Book Review: ‘Habibi’ by Craig Thompson



I finally finished Craig Thompson’s gorgeous new book, Habibi. It took me several weeks to finish partly because it’s over 600 pages and because the art and patterns were so beautifully rendered that I took several minutes on each page just staring at the drawings. No wonder it took him 10 years to finish!

After requesting this book from the library, I was lucky enough to have two amazing friends (one of whom is an artist you might enjoy) get a copy signed for me for my birthday in September.



I was very excited to read Habibi. I own Craig Thompson’s first two books, Good-bye Chunky Rice  and Blankets. I was actually a much bigger fan of Chunky Rice. I loved the quirky, emotional stories. Blankets was great, and certainly full of emotion, but I didn’t think it lived up to all the hype other than the fact that it was a massive book (though smaller than Habibi).

At APE in early October I was lucky enough to see Craig Thompson speak about all 4 of his books (I haven’t read Carnet de Voyage). I could really relate to his Midwestern upbringing and the talk was just fascinating. I’m so glad I heard him speak before having a chance to read Habibi.  It allowed me to appreciate the artwork in the book so much more.

The story of Dodola and Habibi/Zam is unique but at the same time it feels like an ancient tale we all know, at least in the beginning. The time period is a bit ambiguous and the story takes a lot of unexpected turns, especially one involving eunuchs that I was totally unprepared for.

It’s an intensely emotional and spiritual tale that is enhanced by the flow of the Arabic characters and their echo in the artwork. One thing that Craig Thompson mentioned in his discussion that really stuck with me was his insistence on making sure that almost all of the marks in the book were put down in ink by his brush (minus a few large swaths of black). He found ancient Muslim and Arabic patterns, scanned them, occasionally altered them slightly, and then traced them all with his brush. They are breathtaking and intricate and knowing that he put those marks on the page at some point makes them all the more precious.

Habibi is a beautiful tale and a beautiful book that I highly recommend. You can buy it and Thompson’s other books here and he has a wonderful process gallery here.

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Paper Doll Illustration | Moms Rising

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Kien Tseng of Yippa to create paper doll illustrations for, an organization that advocates for early childhood education. The brief was to create a paper doll figure that could be used as a boy or a girl (the ponytail can be removed) with a variety of skin tones and 4 outfits to go over the doll (policeman, graduate, fireman, and astronaut). Below you can see a variation.

Kien was a pleasure to work with and I look forward to working with him on future projects. Below you can see larger versions of the figure and the outfits.






Review: Invoice Faster and Easier with CurdBee

Most illustrators will tell you that they’re terrible at business, but being an illustrator IS a business.

Learning on the job is something I’ve been doing for the last 3 years. Some of what I learned came easy and some of it didn’t, but I did discover one tool that has made a portion of the business super simple:  CurdBee.


I have been using CurdBee to send invoices for about 6 months now and I absolutely love it. If you hate setting up invoices, keeping them organized, and keeping track of which invoices have been sent or which have been paid, then this is the perfect service for you.

CurdBee allows you to easily set up an invoice template and you can add new clients at any time. You can choose to be notified when the invoice has been viewed and can set up online payment with PayPal, Google Checkout or other online checkout services.

All of that can be done with a free account, which includes unlimited invoices and the use of your own branding.

When I first started using CurdBee, I was paranoid that the invoices wouldn’t be delivered properly or that they would go to my clients’ spam folders, but the invoice is sent from your email address which means they can reply directly to you and you don’t have to worry about it ending up in junk mail.

With some of the higher level accounts (Pro, Big), you get more features like the ability to use your own domain, send estimates, set up recurring billing, and generate various reports.

Using CurdBee has been a total breeze especially because I had no idea how to set up a proper, professional invoice. Now I send invoices with my logo at the top and all the information I need to communicate to my client.

There are still plenty of aspects to running an illustration business that I haven’t perfected, but my invoicing is definitely under control!

Are there any online business tools that have made your business run more smoothly?


If I Was You Project



“Have you ever dreamed of being someone else?

Have you ever imagined an illustrated story that connects in a linear way and at the same time manages
to bring together different ways of working, juxtaposing styles and materials? Here we are embarking on
the exciting and ginormous task of creating a narrative between and chain-reaction of the most talented
illustrators // artists around at the moment.”
This is the explanation of the If I Was You… Project, founded by the lovely Sandra Dieckmann. This week I created a contribution for the project and it went up today. She has gathered a long list of very talented illustrators, so go have a look at past contributions.



Listen While You Work: The Best Illustration Podcasts (and some extras)

I’ve been hard at work on lots of new projects lately, but I haven’t been able to share much just yet. So, I decided to share with you some of my favorite illustration podcasts and some extras that are fun to listen to while you’re illustrating. I hope you can find something new that you enjoy and you can get a little insight into my personality.





