Building a portfolio

I made a decision at the beginning of the year to focus more on my illustration than my writing this year. It suddenly made sense that this is what I should be doing because it was art that was my first love when I was young. I am rekindling that passion. So far it has been a great journey with lots of hard work but satisfying results. I’m not an expert yet but I am better than I was at the start of the year and that is what practice is all about.

I was a roving reporter for this year’s Biannual SCBWI Conference and I had the opportunity to browse all the amazing portfolios submitted for editors and agents. You can read about it here: Roving Reporter and here: Illustrator Showcase 2019

I took away some really useful tips and information about what makes a great portfolio and have been working hard to create my own in time for this year’s CYA Conference.

I have also participated in the following to help me improve my skills:

Now I am ready for the school holidays which start in a week. I will give myself a break before looking for a new project to participate in – I work well to deadlines. They motivate me and keep me practising my skills.

I showed a mini book I created for the Curtis Brown Course on a previous post : New Year – New Projects

Here is some of the work I have created towards building a dummy picture book. During this project I had to consider the fold of the book also known as the gutter, flow of writing from left to right and where the text would fit within the illustrations amongst many other things to consider.


Rough double page spread in pencil


Double page spread in colour using Procreate on Ipad Pro


It’s not perfect and my 13 year old daughter was quite happy to highlight the inconsistences in my illustrations. I’ll take any feedback I can get no matter how brutal 🙂 Feedback will help me get to be the best illustrator I can be. A picture book dummy is a great way to learn how to create a children’s book. Next I will work on the front cover as I noticed there were mock front covers in some of the illustrator portfolios at SCBWI so this is another skill I want to learn.

You can see more of my work on my instagram page: RamonaofJersey

Well that’s it for now – I have to go and prepare my art lessons for the rest of this week!

A Fun Day Out Illustration Competition

The results have come in for the New England Illustration Prize. Well done to the winners and everyone who entered!

My illustration for the theme ‘A Fun Day Out,’ didn’t get selected but I am okay with that.

Being a writer means you get used to rejections. I come away feeling that I am glad I entered because you have to be in it to win it, and if you don’t enter your chances are zero.

Rejections seem to spur me on to do better next time and that’s the great thing about competitions. Plus, I come away with an illustration I might not have even bothered attempting if I hadn’t chosen to enter.

Here it is:

I had just been teaching painted paper lessons to my year one students. It was fun to do and the artworks looked fabulous. I wanted to try this at home. Yes, I know another style! If you have read my posts before one of my biggest obstacles as an illustrator is that I don’t know what medium I like to work with best or what style my best art is so I keep trying out new stuff. Hopefully one day it will all click into place. It’s a bit eclectic like my dress sense and my house. 🙂

I don’t know why I chose sharks except I suppose I wanted to choose an animal that you wouldn’t normally think of as having a fun family day out. I didn’t want it to be predictable.

The sea and sand textures  were created by putting blobs of paint onto paper and scraping a plastic ruler across the page. I accidentally got blue on the sand but I liked the fact that it looked like the sea reflecting on the bottom of the seabed so I left it.

I look forward to the next competition to see what I come up with.


April’s illustrations – 52 week challenge

Have I said before that every week I think I am going to fail and not complete an illustration? Probably. Well, surprise, surprise I felt like that again this week. It’s not always down to the lack of time. Many times I wrack my brain for an idea for the week’s theme and feel completely stumped. But I can breath a sigh of relief as it seems I always manage something in the end regardless of the outcome. So here are April’s illustrations:

Week 14: Camping

Gelli printing, pastels, posca pens

I hadn’t used pastels for years so it was good to get them out again.

Week 14- Camping

Week 15: Ocean

Gelli printing, copic markers

Working with a gelli print plate always has an element of surprise which is part of the joy of working with this medium.

© Ramona Davey 2016
© Ramona Davey 2016

Week 16: Mirror

Copic markers, fineliner pens

I am enjoying developing my skills and drawing animal characters and felt quite pleased with this little ducky.

Week 16- Mirror

Week 17: Collector

Copic markers

I collect many things as a family historian, teacher, mother, illustrator and finally writer. I am hoping soon I will be collecting acceptance’s from publishers rather than rejections. 🙂

© Ramona Davey 2016
© Ramona Davey 2016


So now it is May with the following themes of grandmother, adventure, still life and ink. I wonder what I will come up with???

