A tale of a very fun school visit…and a book cover reveal.

So it has just occurred to me that I haven’t yet shared my book cover on the blog.


I’m so sorry. You used to be the first people I came to with big (and small) news but I’ve since been seduced by Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and the challenge of fitting everything I want to say into 140 characters. And it is a challenge, too. Because I do like to speak (type) the words.
Many many many of the words.

Anyhow, I am here now to reveal to you….the cover of my debut author/illustrator picture book!



This is Olive, the star of “All the Lost Things” coming out 2015 – published by Peter Pauper Press NY.

I’m a bubbling mix of excitement and fear and nerves and all of the feelings.
I hope it turns out good, and that people like it. My fingers are firmly crossed!

In other news, school visits. I love them!

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of spending the morning with 48 amazing
Year 1 students at Freshwater Bay Primary School and we had such a great time.

We talked a little about stories and how you can use pictures to help you come up with a story and then we drew pictures and then we painted stones. And then when we were meant to be cleaning up some of snuck outside and drew more pictures but sssh don’t tell Mrs King ;)

The activity was to make story stones by painting people/animals/items on stones and then using those stones to create stories on a scene that the kids had also painted.

Here are some photos!
(used with permission from Freshwater Bay Primary School)

(There were a lot of penguins painted. Penguins must be very popular with the kiddos!)

And once again, when I got home, I was reminded just how hard our school teachers work and what an incredible and precious job they have. Thank you, teachers, you’re awesome!

This morning I was sent some of the work the Year 1’s had done since my visit, they wrote stories about our day together and oh my if I didn’t cry actual real tears!


“And that was the best day oth my lif” <3

Mine too! Or at least one of the very best days I’ve ever had.

Thank you Irene King and Freshwater Bay Year 1’s, you guys were the absolute best!

One year later…

Next week will be my one year anniversary as a children’s book illustrator.
Wow-wee, where did that year go?!

So I thought to mark the occasion, I would write a little something about how this year has been. How I started, how I got here, where I might be going.
Maybe I’ll even end it with some stuff I’ve learnt.
Some stuff I’d like to learn.
Some stuff.

How about I just start typing and see what happens…

In the beginning…

A thousand years ago I studied illustration at university but, back then it was all about illustration for the advertising and graphic design market, never once in my three years of study were children’s books mentioned. Kind of sad really because, had I been pointed in that direction all those years ago, that’s exactly the area I would have pursued. Instead, I became a graphic designer, and I loved it, I did it for 10 or so years, but I was always the graphic designer in the studio who illustrated most of their design jobs…the pull to draw pictures was always too strong!

Needing a break from computers, I owned a Florist for a while. I just taught myself how to do it, jumped in and had a ball! It was lovely to be creative in a whole new way with whole new thing, but again, I sort of ended up drawing a lot of pictures…that pull was just too strong! My shop was well known for the paintings I had done and had hung on the walls (I even sold a few), and my window displays were almost always paintings or something made with paper. Flowers played a part too, I guess.

Then, when I had my son four years ago I gave up the florist (too many weekend weddings for my liking) and just did the mum thing until I discovered a certain little book … If you’ve been following my blog long enough you’ll know that a few years ago I bought Noah Scalins “365 – A Daily Creativity Journal” and started my own 365 project where I did one illustration every day for 365 days. Now, I say “illustration” but it was really a mix of any kind of drawing – I drew on paper, on food, on me, on wood, on bricks…I may have even, one time, drawn on my child. As long as I drew or created something everyday then I was within the rules I had set myself.

It was a brilliant year of being creative and towards the end of it, as I became more familiar with illustrators and what they did and who they were, the whole world of children’s books opened up to me. AMAZING. I wanted in!

I went searching the internet for local illustration groups and found SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Initially I wanted to join purely so I could enter the Tomie DePaolo award (the prize was a trip to NYC, hello!) but then as I kept researching the group there was no question, I had to join SCBWI because I had to join SCBWI! And joining SCBWI was one of the best things I’d ever done because shortly after joining I was off to Rottnest for the Rottnest Retreat and I was meeting authors and illustrators and publishers and editors and it was the best thing in the world.

