Monday, January 2, 2023

2023. Hello!

Day 1: Rabbit (Let's go 2023!)

Hello! It's been too long. Truth be told, I'm out of practice sharing my thoughts these days. So much has transpired in the world, and for me personally during the pandemic...wildfires, personal health issues, and family. 2022 was a true roller coaster of highs and lows...the incredibly profound loss of my father being the hardest. I'm thankful for my brothers, my family and friends, and for the feeling of peace as I think about my father finally reuniting with mom as he'd missed her for so long (we lost her in 2011). Thinking of their smiles and laughter comforts me. 

Incredible opportunities and highlights of my career both in lettering and writing/illustrating happened in 2022 including my first story being sold to Quill Tree/HarperCollins, designing the new EMLA logo for the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and having my lettering appear in Letter Arts Review. I presented on faculty at the SCBWI Golden Gate Asilomar conference in Pacific Grove, which was my very first presentation and time as part of faculty. It was incredibly fun and rewarding. I also had the great pleasure of being a part of faculty for the online SCBWI JambaLAya conference (Louisiana). 

Back in March during a very sad time in my life, I received the incredible gift of an invitation to attend a Quiet Writing Retreat in Quebec City thanks to a dear friend, Myrna Foster. Reconnecting and traveling with Ava Chinn, a dear, dear childhood friend, was the tip-top during four wonderful days discovering yoga, meditation, sound baths, quiet writing, and being a part of a group of incredibly lovely creative and talented new friends. I'm grateful for Melissa Manlove, the co-host of the retreat to share this special place with all of us, it was truly life-changing. So many of the lessons there I still think about and try to practice daily...gratitude, breathing, taking in each moment and looking at life through all perspectives. I also had a "kaboom" writing moment for a new story I'm working on. 

All in all, I am SO incredibly grateful for so many blessings in my life. So incredibly grateful. 

I'm continuing to work on myself, help others, and be a better human sharing time on this planet with all of it's creatures.

This year, I'll be focusing on craft, both in art and writing, and digging deeper so that the work I create is both a daily practice of learning and growing, and ultimately becomes something that resonates. I'm hopeful it will touch a heart, or cause a smile or two..and I really need to work on amping up laughter as well. So, we'll see how this goes. I've created a "gouache-a-day" challenge for myself. A small little painting to focus on light, shadow, shape, character, and opacity. I've found it challenging already, so I think it's a good prompt so far. I hope I can make one a day. 

I'm sending my best wishes to you and yours for balance, peace, good health, and laughter now and throughout the new year. May rewarding and 

Day 2: Dragon

~ Shirley

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

AWEtober (on Instagram) - ART & WELLNESS AUCTION from 10/1 through 10/31!

To view on a browser only

Oh my goodness, I've left the blog so dusty and apologies! The pandemic hit, and I have been in my bubble for a long, long, long time. The virus, the California wildfires, and our near-evacuation in early August...well, truthfully, I've been struggling to stay focused and upbeat. Through the summer, before the fires, I was settling into a nice routine with one of my daughters home early due to the we made good use of the pool! It was a nice few weeks of just getting through the stress of the news, the virus, the uncertainty...and then out of the blue, an odd dry lightning storm raced through California. 

I heard the thunder early that morning, but was so tired I didn't get up for the lightning. I woke up to the news of the fires up north. There were too many spot fires to count and watch. Then I heard the news of multiple lightning strike fires up in the Santa Cruz mountains. My sister-in-law and her firefighter fiancé lived up in the Bonny Doon community, high up above the bustle of the Silicon Valley, with gorgeous views below. They were creating their dream home together..redoing the property, pouring cement, redoing decks, planting veggies in their brand new custom built raised planter boxes, adopting a pup, and enjoying getting their place "just right". 

That evening, scrolling through Twitter, I noticed that the lighting strike fires were combining in their area. I texted her late at night..11:30pm. Was it too late to connect? Husband said, don't bother her...but I was worried and sure enough, she was packed and on her way to my in-laws, with their tennants, five dogs, a kitten, and as much as they had pre-packed. Her fiancé was already at work, manning the firestation with his team. 

