• Events,  Smart Dummies

    Thumbnails and Research

    A Change in Plans

    I had started with a lot of good ideas for a Cinderella story here: https://www.daniduck.com/planning-out-your-pages/. While planning out the pages in thumbnails I realized two things. 1) I realized I messed up with the numbers. I had said there was 13 spreads and there were 14.5. (I’ve changed this on the original.) I realized after the second mistake 2) Doing a 14.5 spread changes everything. And I changed even more to bring it to 15 spreads. Below accurately shows the spreads:

    1. Cinderella’s father remarries. (1/2 spread)
    2. Cinderella’s step mother and sisters are mean to her. (1 spread)
    3. The prince announces there will be a ball so he can find a wife. (1 spread)
    4. Cinderella told she’s not allowed to go to the ball which upsets her. (1 spread)
    5. Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appears and gives her everything she needs for the ball (Cinderella must be back by midnight). (4 spreads)
    6. Cinderella goes to the ball (2.5 spreads)
    7. Cinderella forgets about the time and rushes out of the ball at the last minute leaving her glass slipper. (1.5 spreads)
    8. The prince looks for Cinderella with the one lost slipper. (1 spread)
    9. The slipper fits. (1 spread)
    10. A royal wedding (1 spread)
    11. The prince and Cinderella live happily ever after. (1/2 spread)

    More Mistakes and a Video

    I realized after I made this video that I missed a spread! I miscounted. The extra spread brings things up to 15 spreads in total which is a colored ends layout: https://taralazar.com/2009/02/22/picture-book-construction-know-your-layout/

    Start your thumbnails out messy. You are just trying to get the basic layout of your story first. Then, start over and make slightly tighter thumbnails, so you can tell better what the images are. This video shows you both tight and loose drawings.



    Now that you have an idea of what your pages are going to look like, take some time to do research. Take pictures, pose your children or pose yourself. (Don’t take pictures of children without written permission from their parents). 

    You can also do an internet search to find reference photos. Photographers are very serious about their photos and will sue if you steal an image directly or have an image too simular to theirs. Use several different images to come up with your illustration. You might take a nose style from a few pictures. Hair styles from another. You can piece together a person from many photos, but drawing all or part of someone else’s photograph/illustration is not a good idea. 

  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Planning Out Pages

    Those who joined me for Pre-Smart Dummies, but I decided to go over this step just in case you’ve not done this yet! 

    1) Choose Your Story

    If you have written a story then you can choose one of your own. If you’ve written several stories, but this is your first time creating a dummy try to pick something that has simple characters or backgrounds you like drawing. Let’s make this first dummy fun!

    If you have not written a story, or if you don’t have anything edited DON’T PANIC! Use a story in the public domain. Most fairy tales are public domain. Here is a bunch of great books to choose from. I like the Andrew Lang Fairy Books: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/

    I chose Cinderella as my story. I went over my process for choosing the best parts of the story to include in my version. https://www.daniduck.com/a-new-cinderella-story/ I decided afterward that the story I wanted to do was going to be too much work for everything on my plate so I will be going with another story. I want to finish this story, so I’m choosing the easiest one for me. 

    2) Edit Your Story

    Before you start on your story you should have it edited. Here is a lot of information for editing your story. If you are rewriting a fairy tale be sure to have at least all the basics planned out like in the second link for “Choose Your Story”.  Here are some quick tips for editing along with some wonderful editing resources: https://www.daniduck.com/editing-your-story/

    3) Plan Your Story

    You’ll want to plan out which images are going on which pages, and how long your story is going to be. Marla Lesage shared a fantastic post with us for Smart Dummies about Picture Book Length.   https://marlalesage.com/2019/08/12/picture-books-length-layout/ Graphic novels start at picture book length and some can be several hundred pages. Research page lengths at your library or book store for the type of books you’d like to write!

