A lot of things have happened both in private and professional matters during the last couple of weeks and it kept me from updating this blog. While most of it was purely positive, there were a couple of things I had to deal with that made me worried and unsettled and yet again I realised how much I love my job. Because it has the ability to calm me down and focus.

But let me tell you about the good things. A couple of months ago I have received an invitation to attend the Brisbane "Romancing the Stars" event - as a star! I have never been to one of these occasions and was very pleased to experience how well organised and how much fun it was. I especially enjoyed meeting authors and hearing about their books. Where else can you pitch your current book project to a large group of people from various areas within the kidlit industry and enjoy a chat and wine afterwards, too? People were so supportive, interested and lovely that I truly felt like a star on my way home afterwards. Until I came home and had to stack the dishwasher, of course...

What happened only shortly before the Romancing the Stars event was more of a shock. A very happy shock but a shock that still leaves me flabbergasted - on a Tuesday night while I was cooking dinner, a lovely friend of mine sent me a message to tell me that my pirate book "The World's Worst Pirate" (written by Michelle Worthington, published by Little Pink Dog Books) was announced CBCA Notable Book of 2018!! I basically stared at my phone screen for a whole minute, almost dropped it in my Bolognaise and couldn't process this news!  I find it hard to explain what this means to me without sounding cheesy and too emotional. If you go back to my first blog post you will know.

Shortly after this announcement there was a CBCA Book Slam happening and I volunteered to impromptu introduce our little pirate book to the audience. I think it was then that I clearly noticed "The World's Worst Pirate" is pretty special in its own little way.  I'm only at the beginning of my career and there are certainly things about this book I could have done better BUT it is a special in the sense that it brought together people who are thoroughly passionate about the process of creating books for children. Creators who supported each other in this project and believed in each others passion and skills. And I am so happy for all of us to get noticed this way.

So I am very much looking forward to the next upcoming CBCA event on the 27th of March to find out who will make it onto the shortlist. Good luck to everyone!!!


PS: Can you see the CBCA Notable Book sticker?? Can you? Can you? :)

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Just to spare some of you the disappointment - this blog post will have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with elves. 'Elf' simply means eleven in German and hereby marks my eleventh post on my Wunderkiste. I might add a drawing of an elf at the end but that's then all you get today. Sorry. :)

Other than not writing about elves I meant to talk about New Year's resolutions and how I never come up with any. I don't have a deep, philosophical reason for that. (On a side note - this might seem to you like a post about not having and not doing anything but I assure you quite the contrary is the case :). I'm a rather practical person when it comes to things that need to be done. So I do them. Straight away without a resolution to start on Monday. Or the New Year.

Then 2018 happened and I was sitting at my desk (probably eating chocolate, I can't remember...) thinking "shouldn't I have come up with a list of things to do, reach for and attempt in the new year??". It is one thing to actively NOT decide to lose weight or be more patient with your children. Or dust behind the TV more regularly. But when it comes to your business, shouldn't you always update your business plan and especially when everyone else gets antsy in anticipation of a new shiny year? Probably yes.

And I will do that. As soon as I feel it needs to be done and not because the calendar tells me. In my experience Queensland's hot and humid summers and the busy-ness of having three active kids (and all their friends) home during school holidays doesn't really empower me to feel at my freshest, most determined business-savvy self. If anything it turns me into a bootcamp-like damage controller with frizzy hair and ice-packs on her head. But happily so at museums, parks, indoor-climbing with my kids. Desks and business plans have to wait until that sort of energy comes back to me.

I'm not saying it didn't worry me. Hence the ice-packs on my head.

But then this funny thing happened: I've let go (or: I swung the white flag) and despite the lack of planning, things fell into place and opportunities presented themselves. The illustration work for my next picture book ran smoothly and I finished them in the time-frame I had in mind. My social media strategy succeeded and pushed my Instagram account over the 2K mark. I've started a grant application and submitted it successfully. And last but not least a local wine company approached me about a job which I am currently working on.

Sometimes things just 'work out'. I have to remember that next time when nothing works.






When the feeling of standing still and frustration got the better of me a couple of weeks ago (see NEUN) and I decided to do something about it, I also reminded myself of how important it is for me to catch up with like-minded people from the industry on a regular basis. Not just chatting via Facebook but face-to-face, crumbly muffins, traffic noises-kind of catch ups. I always leave more inspired, more connected and I always learn something new. I also made an effort to go to meetings of all the lovely writing and illustrators groups I am member of here in Brisbane. Such as Writelinks which is an amazingly well organised and structured group led by our genius Yvonne Mes.