#illo52weeks – February’s illustrations

Week 5: 1920’s

This illustration was based on a photo of my grandfather’s cousin Mabel Benest.

Copic markers & fineliner

Week 5- 1920's

Week 6: Printing

I got a bit carried away this week with the Gelli plate, creating 3 different scenes.

It is such a fun medium to work with and I never really now what the end result will look like.

A lot of trial and error and pleasant surprises!

Acrylic paint and gelli plate.

Week 6- printing 2   Week 6- printing bear in forest 1

Of course, it was February so I had to do a Valentines version.

Week 6: Printing - cat & mouse 2

Week 7: Kindergarten

I did some casual teaching in a kindergarten class during this week and they were learning about ordinal numbers. Very comical!

Copic markers and fineliner.

Week 7- Kindergarten copy


Week 8: Horizon

I was born on an island and was lucky enough to see on the horizon other islands and France!


Week 8- Horizon

Adieu February. Bonjour March!

#illo52weeks – October’s illustrations

Week 40: Carnival

Copic markers & Artline pen

I am not really pleased with this illustration. I had limited time this week and it showed in the outcome but I still participated and stuck to my goal of entering on time each week regardless of the standard of work.

Week 40- Carnival


Week 41: Sweets

Copic markers & Artline pen

As you can see I had the event of Halloween in my mind. I enjoyed doing this illustration and am pleased with how it looks. 🙂


© Ramona Davey 2015
© Ramona Davey 2015

Week 42: Instrument

Gelli printing & Acrylic paint

I felt the need to use a different medium again and gelli printing felt perfect for this weeks challenge. I don’t play the saxophone (which may show in the detail or lack of) but it was fun to use the rollers again. As you never really know how the print is going to turn out the element of surprise makes this an enjoyable and challenging medium to work with, which is what 52 Weeks is all about, challenging yourself!

Week 42- Instrument

Week 43: Monster

Copic markers & thin textas

Well it is Halloween to day and what a perfect way to finish the month then with a monster themed illustration.

Week 43- Monster



Yesterday I visited Hachette Publishing House. They had opened their doors for paid visits. It was a great opportunity to see the inside of a publishing house, listen to the editors and marketers explain how the process of commissioning and promoting a book goes.

Inside Hachette Oct 2015





Seated from left are the host from the Emerging Writers Festival (sorry no name), Suzanne O’Sullivan (Children’s publisher), Robert Watkins (Fiction and Non-Fiction publisher) and Rebecca Saunders (Fiction publisher).

Suzanne O’Sullivan likes you to be on social media, likes your pitch to be brief and often reads on her e-reader, so likes to see the full manuscript.

Robert Watkin’s said about your story that … “There has to be natural lows and peaks to maintain a reader’s interests.”

Rebecca Saunders said that to her… “the title is important,” and she “wants it to be commercial.” She also wanted to know what your USP (Unique Selling Point) was.




#illo52weeks – Week 37: Balloons

I have decided to develop and improve my hand drawing skills hence another sketched illustration which nicely enough received quite a few likes on the 52 Illustration Week Facebook page here.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 12.36.26 pm
© Ramona Davey 2014

Pencil & pencil crayons

Echidna loved his new best friend balloon and was going to enjoy every minute while it lasted!

I really want to develop the kind of drawings I’d expect to see in a children’s picture book – I feel I may be getting closer!

A little more shadow under echidna’s feet would have improved the illustration and would have stopped the echidna looking like he is about to float off with the balloon.

I am looking forward to next weeks theme: giraffe 🙂

#illo52weeks – Weeks 15 & 16

Week 15 – Detail

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 8.16.51 pm
Hand picked fushia
Adobe Illustrator

Interestingly enough, at college and previous to that i would say I was a detailed artist. It’s what I felt comfortable with. I could spend hours drawing in minute details into my art. But for this weeks challenge I found it difficult to be aas detailed as I used to be. Maybe it’s a time limit thing. Pre kids I had more time to draw in detail and take hours over one piece. So the above image is not as detailed as I would like it to be – I may come back to it.

