Category Archives: Liz’s illustrations


One of my unofficial New Year’s resolutions was to find more time to draw. It’s easy to say I’m too busy (I am), or I don’t quite have the skills to accomplish a certain look (also true). However, I realized I was holding a very high expectation of myself. I wanted my drawings to be perfect. I felt I needed hours of uninterrupted free time, which was a convenient excuse when I couldn’t get around to drawing. If I produced less than stellar illustrations, well it wasn’t my fault!

Oh, the lies perfectionism and fear tell us.

A picture of three circus tents on a pier.

This is a one-minute sketch of the Montreal Pier (near the kids’ science museum). I tried to use Mark Toro Holmes’ technique, but without the watercolors. Obviously, I need a little more practice with this technique…

Abandoning Perfectionism

Instead, I decided I would (mostly) abandon judgement and learn to live with the results. After all, I need the practice. These drawings are not masterpieces – they are practice. They are quick sketches I can do in short bursts of time – during a lunch break or before I climb into bed. We’re talking 15 minutes. What if I get it wrong and they look terrible? Well…that’s sort of the point, right? I can see where I goofed and work on not repeating my mistakes.

Isn’t this the same thing I try and help my children (and students) awaken in themselves?

A hand drawn picture of a woman's left hand.

My left hand-ish.

Practice is Hard

A few weeks into my resolution, I felt myself wavering a bit. Practice is hard, I whined. I’m too busy. I don’t where to start. I suck. But, lo and behold, one of my favorite children’s stories presented itself at the library. This book was on display and I picked it up for my youngest son. I thought he would benefit from an old-fashioned read-aloud (he may have inherited a few of the above traits from yours truly).

The book was Ish by Peter Reynolds.

A hand-drawn picture of a scene from Peter Reynold's book, Ish.

I drew this ink-only illustration during my short lunch break (after I ate my lunch). Next time, I’d like to add color.


If you haven’t read it before, the story follows Ramon, a young elementary student who loves to draw…until his older brother makes fun of one of his drawings. Afterward, Ramon tries making everything he draws perfect, until in frustration, he gives up drawing altogether. In the end, he he has another family member who adores his art and her interpretation of his work helps him to learn to love his work again (“it looks flower-ish”).

Copying as Practice

I’ve decided to give myself another break and relax. I thought I needed to draw from life regularly – and while it is important to do that – I found that my skills aren’t quite there yet. This “block” was hurting my progress. I was afraid to draw because I knew just practicing wouldn’t help me get any better — especially if I’m not getting feedback. I need deliberate practice.

So I’ve given myself permission to copy other children’s book illustrators. In copying, I can learn a lot of valuable techniques and I have a built-in teacher. Since live art lessons aren’t an option for me at this time (see above: I’m busy), this is a good stand in. I can still work on my own original stuff…

A cartoon drawing of a young girl in a blue medieval dress

My own character…I’ve named her Emma.

…but I’m also appreciating the work of others.

Shows a girl in a yellow rain slicker standing in a marsh, looking at birds in the distance

This was a quick sketch with waterproof pens and a wash of watercolors. It’s based on the front cover of the children’s book, Squish!: A Wetland Walk.

A hand-drawn picture of 5 sea birds sitting on a log; from The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling.

I copied this from the book, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling. He used watercolors, but I used colored pencils.