In Writelink's latest meeting, through all the noise in my head of new business plans and the determination to try new things in a focused and scheduled way there was one thought brought to us by the lovely Lyn Halliday. I am sure it not only fascinated me with its simple yet strong message - remind yourself of your achievements! 

I must confess I hardly ever remind myself of my achievements or even consider them that because I feel I am at a too early stage to pat my back just yet. But why?

Maybe it is a good idea to finish for the year with a blog post that lists past achievements and use this as inspiration to keep going strong next year. If you haven't done this yet I suggest you join in and I am sure you will be surprised, too, how much you will gain from this simple little exercise. And with that I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and creative new year!!


Things I have achieved in 2017:

  •  started a blog and updated it (mostly) regularly
  •  new shiny website
  •  worked at New Farm State School as extracurricular art teacher
  • taught my private art class with beautiful results, two students will be attending the art excellence program at KGSC
  • created a school reader for MacMillan Education
  • successfully launched the "World's Worst Pirate"
  • signed another contract with Little Pink Dog Books and started work on the new project
  • provided sample illustrations to Little Hare (Hardie Grant Publishing)
  • great feedback by Affirm Press, Jill Corcoran Agency and Andrea Brown Agency
  • guest speaker at Independent Education Union awards ceremony
  • admin at Inked artgroup
  • created children's and grown up's illustrating workshops
  • attended Kidlitvic and CYA




November surprisingly turned out to be a pretty intense month for me.

Opportunities came up and vanished just as quickly as they had arrived in their glittery awesomeness. There were new things I started and old things I ended. At the same time my family went through some sort of passive-aggressive stomach virus that left us all tired and emotional. Little wonder that the above mentioned vanishing opportunities bothered me more than they usually would.

What followed after the excitement of those opportunities was the big fat nothing. N.O.T.H.I.N.G (not the "nothing" in Michael Ende's Neverending Story but close...) No opportunities but also not even rejections to the multiple things I had sent out (competitions, inquiries, grant submissions etc.) I seriously started to wonder if my entire computer system aka window to the world had been hacked and destroyed  unbeknowst to me because - come on, not even ONE interesting email?! I even checked my snail mail box more often (the gecko who lives in there did not appreciate it) in hope there was still some sort of contact to the outside professional world happening. But no.

We all know it - the roller coaster ride. And my cabin stood still. At least that's how it felt to me. It bothered me immensely.

There are probably many ways to deal with these kind of lows when you feel like all your hard work (well was it even hard enough?!) goes seemingly unnoticed and unrewarded. I am very lucky to have many good and supportive friends in the kidlit industry and so I had plenty of good conversations with them that helped me to get the "blah' feeling out of my system.

Once that feeling was gone, I actually sat down and made a plan. What are the areas I can improve (is my social media going well? or on a more "technical" level: is there anything I can improve my drawing with?)? What other things that are related to illustrating haven't I tried in more detail yet? (selling my work on Etsy or Redbubble, giving illustrating workshops, giving art classes...)

With most of these things I had already scratched at their surface before but maybe not focused enough. So part of my plan was to write down all these areas and focus on each of them in a weekly or fortnightly rhythm. One week I would put more focus on establishing a social media strategy, the following week maybe establish a children's illustrating workshop and then try to find ways to launch them publicly. I am still sticking to this plan and have never felt more productive.

I certainly do not know if any exciting opportunities will develop from all these efforts but at least I feel like I am back in the saddle again and not just lurking next to my mail box annoying the gecko. And I think this is a very good starting positing for next year. and a positive to be taken from the roller coaster ride - don't keep standing still but get active. Again and again. And again.


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When I started this blog I wanted to make it all about my process of becoming/ being an illustrator and in that way hopefully to inspire people in the same or similar situation to do their "thing".

Today, however, I feel like I need to deviate from that and tell you about my first love - ha! got ya! - in art and drawing: ink. For those of you who are not familiar with it let me just introduce you to a global artists' challenge named 'Inktober' that is being celebrated every year during the month of October. It was founded by Jake Parker a couple of years back and encourages artists to create one ink drawing per day and then post it on social media per #inktober throughout Inktober. As Inktober culiminates in Halloween the themes people choose for their drawings are quite often a bit darker and Halloween-related. Something that I thoroughly enjoy.

There is an official prompt list for everyone to follow but for no particular reason I never do. I recently got encouraged by our amazing Queensland SCBWI branch manager Sheryl Gwyther to illustrate a set of nursery rhymes for my portfolio. At this point, I'd like to thank her for her ongoing support and always inspirational ideas. It is so helpful to have such passionate people around you and I very much appreciate all of her advice.  I suspect Sheryl might not have had ink in mind when she suggested it to me but this year I decided to do nursery rhymes with a dark twist for my Inktober 2017 then. So far it has been lots of fun and also very interesting to explore Australian nursery rhymes. As I have raised my children here in Australia (two were born in Germany, one in Australia) I am familiar with most rhymes but I was rarely aware of the historical backgrounds to them.