    Here is an example of how to plan out your pages: https://www.daniduck.com/planning-out-your-pages/* If you physically want to cut up your manuscript into pages, then do it. As long as it’s not your only manuscript copy! 😉 

    *Please note that Critique Groups are now closed, but you can ask for critique partners in the Smart Dummies Facebook group! https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535/

    Tomorrow I’ll be talking about Thumbnails. I may do a video. Wish me luck!

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Week 3: Planning Out Pages/Drawing

    All sorts of things are happening this week!  A bit of planning, research, thumbnails and perspective are all on the schedule. If you have time you can start working on your drawings.

    Smart Dummies Schedule Week 3

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 3 Schedule

    Monday – Planning out pages

    Tuesday – Thumbnails and Research

    Thursday – Perspective & Loose Drawing

    Friday – Book Blog

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 4 schedule

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies do so here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Emotions and Poses


    Due to a problem with my website I’ve had to cut out the book review for this week! I’ve got a great book for next week. This is from pages 12-13 of your book

    What you’ll need for this project:

    Pencils and paper, a mirror.

    Other helpful things: camera or internet search

    I did a quick video for you today. This is all about emotions. I drew a bunch of circles before starting this video and then made faces into my phone. This can be done on a sheet of paper.

    Try making some faces of your own. After you are done try applying them to your own characters. This video has been sped up. Unfortunately there is no sound.  

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies you can do so here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/


    This part of the process is going to take a bit of research! First off take photos of someone who’ll pose for you, take pictures of yourself or look for poses on the internet. You can even get a video of people dancing and pause to draw beans from that! Look for poses you might use in your story. You might even find some poses you didn’t know you needed!

    If you haven’t already look at this video so you can understand the bean method of drawing this video is from Proko: https://www.proko.com/the-bean/#.XXqiL9KJKUl

    Practice drawing some beans of your own. Use the references you found and just practice drawing them in bean format. Fill up a sheet or two of beans. Once you do that then take your character and draw them in a few of those position not forgetting their facial expression for that pose.

    Here are some  of character drawing and emotions. The first one is of a character I did last year. He’s very cartoony and doesn’t have arms to express himself. It can be harder to express certain emotions with simple characters! 

    The second is a drawing I have yet to finish. It’s something I’ve just left too long so I would probably go back in and redraw if I wanted to use it for an illustration. Either way it’s good practice!

    Example of a character in a bunch of diffrent poses.
    Fairy babies in different positions.
  • Smart Dummies

    Ksenia Anske: Financial Coach for Creatives

    I’m happy to have Ksenia Anske back on my blog! Today she is talking about her new services as a financial coach. Ksenia Anske is an author of many fantastic books. She’s a social media maven with over 41K followers on Twitter. https://twitter.com/kseniaanske She honestly cares about all of her followers. As you’ll read Ksenia has a lot of experience in the financial realm. She’s looking to help out creative people. I asked Ksenia to share some info about here services and she gave me a snippet of her newsletter to share with everyone here (don’t tell anyone else unless you really want to). 

    If you are new to my blog please know that I only post very specific services that I feel that may appeal to my readers. Ksenia does not work in insurance. She’s looking to coach creative people and help them make their dreams come true. Please let Ksenia know I sent you and don’t forget to sign up for her email!


    Ksenia's Photo & hair by Deanna Teasley. Banner from Ksenia's newsletters!
    To my qualifications as a financial coach.
    Hello and privet! (Privet is “hello” in Russian.) Dani asked me to do a write-up for you on my financial coaching, so here you go. 
    I was born in Moscow, Russia, and came to the US in 1998, not knowing English. Since then I wrote a bunch of dark fantasy short fiction and 7 novels, and won of Amtrak Residency Program in 2015. My novel Rosehead won Honorary Mention in the YA Category in the Indie Ebook Award 2016, and I’m currently prepping for publishing my novel, TUBE, a ghost story, and after that writing my first thriller, The Dacha Murders. 
    About five months ago I started doing financial coaching for creatives, and right now I’m doing it for all kinds of folks (it all began with writers, as they finished their books and asked me how to sell them—that’s how it started). 
    If you look at my LinkedIn profile or ask for my resume, there is nothing there that shows any kind of financial experience history. So how come I dare declare I’m doing financial coaching?

