I’m continuing my artist-in-residence at a local school, helping a Grade 5/6 class create heroic characters through drawing, writing, and prop building.

In week 2, we began the process of building props for the characters and designing costumes. The students really embraced this project. When I came in for my third week, I saw all sorts of wonderful designs. One student even used an old doll to make a mannequin for her character’s costume.


Another student brought in a model car and sunglasses that he will use as part of his display for his hot-rodding character (he added a few of the character’s tools in the trunk).


You can see other examples of the students’ brainstorming in the photos below, including interesting key props and some character designs.


In Workshop 3, I taught the students some illustration techniques to help them with their drawings. Their task is to create a model sheet showcasing different expressions of their characters and to also draw their heroes in one key pose.

This has proved to be a challenging part of the project, mostly because of the patience involved. I’ll have to continue working with them next week on this illustration part of the project.

I thought I would post more illustrations from my project for the BC Library’s Summer Reading Club.

The theme is “Book a Trip” and the library team and I came up with the concept of a “portal passport” that can transform into various vehicles that will carry our crew of critters on adventures around the world—and beyond it.

In an earlier post, I showed some of the rough pencil sketches of some of the vehicles I’ve been working on. Here are some “final” versions, inked and painted, including one image that shows the portal passport in its various stages of transformation. (I say “final” because, of course, nothing is final until it goes to print! I’m sure there will be lots of composition and colour tweaking to come.)


All of these pieces will be included in the overall poster design and some of the other marketing material for the library’s campaign. Slowly but surely, everything’s coming together . . .



I’m currently working as an artist-in-residence at a local school, helping a Grade 5/6 class create heroic characters. In the first week, we started by brainstorming. In the second workshop, we really cranked up the fun factor, tackling our characters from the perspective of costumes and props.

To help with this, I brought in my gadget kit and my costume kit. The gadget kit is essentially just a box of stuff that other people throw out—odds and ends like milk bottle caps, wires, pipes, plastic rollers . . . you name it. All of this looks like junk, until you add it to something like this:


The above contraption is a piece I built for my wife’s halloween costume. None of my students are building something quite so elaborate, but are concentrating on more achievable things, such as smaller gizmos, such as decorated keys. (I found these really expensive keys from the craft store and many of the kids have hot-glued plastic jewels or metal gears to give them an other-worldly look.)

The other fun part of this class was costume design. I brought in a kit of fabric swatches, buttons, and hair samples and the students have collected samples to go along side the character profiles they are developing. The students had a lot of fun picking out the exact hair color of their characters and the different textures for their clothing. This gave them a different way to visualize their characters and helped enrich their understanding of them, too.

Here’s some of the photos from all the marvelous mayhem . . .


One of the students informed me that this was her favorite project all year (which I could tell because her and entire group of friends opted to skip recess to keep working on their designs.)

For the next workshop, we will be concentrating on illustration tips and techniques.


One of the projects I’m working on this fall is an artist-in-residency at a local elementary school. This is a neat five-week project in which I work with a single classroom of Grade 5 and 6 students to develop and design heroic characters. Our end project is to create a detailed display that will show the different aspects of the character, including a written profile, a detailed illustration, a pose and expression model sheet, and some three-dimensional props.

For the first session, I introduced the topic by discussing famous characters from literature and film and showing some of the common traits and themes we find in those characters’  journeys. I also showed the students how I came to develop some of my own heroic characters, not only in my Kendra Kandlestar series, but for a new book I’m working on. I brought in a stack of my brainstorming journals and the students were able to flip through and discover some of my different character-building pages.


Afterwards, the students were each given their own sketchbooks and they set to work doing some brainstorming of their own, concentrating on unique abilities, specific physical traits, and interesting names. (I’m a big believer in interesting names!)


We’ve actually already completed the second workshop, in which we attacked our character design from a tactile perspective, building props and imagining costumes. But I will talk about in a separate post—I’ve been so busy, I’m playing catch up!

I’m hard at work on the illustrations for the BC library system’s 2016 summer reading club. In previous posts, I chronicled the development and design of the characters that are going to populate the different material: the poster, the reading record, and so forth. The theme is “travel.”

Those characters have been approved, so now I’m working on the design of the poster. (The other material will come next; the poster is the most important piece.)

Here are some of my initial concepts:



As you can see, I was toying with the idea of a vertical design and a steampunk frame. I liked the idea of the book transforming into a plane, and that seems to be the part everyone on the library team has been agreeing on.

