on your hands and unlimited possibilities and you’ve got a recipe for a meltdown. Thankfully, I avoided the meltdown and made some progress. This is a miracle.

Here’s a photo some highlights of 2014.


Now referring to the photo above, do you see the phrase “Hello Illustration, I pick you” in the photo? Are you curious what this means? Well, let me elaborate.

I made an important decision in 2014. In the midst of a challenging year, one thing became very clear to me. I want to be an illustrator. Didn’t I always want to be an illustrator? Actually, I didn’t. I always wanted to be an artist, but I had no idea what to specialize in. And there are so many avenues for art, especially now.

I majored in illustration at the suggestion of a teacher. She was a teacher who knew my work well and the way I think. Since, at the time, I was unsure of what to pick as my major, I chose to trust her and focused my studies in illustration. This was the right decision. But, through the rest of my studies and the following 2 years, I’ve had some nagging doubts.

These doubts were fanned into flame by some fine art teachers who told me illustration was “not real art”. I always disagreed with their views, but didn’t speak out. Yes, illustration is different from performance art, sculpture and multi-media installation work, but that does not make it less of an art form. This is an age-old discussion, which I won’t get into. My self-doubting lasted until 2014. Thank you 2014 for ending my misery!

Around October, something changed in my thinking. It didn’t come with a great opportunity or a wise word from another artist. It was a weird, out of nowhere, realization moment. Here’s how it went.

Joelle was drinking coffee at the breakfast table. Suddenly a thought overcame her, “I love illustration. I want to be an illustrator. This is what I’m good at, and that’s what I should be doing.” 

Then I cried. A long, deep cry of relief and longing. A little dramatic, I know. But, do you ever have these moments? Where you realize that you want something so badly, and at the same time feel relief that you finally know what you want?! It’s such a wonderful, amazing feeling!

Ok, now keeping this moment in mind, join me in looking at the Christmas Market in December and the present New Year 2015.

The Christmas Market, overall, was a good experience. There was not the mad Christmas rush that I had expected or hoped for, however I had many wonderful conversations and was encouraged by the friends who came out to support me. Without my newly refreshed desire to be an illustrator, I could have come away from this market thinking it was all pointless. But actually, it was very valuable research. It gave me the opportunity to see lots of people (children in particular) interact with Mr.Buttonman. Markets are always unpredictable, that’s partly why I love them. You never know who you will meet, and you also never know how much you will sell. The point of doing them for me (though I do forget this sometimes!) is always the people more than the profit. I also had many chances to practice my German which is always helpful. Thanks again to everyone who came out to the Samariter Kiezweihnachtsmarkt!

There are a lot of uncertainties heading into 2015. We unexpectedly lost our apartment two weeks ago and have to find a new one. I will be finishing German classes soon and will likely need to start looking for part-time work. I also have the goal to finish my first draft of Mr.Buttonman’s picture book by March and have no idea if anyone will want to publish this thing.

But, I have A PLAN. The plan. The 2015 plan of resilience and victory (insert evil laugh here).

Oh glorious, unrealistic year-planning how I love you. With my new found direction, there’s no where to go but up, right? Well, actually I may be starting the most difficult part of my illustration journey. I have no excuses now. I know what I want, I just have to do it. And that, my friends, is more scary than not knowing what to do because now I have to face the possibility of FAILING at what I want to do.

But, this is another thing I realized in 2014. Long-term goals are more important than short term deadlines. As long as I keep working towards that bigger goal of being an illustrator, it’s ok if I make mistakes along the way. WHOOPIE!

And there’s also this tiny/big thing to look forward to: Bologna BABY.

Are you having a baby in Bologna you ask? No, I’m not pregnant.

But I’m going to the Bologna Children’s Book Festival in Italy in March and am super excited/freaking out about it. Mr.Buttonman will meet the world, and I’ll get a book contract and everything will be bliss. Ok, that’s probably not going to happen, but DREAM BIG PEOPLE. Dream big.

After I made the decision to be an illustrator, I also decided that Mr.Buttonman needs to be discovered. Those two somehow went hand in hand. I’m not sure how long this will take, but I’m very excited to keep working with this character and to see where he goes. I’ve already written a few blogs about that though, so I won’t bore you with those details again.

In conclusion of this personal, and hopefully not boring blog-post, 2015 is looking uncertainly awesome at this point.

Thanks for reading!