Fifty Times


In May, I attended an illustrators’ workshop in Oakland led by an art director at Viking Books.


  1. I should have studied up on the BART train routes.
  2. Bay Area attendees, uniformly kind and welcoming, were also uniformly aghast that someone from Mon-TA-na! would travel so far for an opportunity like this.
  3. The desk clerk at The Inn on Jack London Square is an absolute gem.
  4. Just because there are palm trees, doesn’t mean it isn’t freezing cold outside.

Most valuable of all, though, was this piece of advice from the art director:

Draw your characters AT LEAST fifty times.

So I spent the remainder of May and all of June drawing Zando, Marcato, Fermata, and Poco-A-Poco in every conceivable pose and mood, and from every angle I could wrap my inner “eye” around.

I drew them in the early mornings in the “common” area of the Cottonwood Inn in Glasgow, during our annual family reunion on Memorial Day Weekend.

I drew them while sitting on the dock at my sister and her husband’s property on Noxon Reservoir.

Back home, I drew them in crayon on the paper tablecloth at the Rib and Chop House (my daughters and I are inveterate tablecloth decorators).

Every morning I’m afraid to look at the wall above our headboard, in case I really have been drawing them in my sleep.

And boy, has it paid off.

I am working on the rough pictures for the dummy pages—the mock-up that shows my overall plan and vision for the book. These quirky little guys are, quite literally, right at my fingertips.

I may never master the intricacies of the BART train.

But I have these animals down.