When painting the illustrations for the children’s book, Mother Reindeer’s Journey to the Sun, I begin each page with a simple line drawing.  What is the major action in this part of the story?  How much space will the text need?

What is happening on the facing page? How are these pages going to relate to each other visually?

I first paint the major characters in acrylic paint.  This is because if I am going to make a technical mistake, I want it to happen early, when I am painting the creatures that have the most requirement to be “successful.”

I next  add the landscape in chalk pastel, which is a much more forgiving media.  I can smudge and erase and adjust the pastel over the acrylic without removing any details from the animals.

Then the two pages are aligned as one panel, using the sky to bring all the elements together.

I adjust the colour with both acrylic and pastel, once I see a proof of the text and its spacing.

If you look closely at the four corners of this picture, you will see the designer’s marks indicating the “bleed.”  This is the amount of the image that will be lost in the printing process.  Not something I knew about at the start of this project but something I will indeed pay lots of attention to next time.  Even 1/8″ is a considerable amount when one notices how close the raccoon is to the edge of the panel.


I paint the cover last, because it is the first image that a potential buyer is going to see and relate to.  The cover picture needs to convey the energy of the story, more than its sequence.

As I was working on the illustrations within the book, I kept noticing that almost all the animals wanted to look out of the pages at the Mom and Dad and children who were reading the journey of Mother Reindeer.

I also noticed that  although the story is set in the north at winter solstice, lots of animals were appearing that were not particularly “northern.”  These became important features in the cover design.

Even though this beautiful book written by Kathy Sager is a tribute to Mountain Caribou, it is also a story about caring for all life, which is the energy I wanted to convey in the cover image.

This is from the last page of Mother Reindeer’s Journey to the Sun:

You teach us to give,
you teach us to live,
in friendship with all life on earth.