    First of all, a little distinction. I’m not a financial advisor, nor do I aim to be, nor do I want to be one. A financial advisor manages your money or at the very least provides you with very sound financial advice, generally focusing on implementing certain products and helping your with investing strategies.

    I don’t believe in managing someone else’s money. It’s YOUR money. I believe YOU must learn to manage it YOURSELF, or you’re doing yourself a disservice. I’m a financial coach, not a financial advisor, and as a coach I don’t claim to know better than you, or to be an expert. In fact, you might know better and more about finances than I do. Where my expertise is, is in helping you get where you want to be, be it your budget or your savings or your net worth. So, I focus on helping you change your behavior, develop new skills, manage your money, and make a plan for spending it, saving it, and investing it. Then sticking to it. To the plan.
    Why? Because I have experience. Been there, done that—helping myself to get out of the hole as I’m helping you. 

    I used to have a startup. 
    I raised money for it with investors. 
    I made sales every day and grew the business. 
    I needed more operational cash and I opened one credit card after another until I couldn’t open any more (total about 20, I think…maybe less, maybe more).
    I paid everyone except myself. 
    It all went belly-up one day.
    I went through a bankruptcy. 
    I was unemployed for a long time.
    I cleaned up my act.
    I created a strict budget for myself.
    I started digging myself out. 
    I raised my rate from $3 per hour to $300 per hour in about a year.
    I closed all credit cards and loan accounts except six (actively using only two).
    I learned how to play the credit card game (I charge my two cards and pay them off every month, using my checking account as my Inbox).
    I got my credit score up to 725 as of this writing (they just emailed me to tell me it went up again).
    I learned to save. 
    I learned to invest, and am continuing to learn.
    I started and am still in the beginning stages right now (establishing my HYS through Synchrony because I was stupid to open a Gap credit card years ago, but I stuck with it, and Synchrony offers 2.15% APY, and I chose them over Wealthfront with 2.32% APY to stick with the same bank and for better cash access in case of emergency (for now—will move as money grows) and Solo 401(k) and SEP IRA and VTSMX index fund through Vanguard because I’m a Boglehead and believe in simplicity and “staying the course”).
    I’m debt free.
    My net worth is laughably small, but it’ll grow. 
    I’ve done the same for my partner, using him as a guinea pig with his permission. 
    I’m doing the same with 2/3 of my clients right now (the rest I’m still coaching on writing).
    I’ve reconnected with my financial advisors from my startup days, people with net worth in the seven figures, who are teaching me all they know. 
    I’m reading 2-3 books on investing a week (I read fast and a lot, and I’m very good at extracting and condensing useful information, so I do a lot of research for my clients to save them time). 
    I’m reading blogs and listening to podcasts to educate myself on the current state of investing. 

    So, in short. 
    I’m a regular, everyday investor just like you, only starting late, in my 40s, and bringing to it the wisdom of life experience and the understanding that if I don’t do this now, I’m basically screwed when I retire. 
    I’m very disciplined. Sometimes too much. 
    I can teach you the same. 
    I’ve also learned some very scary and very important things about investing from books and from my advisors, and I want to share them with you, to help you get in control of your money and to make your money work hard for you. 
    And I wish I knew all this when I was in my 20s. I wish someone taught me. So now I’m jazzed to teach you and help you learn on my mistakes. Once my numbers gain speed, maybe I’ll share them with you like Mr. Money Mustache and The Minimalists do. Until then, there isn’t much to show. Yet. 
    If you’re hesitant to work with me, you’d be wise to wait. Choosing the right person to help you is one of the most important decisions you’ll make on your path to wealth. 
    It’s also one of the reasons this newsletter is private.  I’m not promoting it. Not sharing it anywhere. I’m not ready for public. Nor will I be blogging on the subject. Because it might be a phase, and I might outgrow it, get my millions’ growth on autopilot, and switch to something else. Teaching dance. Whatever. 
    The point of this whole affair is to fund my writing (until Rosehead gets made into a movie, and I make an outrageous amount of money and invest it all and rest on my laurels). I have something very valuable to offer you right now. This in turn helps me continue writing books. Hell, I’m planning to go to modeling calls at modeling agencies locally because I got my body into a really good shape, and when I was 16, I was scouted by a French agency in Moscow, but they scared me off, telling me I’d have to sleep with the photographer, so I ran out of there with my hair on fire. Lately I thought, “Hey, there are lots of mature models are out there, doing work. I’m photogenic. Why not? An additional steam of income.” 
    So you see, that’s why I’m doing financial coaching. Done this for me. Can do this for you. 
    And one more reason. I’m in love. I’ve always wanted to go to an economics school. When I was a teen. I even studied with a professor at Moscow Institute of Economics. I was very good at math. It never happened. So it’s funny how all the things I always wanted to do are coming back to me now. Writing. Dancing. Finances.
    That’s the end of the story. Thank you for reading this far. I hope it answered your questions, if you had any.
    If you want to ask more, just grab a Coaching Session (don’t worry, I won’t take your diamonds for it…maybe only your bleeding heart).