They asked me to make the frame even more steampunk, but to try and avoid gears since gears played very heavily in their concept from last year. So it’s been quite a challenge to make something looked steampunk without the quintessential symbol of that genre. But I think I’ve got it now, as can be seen in this cobbled together version of the poster:


No gears! I decided to make the poster horizontal, to stretch out process of transformation from the portal passport into the plane. The library team asked for one additional stage of transformation between the book and the plane; initially, I wasn’t sure if that could be fit in, but I think it does work quite nicely.

In the corner of the poster, I’ve added some insets of different vehicles that the portal passport might transform into. I had originally sketched some images of our crew—the flying squirrel, travel bug, and polar bear—in different locales, but the library team wants to avoid any perceived stereotypes. So do I, I suppose. Though I did like my polar bear wearing his traditional peaked Asian hat. (For me this wasn’t meant to perpetuate a stereotype, but a homage to my own travels in Asia. I wear those hats all the time when I’m in Asia; they’re really good at keeping out the heat.)

In any case, we’re going to try and represent travel through these different vehicles being in different landscapes. Hence the submarine in water, the rocket in space, and the walker in the jungle:




Now I’m hard at work inking and colourizing the individual components. It’s all coming together, slowly but surely. Which is good—I have less than three weeks to complete!

Legends & Lore - Kindle CoverThroughout the month of October, I was celebrating the ten-year-anniversary of my Kendra Kandlestar series. But what’s an anniversary without gifts? So what makes a good gift for such a momentous occasion?

How about a brand-new never-before-released Kendra Kandlestar book?


Yep! You can download “Legends & Lore from the Land of Een” for FREE from your favorite digital provider. Or, you can even download a PDF, directly from the Kendra Kandlestar website.

This book is a companion book to the series. It includes some favorite stories, myths, and tales from the Land of Een. A few fan-favorite characters pop up here and there, too. Most of the material comes from existing stories and notes, things that I had written to help build the world of Kendra Kandlestar, but couldn’t be included in the actual books. I’m glad there is finally a place for at least some of these stories.

This is especially for all those young readers who have kept sending in their letters asking for more Kendra Kandlestar, even after five books. Well, this gift is for you.

This month of October, I’ve been celebrating the ten-year-anniversary of Kendra Kandlestar (the first book in the series, The Box of Whispers, was published in October, 2005).  The celebration culminates on October 31st when I release a new companion book to the series. Kendra Kandlestar: Legends and Lore from the Land of Een will be available as a free download on all digital platforms. Stay tuned for the links!

But back to today’s particular celebration! In previous posts, I’ve discussed the ideas and inspiration for the different elements of the series; today I wanted to celebrate the things that authors have no control over . . . reader response.

I’m very grateful for all of the love that has been thrown Kendra’s way over the past decade. In addition to numerous hand-written letters, Een-mails (very similar to emails; you can send one through, and notes, I’ve had the joy of receiving all sorts of photos showing fan engagement.

Here’s some of my favorites from over the years, from kids small and big alike!

Dolls and figures
I think one of the things I enjoy the most is when readers reinterpret my characters and turn them into other incarnations!

More Kendra Peg Figures kendrakandlestar_pegfigures

This is a Kendra doll in progress. Check out them ears!



Dioramas and models
There are many magical environments and items in Kendra’s world. Here’s some of them brought to three-dimensional life . . .



Kids in costume
Of course, Kendra’s hair makes her a great candidate for a Halloween costume. When she was younger, my own goddaughter, Charlotte, dressed as Kendra and came to my book launches. Here’s a picture of her these many years ago . . .


But many kids over the years have chosen to take on the task without bribery from me . . .



Kendra Kandlestar costume.


Fun stuff
Now for the really fun stuff!

This cake was made by my friend Carrie for the recent launch of the final book in the series, The Search for Arazeen:


Someone used Oki as the basis for a jack o’lantern:


And a very big fan (I mean both in the size of her fandom and in her physical age) got an Oki tattoo!

Oki Tattoo

Of course, kids have given me all sort of Kendra Kandlestar artwork over the years. I love to see their versions of these characters.





Sonya's drawing of Kendra Kandlestar.

Charlotte's drawing of Kendra








Kendra Kandlestar

Charlotte's drawing of Kendra

There are so many other drawings, cards, notes, and items I could show. Rest assured, I cherish them all, and have kept every single one ever given to me. Thank you so much for loving Kendra and sticking with her long ten-year journey!

boxofwhispers-3dIn my ongoing blog series to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the publication of Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, I’ve talked about the setting, heroes, antagonists, and overall inspiration for the book.

For this installment, I’m discussing the visual design. Since I come from a graphic design background and am also the illustrator of the series, I was allowed to have a strong say in the overall look of the book—which is far from the normal situation in publishing.