Drawing one ink piece every day for an entire months might sound somewhat easy to do when your profession is that of an illustrator but I'd like to assure you it isn't. This is only my third year of joining #inktober and I told myself to take it extra easy this time in sight of my current workload. There have been occasions, however, when drawing WHILE cooking dinner seemed like a fantastic idea just because I couldn't make it earlier in the day and my natural stubbornness kept me from forfeiting.....

Inktober does not only mean a lot of practise with the ink medium but also an explosion of my portfolio which is great. I am planning to upload more of my Inktober creations some time soon here on my website and I hope you will enjoy them. Obviously it also means a massive source of inspiration to have a look at other artists' ink creations during this time and I usually find at least a handful of new artists whose work I admire and start following on social media.  What I mostly love about Inktober, however, is that I feel like I can present more of my 'other', middle-grade side  and thus it is a very freeing experience. Bring on the skeletons, so to speak! 

I suppose I should now images let do the talking rather than words and hope to have ignited some curiosity in you for Inktober. Hope to see you or you and your work there soon, too! And here goes a small collection of my inktober work throughout the past years.....enjoy the darkness ;)



Last week has been a very busy one in terms of illustrating, promoting my work and last but not least family-wise and so this blog post took a while. However,  I am always very glad when my life as an illustrator gets busy.

There were times in the beginning of this career when I KEPT busy but I felt like I was fooling myself thinking I am or could be a professional illustrator because there were just no jobs, no interest and no validation. My impatient and unkind inner voice told myself I should be making bigger steps in much shorter time and "get somewhere".

Throughout this time exactly I was always and still am so grateful for my husband's support who continuously reminded me that "the trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit". I sure hope that the quality of my work has improved over the years.

Also, just recently in one of the kidlit groups I have joined we spoke about this "rollercoaster ride" of creating and hoping to be able to make a profession, not just a hobby out of this - it requires a certain way of re-thinking to stay happy and sane. After all, what does "getting somewhere" actually mean? Is your work only to be called validated if a big publisher sends you the long awaited email with a nice contract? Or if you could sell your artwork for a fair price on a recurring basis on one of the online platforms? I had to remind myself that there is another reason (or rather a combination of reasons) why I set out to fulfil this dream of being a children's book illustrator and that these reason already have become a reality. For example, I always wanted a job that enables me to work from home and be there for my children when they get home from school. I always wanted a job that lets me "approach the world" in my own pace and rhythm, meaning if I feel like walking my dog in the middle of the day to soak up some sunshine and find inspiration in the colours of my neighbourhood I can do so. I can work in the middle of the night without having to worry that the next day I might be a frazzled mess that cannot concentrate 'in public'.  This job also brought back teaching to me but in a way that I feel happy and content about. 

As mentioned in the beginning of this post, now there are times when I get so busy with 'proper' work that I have to prioritise and I simply love that. It IS 'going somewhere' but I am very sure there will be times again when it gets quieter and I will have to remind me of the above. Or get reminded by someone. Which brings me to the topic I originally wanted to talk about today - the kidlit community and conferences.

As I told you earlier I attended my first CYA conference in 2015 because I wanted to understand where my work was at at this stage and I wanted to meet the people I used to mingle with online and possibly increase my network. I was especially keen to meet 'professionals' - people who had worked in this industry for years and who knew what it was all about, people I could learn from. In short, I was after a reality check for my work and that is why I not only just attended the conference but also took part in the Illustration Competition and booked in for a portfolio appraisal with Maryann Ballantyne of Black Dog Books. No problem.


If I look at this memory from a distance I can only explain it with the massive passion I have for my work and children's literature in general because, quite frankly, nowadays I don't know where I took this kind of courage from. Big crowds of English speaking professionals actually scare me to death, I don't feel very comfortable going to places where I hardly know anyone and I especially feel insecure when I only recently 'made myself' an illustrator, don't have any arts degrees to show and still claim to be one of 'them'. That's at least how I felt back then. I think it was yet again one of these occasions where I had to decide if I would stand up for my 'strange friend with wonky teeth and big glasses' (see "Fuenf") or just look away, do nothing, in embarrassment. 