I came back from Rottnest ridiculously giddy and inspired.

A couple of weeks later, sitting on the sofa one night in my pyjamas, I was scrolling though Twitter and saw a retweet of a Tweet from Vicki Lebrecht – Founder of The Bright Agency in London. Her tweet said something along the lines of … “Looking at folios right now if you want to send me a link”. Now, I’m not one to wait around so I tweeted Vicki a link to the gallery page of this blog immediately. She saw it. Told me to email her and later that week documents were signed and I had agent representation!

I was a Bright Artist!

And I drank champagne to celebrate.

And I started to write. Not on the same day, just kind of around that same time.

The first story or two I wrote were terrible! Awful! (But one day I might go back and revisit them because perhaps they aren’t as bad as I remember them, maybe, we’ll see). I wrote fast and furiously, day and night, until I wrote something that I actually thought probably wasn’t so bad and then I spent the next six months editing and riding the “I’m so great at this / I’m so bad at this” roller coaster.

In the meantime, I was getting some lovely work coming in from The Bright Agency… a chapter book to illustrate, an educational book to illustrate, a colouring-in book to draw, a whole bunch of samples were requested, another colouring-in book, a science book…books books books and the Rottnest Retreat came around again. This time I was designing the t-shirts for it!

It’s been a busy twelve months, thats for sure, and it’s only getting busier.
A few months ago I got my own work-in-progress (a children’s book) to a point where I was happy to start showing people. I dummied it up roughly and sent it to The Bright Agency who found a publisher that wanted to publish it within about a month of them having it (thank you, James Burns!!). So right now I’m smack bang in the middle of working on my own author/illustrator picture book which will be out next year :)

So, what have I learnt about becoming a children’s book illustrator (and do I have any tips)?

Yes, I probably do.

• I’ve learnt to just go for it! If there’s something you want to do, do it. Throw yourself into it. Meet the people you need to meet. Get in there! Make yourself known. What’s the worst that can happen, honestly? Nothing all that bad.

• Don’t be afraid of hearing NO. NO is not a bad thing, if anything it’s a way to make yourself more creative. Challenge yourself. A chance to look at what you want, or what you’re doing from a different angle. A chance to plan new strategies. NO is just a chance to try again, thats all.

• SOCIAL MEDIA! Get on it. No one is going to know who you are or what you do if you don’t tell them!

• Research. Buy, read, live and breathe children’s books. Learn who’s doing what. How they do it. Why they do it. When they did it. What they’re doing next. All of that stuff!

• Draw!! Every day. Seriously. If you want to be good at drawing, do it every single day. At the last SCBWI Rottnest Retreat, author/illustrator extraordinaire Alison Lester said the one thing she wished she’d known when she first started illustrating books was that drawing everyday would make her better at it.
I couldn’t agree more. I did it every day with my 365 project and I was amazed at how my style developed and at how much better I got at it.

• Don’t be overly precious with your work and be open to ideas and input and constructive criticism. It’s only going to make you and your work better.

• DON’T MISS DEADLINES! I try to get work in usually at least a day before the deadline. I’d much rather be remembered for being super prompt than horribly late. Plus it’s very unprofessional.

• Talk to other illustrators. Again, social media! Follow illustrators on Twitter, join drawing groups or critique groups or SCBWI. We illustrators spend a whole lot of time working alone, our heads buried in a sketchbook or glued to the Mac. It’s important to open up your world. I can’t imagine you learn too much when yours is the only voice you’re hearing. Talking about my work with other illustrators has been one of the greatest things, if only because I found other brains that work like mine!

I think that might be it!

I think that’s all I have to offer for the moment.

To be honest, I still haven’t done as much as I’d like to do as far as throwing myself the industry is concerned…but I’m getting there. Iv’e made some pretty good leaps so far.

Oh! Last tip… HAVE FUN!

Some very colourful ladies.

Wednesday was a studio day and I had the most fun! Ever.

I coloured a couple of the ladies from my sketchbook and then I coloured a sketch I had done for Daily__Doodle the night before.

