Smart Dummies Challenge


Smart Dummies Badge 2Yep, this year I take part in the Smart Dummies challenge! This means: I will try to get the sketches for my Annadan reader (at least the first 25 pages) done within the month of September.
On this page I hope to upload my daily progress.

 Day 10 – One Third Through the Challenge

Now I’m through one third of the challenge already – and the past 2 days have really slowed me down: I stumbled upon that text that was supposed to be on page 15 but I just didn’t like it anymore. It didn’t feel in line with the story. It took me two full days (and pages and pages of lists of all kinds of closed-syllable words using the letters a,o,n,d,e,i,t,m only) to come up with a new one.
From ‘A man sits on a mat. One cat is in a cat tin.’
To ‘One tent is a mess. A man sits on a mat. Dan can see a nest.’

I also spent some time going through my most favorite reading primer (Lollipop) – and found LOTS of pictures designed backwards, characters facing left. (See picture below)
It never bothered me and I begin to wonder if that’s an okay thing to do for reading primers seeing a single spread is made to amount for about one week of work. (So there is not really a flow of reading).

  • dummies_4I finished the page 14 sketch (with 8 cats)
  • I changed the text that will be on page 15
  • I went through a mentor reading primer, closely inspecting text and illustrations.

 Day 8 – My Progress

Today was another busy day but somehow I managed to do more than yesterday:


  • I finished spread 12/13 (inserted the main characters)
  • I worked on page 14 – just need to add about 7 or 8 cats 🙂

Day 7 – My Progress

Okay, today I didn’t get that much done – partly because it’s Monday (back to work), partly because I had to finish an essay for my children’s literature correspondence studies. But here’s what I got done:


  • I corrected a perspective glitch on spread 10/11
  • I added all but the main characters on spread 12/13

Note to myself:
When tracing, put the boy on the very right of spread 12/13 a bit lower – I’ll need space for about 3 lines of text above him.

 Day 6 – My Progress

Okay, it’s a little bit of cheating because I have finished the first few spreads before the Smart Dummies Challenge even started. But here is my progress on day 6:dummies_1

  • The manuscript text for the first 27 pages (the whole book will need to be about 50 illustrated pages) is written, gone over numerous times and printed out
  • The main characters are designed (read below for an explanation on how I did this)
  • Pages 3 through 9 are finished (see the colored finals HERE)
  • The sketch for spread 10/11 is finished
  • I finished the background sketches for spread 12/13

Main Characters Are Set!

Maybe some of you are interested in how exactly I came up with the main character. And guess what? Here are the sketchbook pages that show my process – from very first sketch to finished and reproducible character:


I knew I needed a 4-to-6-year-old for main character so I started out doing a few very loose scribbles of different child characters. As you can see it’s all still very out of proportion and Picasso-like, partly because I couldn’t do better and party because I just didn’t care – it was just about getting to know different types of characters.

Finally I figured an everyday girl would be most relatable for young readers so the two girl characters on the right hand side stuck out to me. I colored them in as the best sketches on this page so they’d be easier to find for future reference.


This is part of the refinement and getting-to-know-the-character sketches. I tried to draw the main character (Anna) from all angles (still struggling to keep proportions the same from sketch to sketch). I colored in the best ones for future reference, again.


Changing media I then tried to get a more detailed and realistic grasp of what my main character would look like. (I always feel colored sketches have so much more personality than black and white ones.


Having settled on the type of face my character would need I went back trying to think of her little sister and what a cheeky little girl looks like. When I came back to Anna I tried to figure out what the rest of her body would look like. How would she dress? How would she stand? How can her energy be displayed in posture and movement?


Still experimenting on Anna’s clothes and the type of girl she would be I decided on changing her hairstyle and making her about two years older. It just seemed to me that not only would an older girl appeal to a wider audience (children tend not to read books with main characters younger than themselves) but because of older children’s more ‘elongated’ and less chubby bodies movements and action scenes would be much easier to illustrate. I also decided to give Anna some glasses to set her apart from other characters and make her much more unique.


Some sketches of the – now older – main character’s face. The ones I felt capturing the essence of an outgoing, adventurous girl best are framed for future reference. I also started experimenting with body type and clothes, quickly settling on a ‘safari outfit’.


Again, swapping medium, a set of sketches done in watercolor pencil. As you can see, I now swapped to dark reddish brown hair and yellow t-shirt (and awesome green glasses, of course)


On this sketchbook page I finally got Anna’s body pretty much where I wanted to be: Very slender, bendy and expressive. First time trying to put her in other positions (like reading a book) and graphically measuring her head as circle with extension to make further reproduction easier.


More sketches from different perspectives, especially trying to reproduce from the other side and giving her different emotions. First profile sketches as well. On the right hand side I experimented with a different style, making her facial features much more dominant – but that just wasn’t mine.



2 thoughts on “Smart Dummies Challenge

    • I appreciate your kind comment, Laura. I wish I could see your work as well as I’m sure you’ll also have a great concept. I would love to see your ‘Smart Dummies’ illustrations

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