I had a lot of passion for the way the books should be presented, so I was accommodated! When I was a child, my favorite books were those from the turn-of-the-century, when art deco was the flavor of the day. In those books, such as the Oz series by L. Frank Baum, art, text, and delightful elements of design seemed to dance together to create a magic portal into the world of storybook.

This was very much a tradition I wanted to echo when it came time to present Kendra Kandlestar to the world. This is most dramatically seen on the first page of each chapter in The Box of Whispers, which makes use of large, elaborate typography. I looked in particular to Ozma of Oz (Chapter 1 shown below, left).  Published in 1907, this third book in the Oz series was illustrated by John R. Neill (and was also my favorite in the series as a child).


Here are some of the other “chapter title pages” in The Box of Whispers:

Box of Whispers.indd Box of Whispers - Interior.indd Box of Whispers - Interior.indd

Incidentally, I should mention that the character featured in the illustration above was named after one of my favorite characters in the Narnia series, Puddleglum. Since my character—Pugglemud—was encountered in a marsh, just like C.S. Lewis’s Puddleglum, I thought it would be a nice homage. The characters share nothing else in common and, at the time, I thought Pugglemud would play his role in the story and then quietly slip away. Unfortunately, he’s rather like a bad weed; he kept coming back in future books. If I had known this, I probably would have not given him a name that is so similar to Puddleglum.

Box of Whispers - Interior.indd Crack in Kazah - interior.indd Box of Whispers.indd

It goes without saying that I was very pleased when one of the early reviews for The Box of Whispers made a comparison between it and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

For the final installment, I’ll talk about some of the fun fan engagement that’s happened with the book.

I’ve been posting some of the artwork that I’ve been doing for the BC Summer Reading Club these past few weeks, but it’s now my work on the project is officially official.

So far, I’ve mostly been designing the look and feel of the characters that we are going to use for the material. Here’s the final versions of them—as you can see, we decided to go with a more “sketchy” look for the style of artwork:

Our pilot, the flying squirrel:

Flying Squirrel - sketchy color - pink clothes

Our navigator, the travel bug:


Our engineer: the polar bear:


I’ve also been working on the designs for the “portal passport”. My first attempt was a bit flat . . .

Portal Passport 01

So the team at the BC Library asked me to “up” the gadget factor, which I did:


It’s by means of this book that the characters will take their travels. (The theme of the 2016 reading club is “Book a trip”.) I’m not sure if we’re going to use them, but I’ve sketched some (mis)adventures that the crew has in various locations around the world.






In my ongoing blog series to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the publication of Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, I’ve talked about the heroes, the antagonists, and the inspiration for the overall idea. Today’s topic is the setting.

Just like many of the characters in the book, the setting of the story went through a significant transformation. Originally, I had called this place where the tiny folk lived the Land of Tween. This was because they lived “Between Here and There.”

However, this was over ten years ago, and the term “Tween” was quickly being taken over by the media as a reference to those kids who weren’t quite kids anymore—but weren’t teenagers either.

I decided I need to change Tween to something else. This was one of those cases where the simplest decision became the easiest! I chopped off the first two letters and called it the land of “Een.”

Originally the inhabitants of the magic land in the story were going to be all manner of fairy-tale characters such as pixies, gnomes, and elves. This is demonstrated in the early drawing of Winter Woodsong shown below.


As you can see, she was originally a fairy, complete with star-dusted wings. Because of this starry appearance, she was first known as Summer Starlight, but eventually it seemed more appropriate to change the name of the “Eldest of the Elders” to Winter Woodsong.

Certain locations within the Land of Een also went through some changes as I developed the story.

Below, you can see a concept sketch of the Elder Stone.

Elder Stone concept.

As shown by that drawing, there is a time when I thought the home of the Council of Elders should look more like a towering castle, with flags and ornamentation.

Eventually, I decided I wanted it to look more like a natural rock, as is shown in the final illustration:

The Elder Stone

The idea is that you might walk right past it and—unless you were really looking closely—you might not even notice it. Interestingly, I revisited the idea of the Elder Stone as an opulent castle in Books 4 and 5 of the series.

The Box of Whispers also established the Magic Curtain, which is the border that surrounds the Land of Een. In the original publication of the book, there was no overall map of Een, though you could see part of its border in this map from Professor Bumblebean’s notes:

Professor Bumblebean's map of Een

The idea of the Magic Curtain, this boundary that guards and hides Een from the outside world, came to play a major role in future Kendra Kandlestar books.

In the next post, I’ll discuss some of the inspirations for the visual design of the overall book.


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