The best decision I have made lately was to NOT take my computer upstairs to the studio. It means I’m not tempted in the slightest to scan a sketch and quickly colour it in photoshop, these are all by hand! Gouache and colour pencil.



Daily__Doodle ‘Crazy Scientist’ came from…KellyCanby5


…this sketch.KellyCanby6


Finally, I wil have some VERY exciting news to tell you soon. VERY. Like, really really exciting…but I just can’t tell yet and its killing me!!!

But soon :)

Happy Friday, everyone!


From my sketchbook : May

Well that month went quick!

Here’s some bits and bobs from  my sketchbook this month (two are from today though, June 2nd, but ssshhh, no one needs to know!)










And there you have it, a little bit of what happened this month, inside my sketchbook.


Have I shared our ‘eyes on the street’ project with you yet?

My 4 year old son and I often go out walking the neighbourhood armed with not much more than…


A pair of googly eyes and some Blu-Tac.

And we look for faces. And we photograph them.

Faces, we’ve found, are everywhere!!

Here’s some of my personal favourites:

eyes2Canby eyes3Canbyeyes4Canbyeyes5Canbyeyes6Canbyeyes7Canbyeyes8Canbyeyes9Canbyeyes10Canbyeyes11Canbyeyes12Canbyeyes12Canbyeyes13Canbyeyes15Canby

It’s REALLY a lot of fun, you should try it!


Here’s an example of Photoshop being completely awesome!

I’ve been playing around and painting a few new portfolio pieces lately and one of them was a fancy cocktail party lady holding a glass of champagne.

I loved the way it turned out and was about to email it to my agents at Bright to put on my folio page, when it occurred to me that perhaps a tipsy woman with a glass of booze wasn’t the most “kid lit” friendly subject, I mean, we’re talking picture books for five year olds here! SO, on a separate piece of paper I painted a teddy bear and a small child, opened up Photoshop, joined the two together and VOILA!

Kid lit friendly!

(And I still really like it, in fact, I may even like it better).

Thank you, Photoshop, old buddy, old pal, thank you.




Happy friday!

From my Sketchbook – April 2014

I thought I might start a new monthly sketchbook show & tell type thing as I do A LOT of sketching in that ol’ book of mine. Everyday, really.

So, lets show some stuff!

I have been making an effort to work on character design lately so I seem to be drawing a lot of faces – lots of faces, different expressions, loads of fun! It’s amazing that since I started doing this, my drawing has really improved, I can certainly see that practice is a good thing.

A small sample of the faces I have been doodling…
characters 1KellyCanby

And some character doodles (you can see here where my photographer came from here)…
characters 2

characters 3KellyCanby

I have also been participating in @Daily__Doodle on Twitter. Everyday Daily__Doodle posts a new #theme and well, you doodle it and post your doodle back! Its great for when I can’t come up with an idea for a doodle on my own and also makes me doodle things I wouldn’t ordinarily doodle.

I feel like I’ve just said ‘doodle’ a lot.

Anyhow, some of my @Daily__Doodle’s…



#GirlInFancyDressgirl in fancy dressKellyCanby


3 pigsKellyCanby

Batman dog Robin catKellyCanby

Girl with pet MonsterKellyCanby

I actually really look forward to the new theme each day…I’m hooked!!

If you’re a doodler, give it a go!
(And one last time, here’s their link :) @Daily__Doodle)

Finally, from my sketchbook, is Olive.
Finally, I think I have just about finished my first ever manuscript.
Finally, I can get to work on what it might look like.
Finally, I am drawing stuff for it!

I thought I had finished this manuscript a couple of months ago but when I re-read it last week I found so many words that just didn’t need to be there! So, it’s now only half the size but I think it’s twice as good.

It’s about a girl called Olive and this is what Olive looks like…today…

I’m really loving working on a project of my own and ideally I’d like to develop the story and the character and the look of the book to a point where I feel good about showing people, and by people I mean my agents and publishers and anyone who might want to help make my book into a real thing :)

Thats the dream!

And that’s it from my sketchbook this month.
It was just a small sample, I tweet way more doodles and sketches so if you want to see them, come follow me @kelcanby

Happy first day of the week! x