Paper Wings Podcast:  This inspiring podcast is less focused on illustration specifically and more on storytelling and personal projects. Chris and Lora have such great insight into the way artists’ and storytellers’ minds work and they want to help you be successful in whatever avenue you choose to pursue. They give advice on portfolios, pitching, getting out from under creative block, and how to find ways to monetize your personal project. And stick around for the end-of-the-podcast bloopers.

In the interest of full disclosure, you may or may not already know that I am working with Chris Oatley as a Paper Wings apprentice. I was, however, listening to this podcast long before I joined forces with them.



Escape From Illustration Island:  Thomas James has managed to interview some of the biggest names in illustration and art direction. I learned so much about building and editing my portfolio, designing my website, and promoting my business and I heard it from professionals with many years of experience. Thomas is building a great site full of resources for freelance illustrators.






Big Illustration Party Time:  Listening to Josh & Kevin chat about the illustration industry, their work weeks, and other illustration & cartooning topics is both entertaining and informative. It’s a very casual podcast and feels a lot like sitting around and talking with your artist friends, which is extra valuable when you’re working at home alone.





Chris Oatley’s ArtCast:  This podcast is a bit broader than just illustration. Chris Oatley (the same Chris from Paper Wings) works in animation at Disney so his ArtCast covers all things art and business related. He has a unique and inspiring perspective as well as some great interviews.


The Illopond Pondcast:  This is a brand new podcast! It is spearheaded by Samuel Kirkman and is a part of the Illopond illustration collective. I am a part of this collective of talented and determined illustrators who have been collaborating on short story and comic anthologies for children. Check out the site and the Pondcast and you can see some of our books for sale too.


Honorable mention goes to Art & Story and The Ink Panthers Show. These two are much more comics heavy. I enjoy them but find I just don’t listen to them as often as the ones above.


I would also like to share some of my favorite non-illustration podcasts. I listen to podcasts for most of my day, so it’s important to have a few that are pure entertainment.  Everything here should be available on iTunes. A lot of these have some rough language, so be aware of that in case you prefer to steer away from it.

The Adam Carolla Show
WTF with Marc Maron
Mike & Tom Eat Snacks
This Week with Larry Mill
The Nerdist (just discovered this yesterday and I love it!)

Radiolab (a MUST listen for people who are curious about everything)
This American Life
Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me (Can you tell I like NPR?)
Savage Love


I hope you enjoy these! Share some of your favorite podcasts (illustration or otherwise) in the comments below!

My New Etsy Shop is Now Open!


Click here to buy signed prints and books with my illustration!

I have signed copies of my two Illopond Anthologies for sale: Boo! Spooky Tales for Kids and 8: A Kid’s Book Anthology. I also have signed copies of Fly Danny, Fly, the self-published children’s book that I was commissioned to illustrate last year.

This is the only place where you can find books and prints signed by yours truly and the quantity of books is limited, so don’t hesitate!

And don’t forget, if you are interested in taking a class from Schoolism, click on the button on the bottom right of this page to get a discount on classes.

Thanks for all of your continued support!

APE 2011 Recap!


I’m back from a wonderful weekend at APE in San Francisco and totally exhausted! The trip was a whirlwind but a lot of fun and it was great to meet 3 of my fellow Illopond contributors. Above is (left to right) Charlotte Cheng, Denver Wagner, and Samuel Kirkman. We had loads of books and prints for sale, including our latest anthology, Boo!, which is now available for sale at Indy Planet!


Charlotte is very excited about our table.


Our table was far too cluttered the first day, as you can see here. We rearranged for Day 2.

There was so much amazing work to see and a pretty decent crowd. This was my first experience tabling at a con and it was  solid one. I was fortunate enough to see Daniel Clowes and Adriane Tomine speak together and answer questions and Craig Thompson also spoke about his new book, Habibi, and his previous 3 books.

Daniel Clowes was surprisingly funny and he resembles many of the characters he creates. He’d make a great straight man in a comedy duo. Craig Thompson was funny too and I could really relate to his Midwestern upbringing.



I did my best not to spend too much money so walking through some of the aisles was a serious challenge.


Chris Eliopoulos' "Okie Dokie Donuts" was calling my name at the Top Shelf table.


The one purchase I did allow myself was the second volume of The Anthology Project. It is a really gorgeous book and I can’t wait to read it. The very friendly Jake Wyatt, one of the contributors, drew a lovely bird in the front of my book.



This piece by Sam Bosma is what caught my eye in the first place.


My custom drawing from Jake Wyatt


Hooray for my first con experience! And thanks to Sam, Denver, and Charlotte for their hard work and for being such fun people.

I do have some books and prints leftover (print selection is below). I have copies of the kid’s anthology, Boo!, and Fly Danny, Fly. I plan to set up a shop for all of these things very soon, but if you are interested in purchasing any of these (with my signature if you like!) then please get in touch. I’m offering a serious blue light special on multiple prints, so don’t be shy!


The larger prints are 8x10 and the smaller prints are 5x7