    More About Ksenia Anske: https://www.kseniaanske.com/bio

    Ksenia Anske’s Coaching: https://www.kseniaanske.com/coaching

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/kseniaanske

    Books: https://www.kseniaanske.com/


  • Smart Dummies

    Online Critique Groups

    Leila Nabih created a fantastic critique group guide. You can find an adapted version of her original post on page 3 of the Smart Dummies booklet.  To see the original guide go to Leila’s website here. here: https://leilanabih.com/2017/10/01/critique-group-guidelines/

    If you haven’t registered for Smart Dummies go to the link below. You can get a copy of the workbook on this page! https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

    A few of you signed up for critique groups. If you did not sign up for a critique group you are welcome to find your own on the Smart Dummies page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535/permalink/1506843936140101/

    Here are a few answers to some of the questions you may have about critique groups!

    1. Are online critique groups safe? 

    They are probably about as safe as any other form of sharing your work. The best way to get better with your work is to share it with other people. I wont say there is no risk involved, but anything worth doing takes a certain amount of risk. 

    2. How do we keep in touch? 

    >This is completely up to you. I’m currently in two active critique groups. One is on the 12×12 forums and one is via email. The forums filter into my emails which is usually a great way to get my attention. Facebook Messenger is ok, but some things can get lost if there is a lot of chat.

    3. How should we share our work?

    There are a lot of ways to share your work. Email was the big thing for one of my critique groups for the longest time. We still sometimes send things through email. but sometimes a critique can be missed. I do like Google Drive with a shared folder. This way you can check the folder instead of digging through email messages to find a document. You can also create a private Facebook group for sharing. Neither one is wrong and I use both a lot!

    4. What if I hate the story I’m critiquing? 

    There is good in absolutely everything in the world. Maybe it’s the way someone describes something, or maybe the idea of the story is good, but the structure is off. Shine a big light on all the good things your critique partners are getting right. If it’s something so horrible that you can’t get past, please talk to your other critique group members (or me) about the problem. 

    More Tips

    • You are not here to change your partner’s stories — you are here to make them better. 
    • Focus on the good of the story you are reading. 
    • Don’t tell your partners that they shouldn’t be writing or illustrating. That’s not up to you to decide.
    • If you think someone is being overcritical about your work take a day or more) before you reply to them. It helps to show the work to other writers/illustrators. Sometimes a comment seems overcritical even when a statement is true.
    • Be nice in the way you present things to others.
    • If someone is truly being overly critical or downright mean, then remove them (or yourself) from the group.
    • You should feel good about your critique group. If you don’t, then something is probably wrong. Talk to me or a friend about the problem if you don’t know how to proceed! 
    • If you have any triggers let your critique partners know. Also ask your critique partners about their triggers. That way your critique group will stay a safe space.