Every hour that passed, we wondered if the firefighters would be successful with their efforts of containment, but there were too many. In a flash, their home was gone. Their neighborhood completely devastated. 42 of 51homes were destroyed.

Meanwhile, here at our home, where I thought that we were safe from fires (just south from San Jose, CA) a giant mass of fire strikes combined to become the SCU Lightning Complex fire. It covered five counties. Days passed, and we watched as the evacuation warning yellow zone came closer, closer, closer. We hoped for rain, we hoped for calm or no winds..we hoped and hoped...with closed windows from the smoke, and with incredible heat that was so unbearable that your mind went a bit crazy from the pandemic bubble, to now a smoke-filled orange-gray skied heat bubble. Thankfully the evacuation line came just up to the corner at the top of our street and stopped. But we prepared anyway. 

Have you ever done this? As a native Californian, who has rock & rolled through all the major earthquakes for the past few decades, I didn't think that the work of preparing for an evacuation would rattle me..but it did, in a very strange, quiet, sweaty, hot, and sad way. We quietly went from room to room. I called our eldest to see what she wanted packed from her room since she was already at her apartment to start her 4th year in college.

Trying to figure out what to leave, and what to keep was a bit unnerving. If you pause too long, it could debilitate you. I knew I had to "not think too much" and just keep moving and putting things into the plastic bins, and bags. I still have not unpacked. My walls are still blank, there are no photos in frames, and there are only the remnants of the illustrations or mementos that I had deemed "leaveable".

I know that this is probably fire trauma. Fire had never been something we worried about in earthquake country, but a few years ago, my heart raced during weeks of worry, as my eldest was in her 1st year at UCSB, during the Thomas Fire. The fire grew so close to campus that she shared photos of her walking the main walk under orange skies, with ash falling and flying from bikes that trekked by. The night that her dorm-mates woke to an alert to evacuate is something I'll never forget. It was panic, and through Twitter, I was thankfully able to find that it had been a false alert. I was able to connect with a lot of the kids in their dorms to calm them down and let them know that they were ok. The phone lines and internet at the school were wonky and sporadic. Their electricity flickered. It was truly a mess. I phoned the school's hotline to talk to someone to try to get them to get word to the students..all of it was maddening. Thankfully the Thomas Fire (the third largest in CA history that year) ended, but the memory of it stuck.

So, I'm writing to just get this all out. The anxiety of the fires is too much to hold in. Our world has changed so much since before February. It feels as though we are all in our bubbles now with so much sadness from the fires, the news, the politics, the injustices from race, inequalities, RBG, the virus, masks/no masks and more. 

One early Sept. morning, thinking about my sis-in-law and fiancé and how they were persevering through all of this I woke to the gray/orange skies again and decided to stop the downward cycle. I decided to find a way help them, and so many who have lost so much from the wildfires. (Thankfully, they are safe, and well, and managing the rebuilding of their lives as they plan their future up in the mountains again. It will be a long road ahead, but they safe, together, inspiring and strong. xo)

I decided to start AWEtober (which is LIVE right now on Instagram). It's my ART & WELLNESS AUCTION from 10/1 through 10/31, though the auctions fully end on the 27th. All 53 auctions are LIVE RIGHT NOW, and on the 16th, I'll begin the WELLNESS aspect of the month, so be sure to visit to enjoy 14 days of how the artists are finding ways to move through this truly turbulent and unique time.

There are 53 artists who've generously donated their art, their time, their $, and their hearts to the event to help raise funds for the victims of the California wildfires. I am so grateful for them and for all of the bidders and those who have shared and supported the efforts. It's been truly wonderful, and has kept me so busy, and tired, which is good. :)

SO, if you'd like a chance to bid on a wonderful piece of art - there are originals, prints, a collector/designer toy, and a handmade chipmunk purse by my daughter (!) :), that are up for grabs!

The first four expire tonight at midnight PST though, so my sincere apologies for the delayed post!!


If you are on INSTAGRAM, you can place a bid on any of the auctions at @AWEtober

If you don't have Instagram, you can view the items but not place a bid though, at:

It's easy to download the app (if you have a smartphone)..and apologies if you don't have that and can't access the auctions! Once you've got the app, follow the account and enjoy.

