drawing for friends

I made this little elephant invite for my friend Angie. Yay for babies!
And this is a portrait of my friend Hadea Tift.
If you're in Washington and need acupuncture check out her awesome community acupuncture clinic: http://skagitcommunityacupuncture.com


Author illustrator blog touring

My dear friend and fabulous author/illustrator Dasha Tolstikova invited me to take part in this blog tour. You can find her answers to these same questions here: http://heytheredasha.tumblr.com
Dasha's first picture book out in Oct - I can't wait!

She was asked to participate by Sophie Blackall. You can find Sophie's very interesting post that does NOT answer the questions here:
Sophie's latest book is SO GOOD! Have you read it yet?!

And here are my answers:
1. What am I currently working on?

I’m busy with lots of projects right now. In the last two months I’ve gotten contracts for my first three picture books. It’s really wonderful! Abrams will be publishing Hannah and Sugar in the Spring of 2016, my story of a girl whose compassion gives her the courage to overcome her fear of dogs, and also a second picture book I’ve yet to write.  
Sketch from Hannah and Sugar

And I’ll be illustrating The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley - which will be published Fall 2016 by Simon & Schuster’s Paula Wiseman Books. 

What I’m working on this week specifically are character studies and sketches for the illustrations for The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read. I haven’t yet pinned down what the two cats look like - so I’ll be making decisions like - tabby or striped? orange or grey? long hair or short hair? bow tie or beret? I can’t believe what a fun job I have, it’s awesome. 

Studies for The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read
I’ll also be spending time writing and doodling ideas for the as-yet-untitled second book Abrams will be publishing. 

AND I always put a little time each week into running my greeting card business. I shipped out cards to two customers and three retailers this morning and I have two new cards I need to find time to add to my shop: www.kateberube.etsy.com
One of the new card designs

Busy busy busy! But it’s great.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hm... this is a tough question to answer. I can only say I try to make work that communicates things that I feel or things that I think about and that are important to me. So my work must differ in that it comes from me and my own unique sense of the world. 
3. Why do I write what I write?

I think my answer to the above question answers this one too. I like to explore ideas and things that I’ve been thinking about. When I wrote Hannah and Sugar I was thinking a lot about what it means to be brave and I was trying to be more brave in my life. 
Brave like Amelia.

4. How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?

When I first started writing I read a lot of great books about how to write. (My favorite is probably If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland.) And I learned from all these great books that stories are usually not so good when you first write them but that with a lot of time and thoughtful editing, you can craft these first wobbly ideas into something great. 

Unpleasant, double elbowed first sketch on the left - final drawing on the right
So that’s become my process. I make horrible, awkward, ugly drawings and awful, embarrassing, cliched stories and then I fix them. I draw a drawing over and over until I get it somewhere I like. I go over and over my writing trying to make it simple and clear. And then of course, since picture books are stories half told through images and half told through words, I put the two together. I make an Indesign document and then edit out all the words that feel redundant. And I also make lots of decisions about page turns and image design once the words and images are together.

5. Who are the two author/illustrators that you are passing the interview to? 

I’m passing the baton to my friends Abigail Marble and Susan Boase. Both of whom are incredibly talented Portland author/illustrators which I've had the great luck to be in a critique group with for a number years. Can't wait to hear what they have to say. 
This charming kiddo is by Abigail Marble

And these adorable piggies are by Susan Boase
Thanks for reading!


Maya Angelou

Thinking of Maya Angelou today. The one word that really comes to my mind about her is the word inspirational.

Rest in peace Maya.

The quote on my drawing is from this poem:
Human Family 
I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I've sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I've seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I've not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England's moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
by Maya Angelou


A book deal, a book deal!!!

Wow, you guys, I'm going to be a published author! I am SO thrilled! Spring 2016 seems quite a long way off but I'm sure I'll get used to the pace of publishing soon enough. Hip hip hooray!


morning collage

Read more about this project here.


Happy Valentine's!

Hope you had a lovely Valentine's weekend. My man and I had our traditional celebration of take-out and Muppet movies. It was pretty great.



I've been blessed to have savvy local businesswoman Margo Wendorf mentoring me for over a year now.  I had spent many years working on honing my art-making skills but had neglected to study the skills it takes to run a business. We connected through an organization called Micromentor. MicroMentor's website describes itself as "a free business mentor service for entrepreneurs and a rewarding volunteer opportunity for business professionals. Our mission is to help small businesses grow faster, generate more revenue, and employ more people." 

