Where the heck does the time go? Not to blog posting, clearly. Well, there’s no point in trying to catch up on over 6 months’ developments and happenings, so I’ll just start where I am right now: hanging out in my newly cleaned up studio (OMG why didn’t I do this months ago?)


Most recently, I’ve been spending way too much time obsessing over the news, painting protesters, and fiddling with my newly posted online stores (prints on ETSY,  https://www.etsy.com/shop/abigailmarble?ref=hdr_shop_menu ; and mugs, t-shirts, totes etc. on  Red Bubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/abigailmarble?asc=u ). This online selling thing is new to me — check out my stores and let me know if you find any glitches!


I was finally motivated to make a shop because I have recently made a bunch of paintings inspired by the Women’s March and other current events. Friends asked for prints and T-shirts, so I decided to look into making some, and voila, my shops were born. I am trying to focus on the hopeful and positive moments in this time of turmoil, and people coming together to fight authoritarianism is the main silver lining I can see at the moment. Thus, paintings of protesters and Elizabeth Warren, and more to come — stay tuned.

In other news, I saw Erin and Philip Stead read their recent books at my favorite local bookstore ( http://www.greenbeanbookspdx.com/ ). Fun and inspirational, and I got my books signed, too.

Gotta get to work. I wish I could claim with certainty that I’ll be here posting more often, but I’ve made that type of promise before…so I’ll just say I HOPE to post a bit more often and leave it at that.



Erin and Philip Stead sharing their stories with a few tiny people and lots of awestruck grown up illustrators


Me, hanging out in my TIDY studio


” It’s probably more common to come home [from a conference] and feel a touch of despair in addition to all that inspiration…”

Martha Brockenbrough

Ain’t that the truth. As inspired and excited as I felt after last weekend’s workshop, I definitely also felt a touch of melancholy. I have called it the conference roller coaster. The highs come from connecting with like-minded peeps, getting good comments in critiques, feeling buoyed and hopeful and ready to take the next big steps. The lows come from overwhelm at all the talented people out there (how will I ever get noticed?), from the more critical comments (will I ever be publishable?) and from a sense of being a small fish in a big, competitive pond.

Martha’s post offers constructive reflection on the post-conference maelstrom. It’s worth reading if you(like me) are sorting out your next steps…

The Awards

Nope, not the Golden Globes or the Emmys. I’m thinking about the ALA awards, of course.

This year, for the first time, I participated in a local mock-caldecott group. Though I was only able to attend a couple of the meetings, it was a great experience, and one I hope to continue to participate in for years to come. The group’s organizer gathered materials from the Caldecott Committee handbook to help us understand how the librarians who choose the winners review the many, many candidates. Because this award is for the artwork, and because it requires the art to be ‘distinctive’ and to add to the story beyond what the words reveal, we followed the Committee’s methods for looking at the art both on its own and in conjunction with the text. First we ‘read the pictures’ (covering or ignoring the words), then we paged through backwards, examining each spread, as well as end papers, and front and back cover. Then we read the story aloud, and finally we paged through the whole book again.

This process really opened my eyes to the myriad ways in which the images expand the story. By examining the images without reading the words, I was more able to tune in to the artist’s choices and sometimes the reasons those choices were made. Some books literally have additional subplots, inside jokes, or punchlines that exist only in the images. Others use color, texture, energy of line, page design, page turns, and rhythm to expand upon — or sometimes contradict — the words in the text.

I found myself daunted by the genius of many illustrators, and surprised that some books I’d seen as ‘simple’ were actually the result of many subtle but brilliant design decisions. Even more interesting: a few books seduced me at first glance through their sheer beauty, but fell apart when it came to enhancing the text. I work pretty instinctively, and I hope that by exposing myself to, and closely studying the work of some of the great illustrators out there, I will grow in my own ability to illustrate beyond the text and create books that are greater as a whole than as a sum of their parts.

The big winner, Locomotive, was not reviewed by our group, though I am  not sure how we overlooked it! Perhaps we paid less attention to nonfiction than we should have. I have been a fan of Brian Floca’s since I was a few classes behind him at Brown and he had a great little comic strip in our campus newspaper. Even back then, at 19 or 20, he was clearly a master draftsman. I was in a class with him in the illustration department at RISD, but he probably wouldn’t remember me because I was too shy back then to say hello. Anyway, I love his books and am off to add Locomotive to my collection. Hope my favorite local bookstore (Greenbean Books on Alberta Street — don’t miss it if you’re in Portland!) still has a copy!

Happy year end, happy year in

The end of the year is upon us. As usual,I find myself itchy to make lists, journal, brainstorm and dream about all the possibilities ahead. Over the last few years I have chosen a ‘word of the year’ per Internet trend. A word to nag at me as I make decisions, reminding me of my intentions and of my vision for how I want to live this life. Two years ago I chose thrive, and ran a 5k for the first time ever. Last year I chose ease, and tried to allow myself to choose the path of least resistance, to not over complicate things. This year the word that is calling me is growth. A year for pushing a little more. For digging my roots in deep and reaching up for the stars at the same time. I am feeling ready for both the discomfort and the joy that growth can bring.

I’ve scheduled two retreat days with my critique group ladies during the first week in January. A time to work (on an exciting new project for one of my very favorite publishers!) and a time to reflect and plan, as well. If I can, I will extend it to 3 days and spend open day on my own with my lists and journals. Dreaming up a year of growth and expansion, and getting ready for the adventures ahead.

Character Creation

{Previously published in the SCBWI Oregon Newsworthy under the title From the Drawing Board: Exploring Animal Characters}

Who doesn’t have a story gathering dust in a drawer? I recently pulled one out that I’d never created a dummy for, let alone submitted. The obstacle?  Though I know, deep down, that my main character wants to be an animal – a badger, to be precise – I’m inexperienced at creating critters that convincingly combine human and animal characteristics.

Inspired by Dan Santat’s talk at the SCBWI Western Washington Conference in 2011, I decided to give anthropomorphism a whirl. Cribbing his approach, I first explored character concepts from imagination; then drew from reference; and finally blended the two in a character who has real Character.

My first sketches generated costume and personality ideas, but didn’t convey Essence of Badger:



My sketches from reference made lovely wildlife drawings, but lacked individuality.


Finally, armed with a new understanding of badger markings, anatomy, and proportions I ditched the photos and revisited my vision:


Progress! This guy feels like my character: a slightly anxious fellow whose limbs are flexible enough to gesture, but whose body and head feel truly badger-like. A true Character who can hold his own as I dummy up this book and send it out into the world.




How does one start a blog? Well, I’ve had one before, but it was a haphazard affair, and I am hoping this one will be a bit more…consistent. And fun! I’ve read other illustrators’ blogs for years now (and other types of blogs as well), and I find the ones I enjoy and return to are those who post regularly ( I know, I know…), show their work process, and reveal some genuine personality. I want to know my blogger, or at least ‘know’ her. I am interested in  industry news and in other bloggers’ successes, but I get to know a blogger when she admits to her struggles, shares a snippet or two from her personal life, and doesn’t seem to be writing merely to meet a publisher’s requirements or to flog her products.

And so, dear reader, I shall endeavor to be just such a blogger. This will be an illustration-oriented blog, but I hope to include enough variety, struggle, and personal anecdotes to keep it interesting. Let me know how I am doing.