    If you have questions about critique groups let me know below. I’m sure I missed some things, so please let me know that as well. If you know of a post that presented something better, or that has additional information, please feel free to drop a link below!

  • Art,  Events,  Smart Dummies

    Character Turnarounds

    A character turnaround is a way to get to know your character from all angles. This is the information you’ll need to draw your character the same way every time! Even though you make these your character may evolve while you are creating your book and that’s okay, too!

    Things you might need: 
    Paper, Pencil and likely a ruler. Tracing paper or a light box is optional. Possibly a right angle ruler.

    Or a digital photo/illustration program. Must be able to work in transparent layers and have guidelines (which is most digital programs).

    If you have not signed up for Smart Dummies this year you can do so here:  https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

    Full Character Drawings

    In your booklet on pages 10 -11 you’ll see some lined paper. I find this as the easiest way for me to plot out my character. Especially the easiest way to execute the Turnaround. The top is a full character turnaround and the bottom is a face. 

    When I’m doing character drawings I generally make the face large and the I like making eyes be big enough to fit on a line. It makes it easiest for me to figure out where everything should be. It’s really nice to be able to know which line the eyes, mouth and nose should rest. It’s really easy to get the character’s side, 3/4th or front view off because visually it will look okay, but if you use a ruler things will be way off.

    There are some artists who prefer to use graph paper, and that’s not wrong! It’s just not the way I do it. I find the vertical lines throw me off, but they are great for making sure the width of everything is the same throughout the drawing.

    Some turnarounds for characters. Face is front side and 3/4th view.

    I started out with a lot of scribbles and a little bit of an idea of what I was going to create for my portfolio. It was going to be a comic style illustration.  I had basic ideas for character design before I worked on some thumbnails. Most of the story I worked on in the left hand side will likely never be in an illustration. Sometimes it helps to work on what happens before a scene, even if that work isn’t seen by other people. 

    These are the characters I started with. Just a kitty and a girl. I liked the kitty, but the girl I didn’t really like. She felt too old for the story I wanted to write. She also was quite plain. I added some ears later to make her a bear character. I had a friend who asked if she was a giant mouse. She wasn’t, but I thought it was more fun for her to be a giant mouse taking care of a kitten, So things were changed!

    Tracing Paper

    One thing I adore about using Clip Studio Paint (and all other digital programs) is the ability to to make a layer more transparent. This allows you to draw your character with a light table effect. You can make sure that your character is similar from all angles! Her eyes nose and mouth all line up and the width of the character stays the same throughout. 

    If you are working traditionally I highly suggest a light table or tracing paper to create your images. This will allow you to make sure your character looks alike in all their poses.

    Guidelines Digital and Traditional

    Digital: If your digital program has a ruler, then it probably has the ability to make guidelines. Just right click on the ruler, while you are holding the right button drag the line to where you want it, and then let go of the button. You can change where the line is with an arrow button This can vary from program to program.

    I started this drawing with putting lines around the feet head and hands. I can also check the hem of her pants and all the facial features with the guidelines. They can get to be too much while drawing, so there is always a place in your program to turn these off.

    Traditional: If you are drawing a character traditionally you almost have to draw in all the lines. I said before that I minimize this by using lined paper. This helps a lot, but there is likely something else that I can’t quite line up that way. If you have a right angle ruler you can put a ruler vertically along the right or left edge of the paper (preferably the red line on lined paper) and draw a horizontal line across the paper.

    Alternatively you can use a ruler to measure out where each new line goes. This takes a lot of dots and line drawing. It’s frustrating and I hate it, but use it often.

    The third option is to just eyeball the whole thing on lined or graph paper. This option is great for all us stubborn people out there. It’s maybe not the best option, but it’s still an option.

    The Best Laid Plans

    Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry! Neither character here is what I expected them to be, but it’s closer to my final drawing than any of the previous drafts. I’ve made my cat’s head much more rounded and the girl’s features are much more animal like. Even though I worked on these characters several times the characters kept changing in the drawings. I had just finished working on a cat story and the characters in the dummy were exactly like the characters I designed for the dummy.


