illustrating build

illustrating build

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the illustrations in picture books. I remember staring at all the little details, looking at each page for much longer than needed, and yet absolutely captivated. What an honor it is to get to create illustrations that children will enjoy, notice details, make up stories about, choose favorites, trace, be inspired by … I’m truly so grateful I get to do this work!

So let’s get into it! Here’s a peek at how the illustrations for Build came to be.

the illustration process

Because Build is the sibling book to Twirl and their formats are so similar, it made the process very easy! The layout is nearly identical to Twirl so I was able to follow along with the same template I made the first time around, with just a few minor changes to fit this story best.

One of the best parts about being the author and illustrator is that while writing the story, I had pictures swirling in my mind. In my sketchbook, I drew very rough sketches of each page just to get my ideas down on paper. When it came time to actually translating what was in my mind to paper, I started by creating a page layout in Adobe Illustrator, adding the words and leaving the rest blank where the illustrations would go.

At my watercolor desk, I taped up all the blank pages to the wall. When a new series of illustrations was complete, I scanned them, edited them slightly, and added them to my Illustrator book document to print out. As more of the story came to life it was so nice to have it all up on the walls around me to help me watch progress, make sure the colors and characters looked consistent, and see how much was left to finish!

All of my artwork is done with paper, pencil, and watercolor paint. Once the illustration is finished, I scan each painting at a very high dpi to ensure the quality will remain crisp when printed. Next, I open the image in Photoshop to remove the background and make any minor edits (erasing extra markings, isolating objects, maybe shifting an eye over a tiny bit to make the character look happier). One thing you’ll notice in the pictures is the imperfection of hand-drawn art – little pencil marks, the paint bleeding and pooling, etc. With much of the artwork on children’s books moving to being digitally created, I feel really happy with the hand-made nature of the illustrations in this book. I hope there is a classic, nostalgic, and approachable feel to each page.

My style of art is so airy with lots of white space so you’ll notice that most of the artwork in the book are ‘spot’ illustrations – without a background scene. The one full-page spread with a background sets the scene for where this adventure takes place and I hope it stands out among all of the whitespace in the other illustrations! It was fun to create that scene and makes me want to venture more into landscape painting.

illustrating the characters

Even though our main character’s name is Brady boy (named after our second son), Build is wholly inspired by my husband and all three boys and you’ll find little nods to each of them throughout the book, both in words and pictures. It felt right to give him Ryan’s hair and skin coloring, and I dressed him in things my boys wore when they were little – a striped t-shirt (that coordinates so adorably with Audrey girl’s dress in Twirl!), easy shorts, yellow rain boots. Even his little backpack is inspired by my oldest son’s!

The animal friends were fun to dream up. I used a ton of reference photos to figure out what each animal looks like and how they move so I could try to make them look natural.

Itsy Bitsy Spider took the longest to get just right (even though she is so simple!). How do you make a spider look cute and not creepy?! Wide-set tiny dots for eyes, pink cheeks, striped legs, and a friendly brown color seemed to do the trick. Her spider web was drawn with pencil and I love the detail of her web in the pictures.

One of the trickiest parts about illustrating characters is keeping them consistent from page to page and from all different angles. One of the little tricks I learned is that keeping the clothes and accessories the same throughout the story helps a child identify the character and the imperfections in proportion, eye placement, etc. are much less noticeable!

When it came to movement, once again, I followed the same strategy as with illustrating twirl and used reference photos. What does a little boy look like sitting crosslegged building legos? What about sneezing? Or tangled up in string? Sometimes I moved my own body into a pose to figure out what a body does and that was helpful too 🙂

all the extras

You know how much I love paying attention to little details and this book is no different. You’ll find cute end sheets (I love cute end sheets!), a sweet bible verse, a dedication, and an about-the-author page. My publishing team was so creative with the suggestion for the about the author page and I hope it brings one last smile before you close the book. These special pages were so fun to create!

The cover came toward the end of the design process and you can read all about that here.

