• Art,  Smart Dummies

    Don’t Give Up!

    I find that starting a story isn’t really that hard. Maybe the sitting down and writing or drawing it is hard, but the actual coming up with an idea isn’t that hard. Okay, if we are talking about coming up with a good idea that’s hard. Coming up with a gem that can be taken from idea to finished product? That’s really hard. 

    It’s really not the idea’s fault, because any idea can be good or bad. I’m not putting all the fault on the writer or illustrator, because there are so many obstacles that get into the way of writing and illustrating. Some of these things we can change, and some not. I’m here as a cheerleader for you to do your best when you can.

    Don't Worry About Winning

    If you are not able to finish Smart Dummies in these two months, you are not a failure. Smart Dummies was never about the winning. The idea behind it is to encourage you to work faster, make some good daily habits and get a good start on your project. Your project is something you can continue working on in the future. 

    Don't Stop Drawing

    Maybe you only get your character drawings done next month. Maybe you don’t get them finished until Christmas. You might only get ideas of what your character (or characters) look like and that’s okay. It’s still progress. If you start over you wont lose what you’ve already learned. If you just do one spread a month you’ll get your dummy done in about 12-16 months. Maybe you do one page a month, but that’s still a finished book in about 2-3 years. That’s more dummies finished than when you started!

    Don't Get Mad At Yourself

    There are times when I feel like a complete failure in life. I set out a goal to finish my work in a certain period of time and don’t come anywhere near to achieving my goals. The worst thing I do to myself is to punish myself for not achieving everything I wanted. I end up upset for days or weeks and those are days/weeks I can not work. Celebrate every milestone and always forgive yourself for making mistakes. Forgive yourself anytime you aren’t working. Some things will take priority to writing and illustrating! It’s okay to miss out on working. It’s also okay to get angry sometimes, but be sure to forgive yourself and move on. 

    Don't Give Up!

    I can not tell you that you are going to be published. I can’t tell you that any of your publishing dreams will come true. I can tell you that there is no chance of you getting published if you don’t try. 

    No one should EVER tell you that you should give up. If someone tells you to give up the problem lies with them and not you. It’s possible that your work isn’t ready yet. That does NOT give them the right to tell you to stop.

    Keep working and give yourself as much love as you can muster. This is a rough road we are on. I have a lot of friends who have been on the road 10 years or more who are just now getting published. It is possible. I’m going to give you a list of podcasts below that have helped me through some tough times. You should be able to find these wherever you get your podcasts!


    Some of these podcasts may have content not suitable for children. Please let me know if there are trigger warnings that should be included because I can’t remember anything specific, but will not say that all of these podcasts are trigger free.


    Artists Helping Artists – Fine Art, studio information and marketing/promoting your work.

    Face the Truth – Interviews with people in all kinds of art fields from Comedians to Photographers.


    Book Friends Forever – Books/Publishing – Lots of different topics covered in making children’s books.

    Literaticast –  Everything about books and publishing. Lots of great industry information

    Picturebooking Podcast – Books/Publishing – Dedicated to exploring the world of picture books with wonderful interviews with writers and illustrators.

    The Children’s Book Podcast – Books/Publishing – Interviews with those who create children’s books.

    Comics/Graphic Novels

    Comics Lab – Webcomics – Everything about making a living in comics, self publishing, some traditional publishing. 

    Graphic Novel TK – Graphic Novel -Everything about Graphic Novels from idea to making sales.

    The Comics Experience Make Comics Podcast – Comic Book -Tons of comic information with interviews with lots of comic people. 


    3 Point Perspective – Covers everything you need to know about Children’s Illustration.


    The Manuscript Academy – Writing- Covers different topics in writing through interviews with industry professionals.

    Writing for Children – Writing – Short podcast with powerful tips to improve your writing.


  • Smart Dummies

    How Done is Done?

    How done is done? This is a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot. I’ve seen a lot of dummies and some are very loose drawings and some are fairly tight. How tight a drawing needs to be is up to the editor that takes on your work.

    I’ve mostly been erring on the side of polished, but I’ve seen a lot of dummies and some don’t polish their work. You want an editor/art director to be able to visualize your work. There also has to be lots of room for changes. If your drawings are too tight (or perfect) an art director might feel like the artist is done and might not be open to changes. 

    Depending on your story you’ll want to submit 24+ pages of sketches and 1-2 spreads (2-4 pages) of finished illustrations. Here is some idea of some picture book length stories. of  https://marlalesage.com/2019/08/12/picture-books-length-layout/ Chapter books and board books are similar to picture books in the submission process. 

    Graphic novels are a bit different. Depending on the type of graphic novel you are submitting you may be publishing through someone who does picture books, or an agent or editor like First Second that just does graphic novels. If you are submitting through someone who does picture books your submission package will likely be similar to a picture book package. Graphic novels and comics are usually different and based on the pitch and previous work. Here is the submission guidelines from First Second: https://firstsecondbooks.com/uncategorized/the-submission-process-what-to-submit/ The guidelines here is generally more of what I’ve seen for graphic novels and comics (both children and adults). 