To make it easier for me I luckily received notification that I had placed in the Illustration Competition weeks prior to CYA so I felt a bit better to actually go. It was still not easy for me and I think I was shaking like a leaf when I finally went. But let me just say for anyone who should read this and feel as insecure about her work or her 'standing' in this industry as me back then: GO TO CONFERENCES!!

The organisers of these events and the people attending are usually the most amazing, supportive and easy going people you can imagine and the only scary thing you have to overcome is your own critical, insecure voice. When you go to conferences things become real - people you only met once or twice before or only online become real, maybe even friends. In my experience I've made the most amazing friends who support me in my work and generally in my journey and I will never forget how much it meant to me when my name was called out to receive the second place in the CYA competiton and members of WRITELINKS cheered me on. I suddenly felt that I am part of this, too. 

 Also your work becomes real - it gets out there and looked at, appreciated, tested and critiqued. I know this might be the scariest bit of all for some but is the only way to get better. When I booked in for my portfolio appraisal with Maryann Ballantyne I pretty much based my decision on meeting just her on the look of the cover of the "Dragonkeeper" series by Carole Wilkinson. I liked the colours, I liked the style and someone who publishes things like that might potentially like my work, too. That's it. That's my simple and maybe even naive first time approach to meeting editors and I skipped into the room, portfolio under my arm, just like my fox logo - completely oblivious of the fact that most people put a whole lot of research, hope and work into such events. Over the course of the years and the experience gained, this approach has changed a little bit, of course, but I still try to keep my 'innocent' mind set alive - I try to focus on the fact that it is am immense privilege to talk to an editor and maybe even be able to learn some wisdom from just need to figure out what questions to ask and there is a whole treasure chest open for you. I have also learned to appreciate such interviews as very effective promotion of my work and that is why I am usually trying to see different editors every time I go and why I reserve a certain budget for it throughout the year.

Needless to say that Maryann Ballantyne did NOT fall off her chair in admiration when she looked through my very young portfolio but she was lovely, supportive and helpful notwithstanding. I left the room buzzing with ideas and that probably would not have happened in exactly the same form and intensity if I had stayed at home.

In a nutshell, to me conferences are a bit like let's say three or four months of working at home alone on coffee (extra strong coffee) - just in one day you can potentially increase your network and learn new things at an extreme rate BECAUSE you know you have to make it count as it is only an annual event and you invested some money in it. I am looking forward to meeting you at one of these kidlit conferences one day...hopefully skipping with your portfolio under your arm. CYA there! :)




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One very good method to avoid criticism in general is to steadily improve and polish your craft. This includes learning new things and also maybe new skills that you feel a bit anxious about. It obviously not only broadens your horizon  and adds new quality to your work but it also gives you confidence.

Confidence is very important in this industry. If you are insecure about your work and its worth why should anyone else take the time and try to understand and like it? That's at least my take on things.

It is something I try to teach my art students (children from prep to grade 7) every time we get together - we have one very important rule in our little groups and that is not to put yourself or your work down. If you do this and the other kids or myself hear of it it means a certain amount of push-ups for that artist. I am basically just trying to get my students into a habit of appreciating their work in a playful way and so far it has been going quite well. That doesn't mean I don't want them to be critical of their art. In my point of view, however, you can break the habit of putting yourself/your art down by substituting the words "I'm not good at this..." with "I'm not quite happy with this YET...". It's a good start.

Personally, I've felt for quite some time that something was missing in my illustrations. I had a certain idea of how things should look like in the end and they just didn't (but it had absolutely nothing to do with a certain photographer, of this I assure you...) Hence I wasn't as confident about my work any more as I could have been.

My personal nemesis has always been computers and despite the fact that my husband loves to 'cheer' me up with a jolly "The problem usually sits IN FRONT of the computer, not inside it.", I am convinced it's not my fault and that I am forever dealing with technology plotting against me. Computers seek my failure, it's their secret source of energy and when their energy levels reach a certain degree the machines will take over and mankind has to....ok maybe I am exaggerating here. Let me just say computers and I don't exactly complete each other. I had a sneaking suspicion, though, that Photoshop would need to be on my list of skills to learn in order to push my work further. It was time to face my fears!!

Luckily for me, my husband's cousin Gosia and her husband Jarek had just moved from Poland to Brisbane. Gosia is not only one of the most lovely and patient persons I know, she also has a very keen artistic eye  - check out her Instagram here:  and she knows how to work with Photoshop. So she taught me.  We spent hours together in front of the mean machine aka computer practising Gosia's English and my Photoshop skills whilst consuming crazy amounts of coffee and chocolate. I am pretty sure she will not admit or see it like that, but for me Gosia is one of the key figures in my journey to becoming and being a self-taught illustrator as she has always supported, encouraged and believed in me. That is something you can't measure in chocolate.