    Ideally, you’ll come up with a character design that you’ll just use in your drawings. Ideally, your whole story wont change while you are working on it. I do hope things wont change for you, but if they do accept the changes and have fun with your art!

    If there is anything you need explained further let me know! I could possibly do a video if there are people who would like to see it!

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Week 2: Advanced Character Design

    This week it’s all about finishing up your character. Monday we’ll be talking about character turnarounds and character emotions. These are the two activities you’ll be working on until Monday. These are on pages 10-13. 

    Also this week I’m going over some good critique group practices, Ksenia Anske will talk about her Finance and Business Coaching and there will be a book blog on Friday! The critique groups are closed. You are welcome to ask for a critique group on the Smart Dummies Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies do so here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

    Smart Dummies Schedule Week 2

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 2 Schedule

    Monday – Character Turnarounds (page 10-11)

    Tuesday – Critique Group Practices (page 3)

    Wednesday – Ksenia Anske’s Finance & Business Coaching

    Thursday – Character Emotion and Poses (pages 12-13)

    Friday – Book Blog

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 3 schedule

    If you have already worked on any of the above and wish to move on feel free to work ahead. There is a Smart Dummies Regular schedule and a Smart Dummies adjusted schedule on page 4 of the booklet! You can get the booklet here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

  • Books

    Review of Sun by Alison Oliver

    Sun by Alison Oliver

    Sun by Alison Oliver is such a warm and whimsical book. I’d like to say that I came across it in a direct effort to find beautiful picture books for kids. Instead I did a random search for 2019 picture books at my library and this was one of the books I found! I feel so lucky to have found this book at my library. 



    Sketch practice after Alison Oliver

    Sun loves soccer. He seems to eat, breathe and (of course) play soccer. He has an emptiness in his life and doesn’t know what to fill it with. Sun goes on a journey of self discovery and meets with Fox (who is actually a fox). Fox shows Sun a playfully magical world that he will never forget.

    This story is so sweet and beautiful. The friendship between Sun and Fox is an interesting one. Fox brings out Sun’s creative side. Maybe Fox is supposed to be Sun’s creative side personified. Fox allows Sun to experience things that he missed in life while having a life totally devoted to soccer. It’s good not to get too focused on one thing, because there are so many wonderful things to experience in life!


    The images in this book are absolutely breathtaking. Inside the book it says “The illustrations for this book were executed in watercolor, brush pen, charcoal and collage and assembled digitally.” I love that it didn’t just say “mixed media”. I always love finding out what medium the artist used! In this case Alison used many!

    I love the warmth of this book. It is like the colors were taken from the sun! The colors are vivid and feel like a great big hug. The brush strokes that Alison makes in this book are nothing less than gorgeous. It makes the images feel like so much movement is happening. 

    Buy the Book

    My toddler was shocked with the beauty of this book

    Alison Oliver’s Website: http://pure-sugar.com/

    More about the book: https://pure-sugar.com/sun/

    If you can’t afford to buy this book consider leaving a review or requesting your library buy this book!

  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Simple Character Bodies

    Here are some ideas for your character’s bodies! I took one head and tried it on several different bodies. Copying and pasting a head over and over helps with coming up with a body. If I had to pick one, I’d probably go with the one in the upper right corner.  

    Don’t worry if none of these appeal to you. I’ve got some links with some wonderful tutorials that will help you further your art! 

    Different bodies for my lion head.

    Luis Escobar has some wonderful tips for making the perfect character body: http://www.thedrawingwebsite.com/2017/06/07/cartoon-body-formulas/

    Proko has some great tutorials for the bean method of drawing. If you can draw a bean (or something like it) then you can draw a body! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0660Fuih7qo

    Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/272012/drawing-the-head-and-figure-by-jack-hamm/9780399507915/ (This book is generally under $17

    Andrew Loomis Figure Drawing for All it’s Worth hosted by archive.org: https://archive.org/details/Andrew_Loomis_Figure_Draw


    Character face designs
    Head's from yesterday's video. Click here to see the post!