Margo has been invaluable in helping me to learn how to run my small business and I can't thank her enough! Micromentor recently featured our story on their website:

The Business of Art

Entrepreneur Kate Berube expands her work as an illustrator of children's books with help from mentor, business owner, and tourism marketing expert Margo Wendorf.

Entrepreneur Kate Berube and mentor Margo Wendorf
Andy Warhol said that “good business is the best art.” For the artist entrepreneur, leveraging the connections between art and business is invaluable, but finding those connections can be challenging.
“I think you can be an artist and not be concerned with making it your career. You’re still an artist, and that’s perfectly acceptable,” says Portland, OR-based author and illustrator Kate Berube. “But if you are trying to make money off of it, you have to learn about business. That’s not something I was taught in school.”
Instead, Kate’s education was built on canvases in thick layers of oil and acrylic paints. She learned her craft by creating what she calls “painterly paintings”—work that provided her with a wealth of experience and a strong appreciation for art. However, while Kate’s fine art studies proved instructional, she would find her true calling in writing and illustrating children’s books.
“It’s the story that really draws me to kids’ books—to be able to have a narrative,” she says. “The more I learned about it, the more I realized that it was exactly what I was looking for.”
Even so, there was learning left to do. A lifelong reader, Kate admits that writing seemed daunting but that “like anything, you do it a lot and you get there eventually.” This is a lesson that she would encounter again when she decided to turn her artistic passion into an entrepreneurial career.
Kate participated in the Business Foundations Course at Mercy Corps Northwest and thereby discovered MicroMentor, where she connected with mentor Margo Wendorf. “Once I met Kate, I immediately saw the talent. She knew where she was and where she wanted to be, but not how to arrive,” says Margo, whose years of experience in business ownership proved useful in her work with Kate. “What most people are looking for is organizational assistance, business skills. They have a beautiful idea, but they haven’t figured out all the things they don’t know.”
Margo spent much of her career planning, organizing, and marketing international events within a field of tourism known as MICE—short for “meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions.” She also started a travel agency and an environmental training company, as well as a custom woodworking company with her husband.
Children’s illustrations are not Margo’s area of expertise. In fact, she says that her personal tastes lean toward the more traditional, fine art that Kate left behind. But, those differences didn’t matter when it came to discussing the business side of Kate’s art.
“Margo’s a really confident businesswoman,” Kate says. “She’s run businesses, and she has a lot of experience. It didn’t really matter to me what the businesses were, just that she’s had a successful career as an entrepreneur and she had a lot of good advice for me.”

Making Something Out of Nothing

Kate Berube Print
One of the tricky things about mixing art and business is that art is so often internal and personal, while business requires marketing, networking, and a hefty dose of confidence. “You’re making something out of nothing, and then you’re not really sure how people will perceive it,” Kate says.
Finding her confidence meant practicing her business skills—just as she practices her writing skills—by committing part of each work day to “not creative time” and acknowledging that it is an important part of her work. Kate notes that it’s easy to get swamped by the uncomfortable business side of things and retreat to the more familiar work of painting, but she recalls Margo’s advice to “make smart decisions, be confident, and not just sit at home and draw all the time and not put stuff out there.”
Margo helped Kate to organize her workday so that she could accomplish the requirements of both sides of her career, the business and the art. By dedicating a few hours each day on organizational needs, Kate can then focus on her art without distractions.

Moving Further, Faster

Unlike Kate, Margo started and grew her own businesses without the guidance of a mentor. “Now that I think about it, it might’ve been nice,” she says. “The thing for Kate is that she may move further, faster than we did.”
As a mentor, Margo volunteers her own time to help small business owners get ahead of the curve. Margo calls mentoring a “no-brainer” method of giving back to her community, because “there wasn’t much preparation to do. It was really just listening and pulling from past experience. We spent a lot of hours just talking over coffee. I think that the mentor really has to be willing to put in the time.”
One specific way in which Margo helped Kate was by sponsoring her participation in Kiva Zip, a crowdfunding program for small businesses, through which Kate was able to purchase new equipment. “She was really helpful in helping me see that if I get a bunch of work, which is what I’m envisioning, then I need to have the equipment in place to be able to do the work,” Kate says.
“The application process, getting the loan, and paying it back was good business practice to learn,” Margo adds. “I think, too, that it was encouraging for her to see all these people willing to invest in her.”

