Some thoughts on “style”…

…and I’m really just thinking out loud here but “style” is a thing I have thought about a lot over the years.

Are we illustrators supposed to have just one? Should our style be strong and solid and easily recognisable? Or, should we be continually playing with and exploring new mediums, new ideas and new ways of doing things?

I don’t know the answer to that, or even IF there is an answer to that. I only know the way I do it…which sometimes frustrates the heck out me and other times makes me want to fist pump the air.

You see, I just can’t seem to settle on any one “style”.
My desire to experiment and play and try new things is strong – and I know exactly where that comes from – it comes from 20 years of living with a graphic designers brain.

As a graphic designer, the last thing you ever want to do is repeat the same thing over and over and over again. Big mistake! Boring! That will never win awards! Also, as a graphic designer, you’re constantly looking out into the world to see what’s new. Your work is influenced by fashion, by street art, by typography and photography. You follow trends … all while trying to set trends at the same time (yes, that is as tricky as it sounds). As a graphic designer everything you do is one big huge work in progress with the end result being a dynamic, exciting portfolio that demonstrates problem solving, versatility and innovation.

That’s how my brain has been trained to work and now, when you take my brain out of the design world and you drop it into the world of writing and illustrating for children it has to come up with a whole new way of thinking. And it makes me wonder. A lot.

Mostly it makes me wonder if I’m doing this illustration thing right! Ha!

I really admire illustrators whose style is so consistent that you can pick their work from even the smallest snippet. I admire the dependability of their work and I admire the commitment to their style.

Ooh! Maybe that’s it. I have commitment issues!

No. I don’t.

I’m an explorer.

Each new project, new blank page and new manuscript is, for me, an exciting new world of possibilities and challenges. It makes sense to me that they should all have their own personality. It makes sense to me, the graphic designer.

Me, the children’s book writer and illustrator, is working  on finding that lovely balance where every new project feels fresh and innovative but still has my stamp all over it.

I think I’m close. I will get there. I love doing this job too much not to get there.

Also. I’m a perfectionist.

Also. I may be somewhat of an over-thinker 😀

Also. I may even be there already and just not know it.


In other news, Phil Pickle, the picture book Kenny Herzog (author) and I made together is publishing  March 1 with Peter Pauper Press. Not long to go now!







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




I have just finished a job that has been consuming me, mentally and physically, for the past several weeks. But now, just this morning, I have sent off the cover and it is done!

That’s a nice feeling.

Time to do other lovely things now.

Other lovely things like, rediscover my passion for gouache! Gouache and coloured pencils…I’m smiling just thinking about them! For a while there I decided digital was the way to go, but I’ve come back. Back to my beloved gouache and coloured pencils and boy! have they welcomed me! We’ve been having some crazy fun together these last few nights…pics to come…but first, girls see too many images of Princesses and fairies, I have decided.

So, with that in mind, I have started a series of “jobs girls can have that isn’t a princess or a cupcake maker or a poodle groomer or a fairy” paintings. Not that theres anything wrong with those careers, it’s just, you know, thats not all there is out there.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with these little paintings (if anything) but they’ve been such fun to make. I have a list of nearly 30 occupations to do…lets see how many I can get done while I wait for client feedback from other jobs…and before I get flat out busy again…

The first three are: (click to enlarge)






Girl power. And all that.

In other news, a book with a book cover that I illustrated will be coming out later this year (publisher: Bloomsbury). I’m still working on the internal B&W illustrations but, hey, look! Here’s a cover that I can now reveal…


I’m so happy with how its looking 🙂

I have been up to so much more lately but to go into details would bore you silly so, I’ll leave it at this for today.

Happy Hump Day, folks!

While I’m showing and telling…

Here’s another little thing I did in my absence.

This was my entry for the Tomie dePaola award this year.
It’s the first time I’ve entered and I kind of used it as a chance to try something new.

The prompt was a very short poem about a sneeze and the accompanying illustration had to be for children age 0 – 2 years.

😦 I didn’t win.

BUT! I tried a few new little techniques that I enjoyed and maybe, just maybe, I’ll start introducing these into my regular work.

So here it is, this is what I submitted: (click to enlarge)



And here is a link to the unofficial gallery of the Tomie dePaolo Award (2014), in case you want to see more entries!

It’s February already?!


I am almost too embarrassed to make another blog post given the last one was before Christmas! Like, WAY before Christmas, AND, I didn’t even post more photos of our Elf, Buddy. Even though I said I would. What a big fat no-photo-poster I am!! (If you are interested in seeing them though, they’re all on Instagram and I believe there’s a little Instagram link just to the left you you there <——–)

It’s been a furiously busy few months in my little world. Christmas, New year, plane trips, holidays, a 4th birthday, new kindy and working.

And speaking of working, currently I am working on a chapter book, the cover is done and we’re just finalising the internal B&W illustrations. They’ve been really fun, cooky characters to work with. Also, there’s a picture book in the works which I have just sent off all my first sketches for and am anxiously awaiting the feedback. Fingers crossed there’s not too much to redraw!
This book is also being turned into an app so thats a bit exciting!
I can have it on my phone!

Also, upon request from Oxford University Press I recently (just last week) submitted a sample for a new picture book. I would LOVE to get this one (if anyone from Oxford University Press is reading, love love love to get this one!) as I had so much fun designing the character and the little world this guy lives in. Fingers crossed!!

Thats two lots of fingers crossed for me now.
Luckily you have two hands.
Please keep both sets of index and pointer fingers crossed until I say stop.
Shouldn’t be long.
If this causes you trouble eating, just have someone feed you.
Likewise with driving, getting dressed, blow drying your hair, making tea.
Just have someone else do it for you.
It should only be for a week or two.


Back in, oooh what was it? Late December? I submitted a sample for a picture book, I didn’t get it but I thought you might like to see what I did.

In hindsight, its not terribly good as I rushed it and photoshopped the whole thing so it feels very flat and …. photoshopped to me. Sad, because I feel like if I had spent more time on it, instead of getting over-excited (It was my first request for a sample from a publisher!!) I could have done something I was  happier with.
And also I should have / could have developed those characters a bit better but…

…oh well, live and learn.

Rightio then, I have just, right now, renewed my WordPress account so guess what?!
Another year of blogging ahead!

I look forward to your company.

(here’s the sample I did)

It’s good to be back!