Just like with Twirl, I was able to incorporate hand lettering into the pages of Build. The sketchy pencil, rubber-stamp-inspired letters make this book feel even more playful, personal, and full of imperfect charm.

Writing and illustrating Build was a dream come true for me and such an incredible experience. I hope this was a fun peek into the illustrating process. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’d love to answer!


build cover reveal

build cover reveal

One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given is the opportunity to write and illustrate children’s books. My first picture book, Twirl, was my longtime dream come true project. It was a message I had in my heart for such a long time and an absolute delight to write a story and paint pictures that help little girls remember that they are perfectly and wonderfully made.

Before I even turned in the first manuscript for Twirl, I wrote a very rough draft for a similar book, especially with boys in mind. The story came quickly but sat untouched on my computer as a rough file, just living as a quiet little dream.

After the great reception of Twirl and lots of questions like where’s the boy version?! I was so excited when my publisher said yes to me writing and illustrating that little dream of a book for boys. With lots of collaboration with Ryan (he came up with the title!), my three teenage sons, my five-year-old nephew, and my incredible editor, I’m so happy to tell you that it’s done! It’s coming soon! And I can’t wait to show you a peek.

Introducing, Build, a happy story with adorable characters, charming illustrations, and a message that all little (and big!) boys need to hear: God created you to make and do amazing things!


There is much to share about this sweet book – the story behind the story, the process of illustrating, and watching it all come together. But for today, let’s talk about the cover!

the cover

I’m one of those who definitely chooses a book by its cover (you too?!) and it feels especially important for a children’s picture book.

The designer from my publishing company came up with a few initial cover comps. Would you like to see them?

One thing we wanted with Build was for it to look good next to Twirl. I love that they are sibling books and we wondered if we liked the idea of them being super similar in design or just compatible? It was fun to see variations of two different options.

Here’s a side-by-side just so you can see:

After looking them over, comparing the different versions, and showing my family and some friends, we all decided we were leaning toward the cover that felt more similar to Twirl. One thing, though, that I wanted to see was how it would look with trees that were a little more northwest-y. So the designer gave me two samples:

Both were cute, but I actually liked the fluffy branches better. So we went back to the other branches and made a bunch of tiny little changes (my publisher is SO gracious to me to let me request so many tweaks!) and after a few more versions we made it to the final, final, final cover!

Isn’t it cute?!

I love that the fort is a little asymmetrical on the page. I love that Mama Bird is perching on the backpack. I love the tiny ant walking up the log. I love the navy stripes that are repeated (but a little different) on the two main characters in the books.

I’ll have much more to share about Build in the upcoming weeks as well as special gifts and surprises that you won’t want to miss.

Thank you so much for your excitement about this project. I truly can not wait for you to hold this book in your hands, read it to the little boys (and girls!) in your life, and share it with friends.

Build officially releases on March 26, 2024, but you can PREORDER A COPY TODAY!

favorite picture frames for your art prints

favorite picture frames for your art prints


An art print is a lovely way to add personality to any space. Choose your favorite painting from my collection of prints, pop it in a frame and display it around your home!



Art prints are available in 8×10 and I think they look particularly great when framed with a mat. Choose a frame size that is larger than 8×10 to make your art look substantial and really pop on your walls.

Here are some of my go-to suggestions for picture frames:


Thin gold frame on Amazon

Gold Frame with mat

Potterybarn metal frame

Simple metal frame

Target Metal frame

Easel frame

Williams Sonoma frame


thin wood frame

wood frame with mat

thin oak frame


Don’t forget to check at thrift stores, garage sales or your grandmother’s attic for vintage frames … those are often my very favorite!



stop and smell the roses

stop and smell the roses

Stop and smell the roses.

I know, it’s a cheesy phrase that you’ve likely heard a thousand times. But today it struck me and when I looked up the definition, it settled in even deeper:

Stop and smell the roses
(idiomatic) To relax; to take time out of one’s busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life.