The Art of Business

Kate Berube Card
“There’s this perception when someone makes a painting that they know what it’s going to look like at the end and they take the steps to get there,” Kate says. “But, really, it’s always the finding. You start making stuff, and then you make decisions, and you’re finding what you’re trying to make along the way.”
Perhaps it’s this creative approach that led Andy Warhol to connect making art with making business. After all, running a business often involves getting started, making decisions, and finding what you’re trying to make along the way.
Since beginning her mentoring relationship with Margo, Kate has connected with an agent, who is helping her further develop her career as an illustrator. She also operates an Etsy shop, where she offers prints and gift cards featuring her art. Her recommendation to other creative entrepreneurs is to network, whether it’s through mentoring, taking business classes, or even social media channels. “I think that really makes you feel connected to the world, and there’s so much to learn from other people.”

You can find the article and read more about Micromentor here: http://www.micromentor.org/mentor/stories/business-art


New Valentine's day cards!

I've been having loads of fun coming up with new card ideas this week. I have a few more in the works but have jury duty tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get out early and can get them ready to put my shop in time for Valentine's day.


Tater Totter #3!

Happy New Year you all! I forgot to mention that I have a new issue of Tater Totter available now:
This issue is really pretty great. I've gathered together work from some of my best illustrator pals.

Abigail Marble and Susan Boase are my critique group friends and live here in Portland. We've been getting together, drinking wine and talking all things kid book every month or two for a couple of years now and generally have a pretty great time at it. Abbey has illustrated several lovely kids' books and you can find her work at www.abigailmarble.com. Susan has illustrated (and even written) some wonderful kids' books and also makes beautiful things out of clay. Her website is www.susanboase.com.

Dasha Tolstikova and I have been best friends since we were barely old enough to vote! We met at a children's book writing class and it may be true that I did not quite like her at first. But we sorted that out and have been cackling and scheming ever since. Sadly, she lives in Brooklyn, not Portland. She draws for both kids and adults (just yesterday she had a fantastic drawing in the New York Times!) You can find her work at: www.dashatolstikova.com .

AND I have work from my 88 year old grandmother (who is still as sassy as you can be, even while recovering from a hip fracture!) and my 6 year old niece (who has declared that the drawings she made for this issue a couple of months ago are "old work" and NOT as good as what she could do now.) 

So, as you can see this issue is pretty darn special. 

Now I'm off to get my new year started right - a little drawing before dinner. My resolution is to draw every day, what's yours?!


ILWU and me

Not only do I get to work at the wonderful Powell's Books, but I also get to be a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union by working there. I'm really pleased to have a union to protect my rights and support me. Today I received an extra special honor and was invited to display my work in the Powell's union office's window on Burnside Ave. in downtown Portland. The sun was set by the time I finished my display so my picture is less than ideal. But here's what I put together today:
(I'll snap another if I'm downtown soon. Or do send me yours if you happen to walk by the window - it's at SW 9th and Burnside.)

Thanks ILWU Local 5! 


Winter is coming (and so is Tater Totter #3!)

I'm busy, busy, busy working on Tater Totter #3. And I'm really excited about the awesome pieces from my contributors! Can't wait to share it with you.  Here's a little preview of what I've made for this issue:


Sara and Mark's gift

I made this painting as a wedding gift for my lovely friends, Sara and Mark. The wedding was last weekend and was one of the best weddings ever. Southern Oregon is an amazingly beautiful place and there were so many wonderful folks there. So much fun!

I took some pictures of the painting at various stages along the way as I worked.

It was really a fabulous wedding AND to top it off we got to sleep in a treehouse! It was the best. My new goal in life is to have a treehouse painting studio with a cozy reading nook. So dreamy.


Big news!

I'm thrilled to announce that I've enlisted Lori Kilkelly at Rodeen Literary Management as my agent! She put together a great bio and portfolio on the Rodeen Literary Faceboo page. Check it out here:


7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast feature

Wow!  I'm super thrilled to be featured on one of the best blogs out there about children's books and illustration: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

What an honor!