    Be sure to check out some submission guidelines before you start your work!

    I recently did a poll to see how done illustrators were with their work on their first book contract. I didn’t get enough people voting, but thought the results were pretty representational of the hundreds of book dummies I’ve seen. I had 6 votes and 83% (5 people) said their work fell under the “Nice but not perfect” category and the other 17% (1 person) said their work was very sketchy. See the poll here: https://twitter.com/DaniDuck/status/1174753326417600513

    I’m not sure if they voted but one person said they had color samples and a complete manuscript, but no dummy. One said an art director just found them. One said their images were very loose.

    I’ve seen a wide range of stories and dummies and generally they range from nice to sketchy. I recently saw a very sketchy dummy from a book that’s being published soon. To see a good range of book dummies use “book dummy” (not book dummies) in an internet search. You’ll see some great visual references so you can see the range of “doneness” for yourself. 

    I recently attended a webinar with an Art Director who didn’t seem to believe in dummies. She works for many companies and was okay with sketchy work for first time illustrators! 

    I say go with your gut. Worrying too much about the actual sketches may cause more problems than it’s worth. Go with the guidelines of any agent/editor to a “T” but if there are no specifics, then do your best. The final images will help an agent or editor interpret your drawings as long as your drawings are fairly representational of the story you are telling.

  • Uncategorized

    Smart Dummies Week 4: Dummy Drawing

    We are already in week 4 of Smart Dummies! This week I’ll be asking you to tell me which areas you are having trouble with. You can tell me below or go to the Smart Dummies Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535/

    Smart Dummies Schedule Week 4

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 4 Schedule

    Monday – How Done is Done?

    Wednesday – Art Share Day

    Thursday – Don’t Give Up!

    Friday – Book Blog

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 5 schedule

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

  • Books,  Smart Dummies

    Book Review of “Another”

    I found this beautiful book by searching my library for new books! There are so many GREAT books coming out right now. The books I want to review are piling up! If you’d like me to review your book please send a request via my contact page: https://www.daniduck.com/contact/ 



    Cover of "Another"
    My toddler loving "Another"!

    “Another” by Christian Robinson is a story about a child and their cat who both visit another dimension. In the beginning the child’s cat sees a portal open and a black cat (that looks just like the child’s cat) come through the portal. The cat and the child follow the cat into the portal and explore this strange new world.

    The story of “Another” is completely wordless. Absolutely everything is told in pictures. It’s very imaginative and fun. There is no explanation as to how things happened. It just happened and it’s fun!


    A quick sketch of "Another" drawn upside down (for a class project). Here it is right side up!

    The artwork for another is as bright and imaginative as the book. “The illustrations for this book were rendered in paint and collage, with digital editing.” I’ve seen a lot of collage/paint collage being used, but Christian’s strong paint style separates it from other pieces.

    The strange thing is this book has almost no backgrounds. When the child steps into the portal the background becomes a stark white. I feel like this exaggerates the strangeness of this whole world.  

    This book is a lot of fun and a great book to “read” over and over again. 

    Buy the Book

    Pick up Another here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/another-christian-robinson/1128864446

    Christian Robinson’s Website:https://www.theartoffun.com

    More about Another: https://www.theartoffun.com/another

    Remember to ask your library to pick up a copy of this book. Also leave a good review for this book on Goodreads and Amazon!

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Perspective & Loose Drawing


    Before you go into perspective or loose drawings make sure that you can visualize your pictures. If possible fix your problems in your thumbnails, because that’s when it’s easiest to make changes. Here are a couple of links for some great design principals. 




    Perspective is one of the necessary evils of drawing, but it’s not too hard to learn. The most important ones to learn is 1 and 2 point perspective. 3 point perspective is also fun, but most useful if you are drawing the tops of buildings/from an overhead perspective. Three point perspective can also be used to draw an object floating/above the ground.

    Scrapped room layout for a picture book dummy.

    I learned perspective in high school. We may have gone over it briefly in university, but being out of practice for so long makes remembering the finder details difficult. I’ve recently had to do a refresher myself to reacquaint myself with perspective. Instead of explaining it myself I’m going to give you links for 3 great videos and some extra explanation for one point perspective!


    One Point Perspective: https://www.studentartguide.com/articles/one-point-perspective-drawing

    https://thevirtualinstructor.com/onepointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)

    Two Point Perspective: https://thevirtualinstructor.com/twopointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)

    Three Point Perspective: https://thevirtualinstructor.com/threepointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)​

    Loose Drawings

    It helps me to work on a full-sized loose version of all my drawings before I start on my finals. Some people find it helpful to use a copier or their computer to increase the size of their thumbnails and draw on top of that. 

    Some people work best going straight into their full sized work after they finish their thumbnails. How you want to proceed is up to you. If you aren’t sure at all how to proceed, please ask! 

    The finals can be somewhat sketchy. There will be some final images to include with your dummy so an editor/agent/art director can better envision the final book.

  • 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/