To stop and smell the roses means intentionally slowing down, lifting your eyes, and paying attention. It’s noticing the little things that give life meaning, the moments that make you smile, pointing out what’s lovely in the midst of everything else.

While at first glance it may seem frivolous, I wonder if it’s exactly how our souls are meant to live.

I’ve been circling around and around trying to pinpoint the purpose behind the work I do, the value of this weekly email, the products I create. Today’s pondering is exactly what I needed to fully articulate it.

Delight in your everyday.

I hope that’s what you experience through the words and art found in my books, on social, in the weekly emails, when you receive a package or simply scroll the website. I hope you are encouraged to delight in your everyday.

And, above all else, may the stopping to smell the roses remind you that God is good and you are loved.



carry on

carry on

Have you ever found yourself right in the middle of a thing you signed up for and realize you really don’t know what you’re doing?

I’m pretty much there. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s how I’ve felt since the very first days of conversation about writing a book began. I’ve never written a book. I’ve never illustrated a book. I’ve never marketed a book. I’ve never been interviewed about a book. So I guess it makes a lot of sense that I don’t know what I’m doing 🙂

But here’s what I’m finding: even though I don’t know what I’m doing, I know I’m doing the right thing. Does that make sense?

Maybe it’s like those early days of motherhood. You don’t really know how to hold your baby or feed your baby or bathe your baby (they feel so fragile!), but this baby is yours and you are its mother and nothing feels more right than holding her close and staring at this miracle that came from you. You figure it out as you go, asking for help, watching how your friends and sisters are doing it, learning along the way and giving yourself lots of grace because of course you don’t know what you’re doing! You’ve never done it before!

It’s funny that a motherhood analogy came out because that’s what so many authors liken their books to. You grow it and labor over it for months and months (in my case, nearly 2 years!), and then it finally comes time to hold it up to the world: Look what I made!  I’m so proud of this thing! I want you to love it and be moved by it and cherish it and smile every time you see it on your shelf!

It’s a weird feeling. A vulnerable feeling. A little bit anxiety-inducing, if I’m being completely honest.

Your new-to-you thing might not be launching a book, but I’m guessing there’s something you’re doing that you don’t quite know how to do. Here’s how I think we can do it well:

1. Remember that if this is what you are called to do in this season, you will have everything you need to do it (Philippians 4:13)
2. Ask for help
3. Look at how others are doing it to see what you can learn from them (apply what works, let everything else go – this is not a competition!)
4. Give yourself grace
5. Have fun

I once had a teacher tell me, “Emily, lighten up.” It stung. But he was so right. I tend to take things a little too seriously. Perhaps you do too.

Maybe today, we take a deep breath, offer gratitude for the good things we’ve been asked to do, remembering that they are just things we do, not who we are. And then keep going.

Carry on, my friend. We can do this.

what I learned in year 41

what I learned in year 41

Things I learned in year 41:

God uses friendships to encourage our faith.

I’m not an avoider; I am an engager.

Speaking honestly and sharing my desires and preferences is a more loving way to be in a relationship than protecting myself and keeping my thoughts to myself.

I like making pretty things.

Teaching your firstborn to drive is terrifying. But once he gets his license, it’s amazing.

Wearing the same two pair of jeans again and again is better than having 20 that you don’t really love.

Prepackaged food is not as good as homemade.

Except Pop tarts. They are still delicious.

Asking for help is one step. Receiving the help with grace is another. Both are good and necessary and healthy.

Black lives are deeply valuable and the wounds run so much deeper than I ever knew. Listening and learning is heartbreaking and hopeful.

I really enjoy baking.

Clarity is not the ultimate goal. Sure it would be nice, but it would lead to self-reliance and that is definitely not the end goal. Trust is.

Nicely painted nails makes me feel like a grown up.

Filling in your brows makes a big difference.

I can do hard things. We all can.

Beauty matters because it reminds us of God’s goodness.

Seasons of deep, soul-important work are good. So are seasons of rest and gratitude and delightful contentment.

✨ Here’s to another year of growing and learning and embracing and delighting.