Just about around the same time and with my newly acquired Photoshop skills I decided to enter my very first illustration competition, Brisbane's annual CYA conference in 2015. The deadline for the competition and its theme gave me the focus I needed to look for the techniques I wanted to learn in Photoshop  for my entry and so it worked quite beautifully. In my next blog I will talk about such conferences in more detail as for me they have proofed to be an immensely precious experience. For now, however, just let me finish here by telling you that I showed Photoshop and technology who's boss as my CYA entry made second place and this (apart from not being defeated by machines and rescuing manind once more from falling prey to technology upsurge...) meant a very big deal to me on so many levels. Most of all it proofed to me the point I made earlier - don't be scared to learn new skills and push yourself  through the difficulties that come with it. Use chocolate for help if you must. You will feel stronger and more confident for it afterwards. 


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CYA 2015

Illustration Competition Entry


As I have been invited to be guest presenter at this year's Independent Education Union of Australia Awards for Excellence in Art Design, I was busy preparing my little speech. I will address a group of students between Prep and senior years and decided to talk about artistic drive. How lucky we are for having creative minds with artistic drive among us and how important it is to nurture this. It made me think how difficult it can sometimes be to keep up the artistic drive, to create new things despite criticism, your own critical voice, art blocks and whatever is there to throw an artist out of balance. It made me also think about the fact that this generation I will be addressing in my speech is probably even more exposed to social media and therefore potential criticism of their work than I myself opted to be. Kids these days are just way more 'out there'. They will also face more challenges to stand out with their work due to the high availability of art. You got to admire and encourage such young creatives and hope for them that they learn to deal with any form of criticism early on. I think it's probably the hardest part.

Criticism of your work is such a curious thing. Obviously it can be helpful if it's communicated to you in a sensible way and if you decided to be ready for it. It can push you forward. Criticism on social media is a whole different ball game because it can happen out of the blue, unasked for and often times it's not even valid (unless you draw a butterfly that looks like a penis). Depending on how much time you spend on social media, criticism there can be poured down on you hourly, daily, weekly, and it can happen in silence, too, just by the simple fact that nobody 'likes' your stuff or 'follows' you. It's easy to lose your way there and then. You and your art are then a bit like being back at school and having the least popular person as your best friend. The one with freckles, big yellow teeth and thick glasses or the one whose jokes nobody gets and just leaves everyone cringing. Are you gonna stay loyal to your strange friend because you know she's awesome and the others don't see it just yet? Or are you going to distance yourself from this friend because the embarrassment is too big for you? 

Once I decided to create an illustration based on a photograph I had spotted in a German FB artist group.  Let me just add that Germans are very blunt and honest when it comes to giving their opinions and giving their opinions is also their favourite hobby (right after being efficient which goes hand in hand with giving your opinion to improve someone else's status quo). I should know as I am German myself. Additionally, I was born and raised in a very outspoken area in the North-West of Germany. A city called Muenster where cycling is the preferred method of transport and seniors would tell you that you will "soon tip over if you don't go any faster on your bike" or young women advise you that your sunnies are way too big for current local fashion standards. Yes, I'm from Muenster and as such grew a thick skin in regards to inappropriate advice from complete strangers. Back to the German FB group, however. I contacted the photographer of mentioned picture that I wanted to use for reference and boy was I in for a treat! Our messenger chat started friendly enough with him giving me permission to use the pic, no problem. Then the fun began. I received very long and detailed instructions on how to help me with my "problem", the problem of not being able to draw. As he obviously seemed to be an expert in both illustrating for children and giving out advice in this field he described my work as something that looked like  "a child scribbled it and popped it onto the family fridge". I patiently read through his precious advice eagerly awaiting his prescribed cure for my problem (after a long monologue of his it sounded like I would be effectively and eventually helped in the long run by being tutored by him, the multi talented photographer).

I'm not going to pretend like this didn't touch me at all even though I've dealt with belligerent Muensteranian seniors before. As a matter of fact there was nothing wrong with this piece - it was not blurry or flawed in other technical ways. It was 'just' my style he found fault with. Mostly I was concerned about just having been trolled and felt I had been lured into a trap by his initial friendliness. This, however, is the brutality of an anonymous crowd on social media you always have to be prepared for.  An illustrator friend of mine helped me change my perspective on such kind of criticism - she basically told me as a children's books illustrator it can be considered one of the highest compliments if your work looks like "a child scribbled it and popped it on the family fridge". It's a special kind of style not everyone knows how to create. I preferred going with her interpretation and have kept polishing my family fridge-style ever since. I stay with my weird friend, so to speak. :)

Since then I have been "lucky" on social media so far and did not receive any more eye-opening critiques such as described above. I'm certain that it will happen in some form or other again, but that's ok. I will then again try to change my perspective on the criticism and find the positive. I do struggle,though, with an unusual amount of odd socks in my laundry and am considering to get back in contact with my photographer friend and life coach to get me back on track... I'm sure he will know what needs to be done.