Week 16 – Book Cover

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 3.18.37 pm

Book cover design isn’t an area I have had much practise in, infact this is probably the first book cover I have ever designed , so I know I have a long way to go to get it professional looking. A useful tip I have read about designing front covers is to keep it minimal, tis type of style will help the book to look timeless. It also helps the reader to focus on the book’s title and authors name.

I like what I have achieved here but it lacks depth and tone – another illustration I may come back to at a later date.


Self published Christmas book!

© Ramona Davey 2012

A bit of holly is added for the decorative touch!


In the very near future I will (fingers crossed) be announcing the end of some very hard work and the beginning of my first self-published children’s picture book. Although I am aware that this is not the end of the hard work, as marketing your book can be tough.

The book is aimed at anyone with connections to Jersey, Channel Islands, the book contains illustrations to go with a very classic Christmas rhyme. It can also be used as an early reader and counting book.

How good is that, reading, counting and singing all in one book!

The self-published route is a huge learning curve. Here are just a few of the things you have to consider and decide upon:

  • Title
  • Page size
  • page count
  • paper weight
  • gloss or matt
  • hardback or softback/paperback
  • binding
  • delivery

And not every publisher/printer uses the same terminology. Although I have been quite a bag of nerves over making all these decisions it has also been quite empowering.

I have already shown some examples of the artwork in previous posts:


A puffin in a pear tree

And here are some works in progress:

One of my ‘9 pots of bean crock!’

I love line drawings and use the ink pen for all the outlines.

6 seagulls soaring!

This is a screenshot of my work on ART RAGE digital art software using a wacom tablet. Another new skill this year. I will hopefully also be putting the finishing touches to the e-book version.

So watch this space and soon I will be able to share with you the finished product.


PS: And if you know anyone with Jersey connections (as in old Jersey), I would be grateful if you could pass on this news. 🙂

PPS: And maybe I will have to change the title of this blog.


Backgrounds for me are a tricky thing – I never know whether to leave it blank, add a bit of colour or add detail. IWhen adding colour I need to consider consistency of colour. Am I keeping the same tone with each illustration. Does it look right if some background colours are bold and others are softer?

Here are two examples;

Pumpkins 1


I initially used a green background as pumpkins grow in Autumn where I am from. But then I got thinking about the colour wheel and how opposite colours make each other stand out more.

Pumpkins 2


Plus, we associate pumpkins with Halloween, so I decided to make it night and add a yellow glow inside them. The only trouble is, all the other illustrations I have used for this counting picture book have soft pastel shades in the backgrounds.


I wonder, does it matter if one picture stands out from the rest? What do you think?





The Art Of Creating Character

Nina with two of the books she has illustrated

On the fourth and final day of this years SCBWI Australia & NZ Conference programme I attended as illustrator masterclass with the lovely Nina Rycroft. I don’t have many notes for this class, the reason being that it was very hands-on, which is exactly what you want when it is a practical class. She demonstrated the following:


  • how she presents her work (sample pieces) to publishers
  • what a ‘tear sheet’ is (something I had never heard of)
  • how she draws the first thumbnails for the whole story concept
  • the various stages she goes through to get to the final piece
  • if your animal characters move from left to right this helps the children read the book in the correct direction
  • do not paint any detail where the fold of the page will be
  • don’t particularly illustrate in order of the story
  • mark out the ‘crop marks’ and ‘fold marks’


  • consider where the text will go
  • left hand text should generally be higher than right hand/page text so children scan the words in the correct direction
Each picture book is an accumulation of lots of sketches, practise and hard work.
One of the areas I requested Nina to cover along with other class participants is that of anthropomorphic techniques. (Anthropomorphic = ascribing human traits to non-human things. Think of the clock and teacups in Beauty & the Beast). Generally I am a realistic drawer/painter. I can draw what I see but have a lot of trouble doing it from imagination. So this was a great lesson for me. Here are some of my examples:
The dancer

Nina is a big believer in acting out what it is you are trying to draw. So if you are drawing a dancer, stand, move, dance in the position you are trying to illustrate. feel where the weight is. How is the body balanced? Feel as well as  observe.

Close up of dancer’s face
Practising facial expressions

Move your face into the expression you are trying to draw. then try to convey this with amnimal faces.

Happy, sad and angry pigs.

I learnt so much from this masterclass and Nina was a great teacher. Now all I need to do is practise and find my own style!