Character Study

I’m heading to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference in Los Angeles in a little over a week.  I’ve been working up to attending a national conference for a couple years now and feel so fortunate that I can attend this year!  I have a spiffed up portfolio, new postcards and my latest book dummy to share.  On the final day of the conference I’m participating in an all day illustration workshop taught by some of my favorite illustrators and industry professionals: Sophie Blackall Author/Illustrator; Peter Brown Author/Illustrator; Priscilla Burris Author/Illustrator; Pat Cummings Illustrator; David Diaz Illustrator; Laurent Linn Art Director, Simon & Schuster; Cecilia Yung Art Director Art Director & Vice President, Penguin BFYR; and the incredible Paul O. Zelinsky Illustrator.  (I feel faint when I read over this list of faculty!  Not to mention one of the keynote speakers for the conference is none other than Jon Klassen–one of my all-time illustration idols!)

Our assignment for the workshop is to come with 3 full-color character studies.  I drew a sketch of an otter in my sketchbook last month that I liked and decided to play around with it.  I’m excited to learn how to make her a more dynamic and compelling character in a variety of poses.  I have a story idea bubbling around in my head with her in the starring role!

Here’s the original sketch and the final:

Current Projects

I’m still plugging away at my squirrel themed picture book.  I recently finished up this double page illustration in time to include it in a SCBWI grant application.DFG 3

I also just submitted an illustration for a contest designing a metal banner for a light pole to mark the boundaries of a local neighborhood.  My banner design was inspired by the area’s Halloween festivities, coupled with the elegance of a the Lord Mansion and State Capitol Museum in the heart of the neighborhood.  Fingers crossed that these efforts will pay off!

SCBWI Draw This: Lucky

Every month the Society for Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrator’s posts an illustration prompt.  This month the prompt was the word: Lucky.  While I was working on this image I thought a lot about growing up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the California gold rush, and playing in streams.   Lucky_Carrie_ONeill

I drew inspiration from the book Klondike Gold (Penguin Random House) and old photos of gold miners.  Alice Provensen’s book is a heartbreaking tale of two miners punishing journey in search of gold in Canada’s Northwest Territory, told in opaque oil paints and muted color.

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Original art for Klondike Gold (Penguin Random House) by Alice Provensen.


Draw This!

Here is my entry for the SCBWI Draw This! challenge for the month of February.  The prompt was the word: Dance.  I chose to work with a limited palette and created this in watercolor, ink and gouache.  © 2016 Carrie O’NeillDance_Carrie_ONeill


The Squirrel & The Girl

Slowly piecing together my latest book dummy titled “The Squirrel & The Girl”.  Most of the dummy will be rendered in ink wash sketches, but here is a peek at one of the full art spreads.  This is watercolor, gouache and ink on paper. © 2016 Carrie O’Neill

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“When I walk out into the world, I take no thoughts with me.  That’s not easy, but you can learn to do it.  An empty mind is hungry, so you can look at everything longer, and closer.  Don’t hum!  When you listen with empty ears, you hear more.  And this is the core of the secret:  Attention is the beginning of devotion.”  –Mary Oliver

I’ve been spending some time this winter stitching.  I take scraps of old baby clothes and things I’ve gathered over the years and put them side by side.  I don’t have a goal in mind or a certain idea I’m exploring.  It’s messy and unplanned, but it’s the experience of making each stitch that feels right. The Mary Oliver quote spoke to my continuing interest in wonder as a guide to life.  I love her instructions for cultivating a sense of wonder.  Looking at a star filled sky, a tiny perfect shell or making a simple stitch can be astonishing if you pay attention.

Devotion quiltDevotion quilt 1

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~ Mary Oliver