How do you "find a voice" in illustrating when your real-life voice has been muted for many years at a time in your life when it was meant to be build up and become strong? As I mentioned before, after I had left behind the emotional abuse of my adolescence, built up my own little family and after years of healing time I was in a better place. However, the "confusing, hurtful, frightening effect {...}" of emotional abuse and that you "begin to doubt yourself, your senses, your opinions, memories, beliefs, feelings, abilities and judgement. You may begin to express opinions less and less freely and find yourself doubting your sense of reality". {Out of the Fog}  last forever in various degrees of intensity and all you can control about that is how you deal with it. If you look at that from a distance it seems to be a pretty shitty place to start "meaningful" art for children from.

For me, art has always been a relief system and so I think what happened (and still happens) is that I am finding and strengthening my real-life voice through illustrating, or moreover: Illustrating IS my voice. It's where I can be myself and also the muted "myself" from years ago. It is where I can send out the messages I find important. I no longer need to look over my shoulder to see if anyone approves of me. This not only refers to my work on its own but my entire personality as an illustrator. And I think this is my personal motivation that keeps me going and will probably always keep me going.

The question, however, is if my messages have been received the way I planned it and if I could deliver them clearly? And who should be my audience at that stage anyway? The truth is, here I was actively and eagerly posting my art publicly in Facebook groups and/or  showing it to professionals at BIG but some of it can only be described as "hideous illustrations". I'm not ashamed of this as I believe it comes with the territory of being self-taught, or as the genius Neil Gaiman would put it: 

Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes, break rules and leave the world more interesting for you being here. Make good art.


So I did. I was very busy making "amazing mistakes" and was sometimes blissfully oblivious to the fact my work lacked some features so that my message would actually NOT be received. In other words, no one actually got what I was meaning to convey and this stunned me.  Sometimes you are just too close to your work but it also means you are believing in yourself. Isn't that what you are here for in the first place? And yet, instinctively I knew there was plenty of room to improve and so I never stopped putting my work out there, looking for feedback. During this time I not only looked at my children's favourite picture books with a more critical, art-focused eye but also went to local libraries regularly to immerse myself with amazing. inspirational illustrations. I simply tried to learn  by looking and soaking up. I also believe that my professional background of English and German literature studies helps my illustrating work and if it's only in the choice of themes. 

However, it is a long journey and the mistakes and hideousness followed me wherever I went with my work. One of my favourite examples of failed illustrations is my little interpretation of Andersen's "Thumbelina". I felt like drawing with bold colours, I felt like drawing a girl, I felt like drawing a butterfly - and Bob's your uncle, right? Easy.

You must believe me that it was created with the most innocent and purest state of mind :) but the result was received as a giant male genital by a member of an art Facebook group and it hasn't seen the daylight out of its drawer ever again since (well up until now when I posted it here again...). I'm eternally grateful to this person for pointing it out - in hindsight. I don't think I liked hearing it back then but with a little bit of reflection I saw it, too...........

So I guess the moral to be taken from this is that critique of your work and putting it 'out there' no matter at what embarrassing stage you are is very, very important to move you forward and get better. This certainly is not a new insight. But it is worthwhile to remind yourself of this frequently, because art is such a personal thing and especially when you are self-taught and new to this industry it is easy to stay in hiding and avoid critique. In my opinion it's well worth all the cringing, though.

Sometimes you might find the criticism not so very helpful no matter from what angle you look at it. Let's rummage through my Wunderkiste next time for my personal favourites of nonconstructive criticism I have received.  Until then - please go and make mistakes :)







The first practical move for me was to surround myself with people who were either working in this field of illustrating or would have the same passion. I did not want to go back to uni and study the subject as at that time I felt I had already spent enough money on my education. I also did not want to step into any regulated environment with my art but rather explore what kind of illustrations I wanted to create and make the rules myself.

A friend of mine mentioned the Brisbane illustrators Group (BIG) to me and I went to one of their monthly meetings at a cafe. This has been a very crucial step in my career because even though up until today I am blatantly frozen in awe of this group's combined talent and professionalism, I made many friends and found an amazing support system in regards to my illustrating.  Especially Anil Tortop (illustrator extraordinaire, Turkish coffee brewer AND she speaks Minion!!) has always been there for me with advice, help and constructive criticism and I appreciate her honesty in regards to my work. Sometimes you are so involved with what you have been creating that you don't see the truth. You really should have someone in your life then who occasionally says "I don't like this, looks strange!".

SCBWI conference Sydney 2016 with Anil and.....other fun peeps :)

SCBWI conference Sydney 2016 with Anil and.....other fun peeps :)

It was also Anil who suggested to me to post my work regularly on Facebook and give it a larger audience and the practise I needed. First I joined a couple of illustration-minded groups and within time I established my own artist page on Facebook. All of this has been a long process and not always just fun and games as putting your (mostly not-quite-there-yet) work out there requires thick skin. I will be coming back to this special topic on another day.

Throughout these years of "research" I noticed two main ingredients were really important requirements for my illustrations to take them to the next level  - "my voice" and "the look".  Both can make all the difference between creating an "ok" illustration and one that people/ children come back to multiple times to enjoy. Obviously there are other factors that influence the success of your illustrating work, too, but for now I will only focus on these two as I find them most fascinating. 

"Finding your voice" in illustrating is probably the most tricky to achieve.  For one, you can't really put a finger on what it actually means. Secondly, it is a very individual process that takes time - or so I was told. To me it is what your work enables others to FEEL when they look at your work.  Your "voice" as an illustrator carries an additional message than just the visual to the (small) person who looks at it.

Then there is also the "look" of your work or your "style" - the colours you choose, the settings, the shape of your characters and also the way you present everything are very crucial to create a good illustration that appeals to your audience. If you come up with an amazing character that carries your "voice" perfectly but it doesn't appeal visually or if you present it in a sloppy way it will be very difficult for your illustration to reach a broader audience. Vice versa you will have trouble engaging children/ editors or whoever you would like to show your illustrations to in the long run with a perfectly drawn and composed illustration that lacks a "voice".

All of this is very subjective, of course, but I think it is a good thing to aim for and to keep in the back of your mind because magic will happen if you get it all right. It is the picture books that children and parents always come back to because they teach you something between the lines where this magic happens. They don't only teach via words and action but through an emotion.

So now I had this idea of how I theoretically could achieve meaningful illustrations and I was surrounded by very talented, professional and helpful people both in the real and in the online world. It is still a very long way from here to achieving the results you have in mind and the results that will get you published (if that should be your goal) and I wonder if I will ever be there. It's the journey, though, that keeps me going.












So what happens next when a teacher 'gets the idea' to become an illustrator? 

Personally, I quite like the scenario of a dried-out, wrinkled teacher writing German grammar rules slowly on the whiteboard with silence splicing squeaky chalk while behind her the class is fast asleep and snoring. Then suddenly - the epiphany! Teacher jumps on her desk in new found energy and rips apart her clothes revealing a superhero illustrator costume with a pen symbol placed on the chest. Ohs and Ahs from the awoken students! Teacher declares "I am going to be an illustrator! Have a fantastic life, children, I will make mine meaningful!" Thunderous applause from the students and out she flies through the classroom window, a fanfare plays in the background...... Sounds awesome? 

Well in my case it was a rather gradual process. In fact, I was still teaching while finishing my first self-published picture book 'How to get a Fat Fairy flying' and it is fair to say that things 'developed' (even though this sounds less exciting than above scenario).

The idea to this fairy book had been in the back of my head for a long time and it became gradually more substantial as my children were curious to hear and see more about it. It is a quirky friendship tale between two misfits - an obese fairy unable to fly and a good witch who can unfortunately only create bad things (yes, back then that didn't seem controversial to me...) 

I decided to write the story down and illustrate it as a present for my kids. And boy was I surprised how much work and time would go into such a project! A big help during these first baby steps into illustrating, by the way,  was The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books by Desdemona McCannon, Sue Thornton and Yadzia Williams (Allen & Unwin, 2008). While I certainly noticed how much time this project required, it did not feel like hard work at all. I felt right at home and I soaked up every little bit there was to learn about the craft at this stage.  If I remember correctly it was my very practical and efficient husband who finally suggested to me I might as well do it 'properly' and try to publish it after spending so many months of working on it. I then had the manuscript edited by native speaker friends  to prevent the worst grammatical blunders. Soon after I sent it boldly off to Penguin Books awaiting a letter from my new publisher or maybe a talent scout every day from then on. After some months I figured the letter or call from Penguin would apparently not happen. Quite likely my manuscript made it to the slush pile's slush pile never to be seen again...

Today I would smile mildly at such uninformed idealism. I have learned heaps not just about illustrating but also the industry as a whole in the meantime and I probably would not send manuscripts like that out again. However, I have kept a certain naive (enthusiastic?) can-do attitude over the years which sometimes leads to cringe worthy results but also makes part of my style. Years later I tried to capture this in my business logo: the little orange fox skipping happily through the children's books industry landscape humming "La Di Da" completely oblivious to "how it's done". I think it still fits and probably always will. 

My logo.


After it became clear that it was not that easy to be published, this is when 'the wannabe illustrator made it to the mountain' - together with my husband I founded my own publishing company "Wybble". This company grew quickly first in additional business partners, then in published books (among other author's titles I also published my own inky version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Princess and the Pea) and simultaneously in work and effort. I soon realised several things - firstly, that it is REALLY hard to look after three children, work as a part-time teacher AND undertake such a publishing business. Secondly, publishing  books involves a lot of things that do not necessarily have anything to do with drawing and creating. It felt increasingly difficult and not 'like me'.   

This was again another crucial  realisation for me: rather than publishing others or my own books I wanted mostly the creative part of this industry. That's what I really wanted and where the passion came from. I was not easy but so then I took Wybble, wrapped it up nicely in pink tissue paper and put it carefully into my WUNDERKISTE where it is still sitting and waiting for me to take it out again. And who knows.....?

In any case, after Wybble I somehow felt I had to take my illustrating somewhere. Like seriously.

But how???

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The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books, How to get a Fat Fairy Flying and The Princess and the Pea


Very often I get asked why on earth I changed from a financially safe teaching career to that of a self-taught, freelance illustrator. The answer  is rather complex which is why I decided to start a blog called "Frau Dreilings Wunderkiste" (Mrs Dreiling's box of wonder). Lets open the lid and peek inside...

I have always been someone with the head in the clouds. I loved to paint and draw and invent stories from a very early age on. Usually, when people feel that kind of creative energy in them they foster it or maybe even make a profession out of this. At that stage of my life this was not possible for me. The reason was simple: while my childhood was quite idyllic ( or at least I chose to remember it that way ) my adolescence not so much. Think Rapunzel locked up in a tower by her own family in modern days, mix in some domestic violence and constant emotional abuse and base all of this on religious motifs and you have a rough understanding of my teen and early twenties. Until I finally plucked up the courage to leave.

During all of this, art had been a good friend though, either in visual or musical form. It was an escape and a way to keep my head in the clouds. But I knew that it would not have been appreciated if I had made the decision to become a professional artist and at that point I was quite frankly too scared, too damaged and weak to put up yet another fight with my family. 

When you suppress an important part of yourself for a long time you feel only "half full" without even knowing it. Something is always missing but you can't put your finger on it really. Years later only, my children brought back art to me. Since they were very little, I noticed more and more that it immensely fulfilled me to make art for and with them. When we looked at picture books I saw their faces brighten up or frown in deep thoughts and I wanted to be able to achieve the same - influence children with my work. Artistic work. 

So I finally knew what I wanted to do in life, but reality was that I had invested six years and lots of money into studying in Germany and getting accreditation and my teachers registration in Australia. Not to mention the effort it takes to do all this with little kids clinging at your legs. Only to give it all up for a dream?

I have to thank my husband Alex for supporting me in every step of this journey - from my first pathetic Photoshop attempts over to looking after the kids when I couldn't, over to being my cheer squad when I was doubting myself, my art, this entire idea. Lastly but not least he accepted the fact that his income would be the only meaningful one for a very long time for our family without ever questioning this or making me feel bad about it. I would have stopped this endeavour a long time ago if it wasn't for him.

By now you can probably tell, changing careers and starting something you have no training for is not always a walk in the park. It often goes hand in hand with embarrassing mistakes, frustration and disappointment. The fact that I am working from home with three active children and a dog while by now having to meet tight deadlines is sometimes tricky. There often also seems to be the conception in people of me sitting at home scribbling cute pictures for fun when in reality I literally work my butt off and invest (NOT make) crazy amounts of money.

But I wouldn't want it any other way and that is probably the ultimate answer to the question "Why did you do it?" - it is because I'm wired to be an illustrator. Its simply how I think and feel any second of the day. I see stories and little characters everywhere and so I don't really mind trying to work on them for hours on end. And I truly believe that if you love something so much you become better and better at it and one day you will be successful and able to make a living from it.

Today, despite my "dark past" I am well. Thanks to my husband, my family, my friends but also thanks to my art that developed over the years into something that enables me to be myself and think freely. 

With this I'm shutting the lid of my Wunderkiste again. Until next time!

Have a great day!