Each auction is up for 2 weeks total..please check the listings for all the details!

And, for all of the information about the event, please visit - you'll find a list of all of the contributing artists, and the ENTITIES/ORGANIZATIONS that this event will help! You can even donate directly through clicking on each entity's link.

I hope you're all safe and well and hanging in there. May you all have a good rest of the year. I will be working on some fun projects and making sure to keep up my daily walks, pet both our little black cats, Miso & Luna, eat well, and just rest. I think we all deserve to give ourselves the space to be at peace, so I'm hoping you are all finding ways to do that!

All my best everyone!! Shirley

PS, here is my piece, titled "Old Friends" - my ode to the forest after the fires have gone. I hope that it brings a little peace to all of you.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Try new mediums, and you never know what may happen...

Hi everyone! Awhile ago, I decided to purchase some new paints - wanting a little something more opaque, but not as opaque and difficult (for me) as acrylics. I have a very good friend who paints with acrylics and I am astonished at how one can do so much with the restraints of how quickly the paints dry. I usually paint with watercolors and gouache, but I saw a few illustrators on Instagram talking about Acryl-gouache and I thought, well, I'll try it.

Not really knowing how to paint with this new medium, I stuffed it in a drawer for months, until I saw a "call for entries" and I decided it was time to try this new medium. Makes a lot of sense, right? Ha! :) 

The funny thing is that my youngest who is a first year at UC Davis, loves to paint and create with paper, fabric, needlefelting, and more, and as she packed up all of her belongings for the dorm, she was sad to not have any paint to bring with her, and so, I told her, take all that you need from the new set of Acryl-gouache I had purchased. She took a lot of colors, mostly the primaries and some beautiful purples and oranges, and so for my painting, I had to choose from the ones left behind.

I chose a flesh color, a brown, a green, an ochre, brick red, and blue. It turns out that this is a really great way to focus on the composition and content, versus choosing colors (which I am still really not great at).

The call for entries was for "children as spectators of a live performance", and so while brainstorming, I thought of the Nutcracker, and for some reason, thought there was a dancing bear. I googled to see if there was such a thing, and sure enough, the Boston Ballet is famous for it's Nutcracker dancing bear.

I sketched and sketched and added lots of little ones, and thought, wouldn't it be great to add stuffed animals, too? And what would the kids be doing while watching a performance? Well, it was pretty darned fun just to sketch those ideas out, and I didn't think too much about it as I just wanted to dig in and start painting.

I must say, painting was a LOT OF FUN! To be constrained to a limited palette, having to mix colors for skintones, clothes, hairstyles, and more, well, it was a great experiment for me and I learned so much from it. Acryl-gouache did dry quicker than watercolors and gouache, but I was able to manage it better than acrylics. I kept adding water to dilute the paints (maybe this isn't what you're supposed to do?) and then went back in to add more opacity. It was a real trial-and-error kind of experience and as I added more paint and detail, I learned more about the opacity of the paints and how to adjust for contrast and such. I plan to keep experimenting with this new medium for sure.

So today, I found out the wonderful news that my illustration was one of 38 selected to exhibit at the “Children-Spectators” exhibit at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair this year! I am still so shocked!

The piece is titled:
La Danse de l’Ours Bleu et de la Fille

So...try everything! Try different mediums and never know what can happen, and through experimentation, mistakes, and exploration, learning happens, growth happens, and I think it just keeps informing you of your own creative drive. I will keep seeking new mediums to try and remember to keep playing. What medium do you wish to try? 

I am enjoying a celebratory Peet’s coffee and then back to work-work.
Hope everyone’s well and thank you for visiting!


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Happy Book Birthday to Mindful Day by Deborah Hopkinson! Book Giveaway Contest!

It's a Happy Book Birthday to

Mindful Day

by the incredibly talented Deborah Hopkinson, author of over fifty books!
Published by Sounds True
It was an honor to work on this timely and wonderful book which follows a mother, daughter, and son, from the sound of a bird waking to the sun's rays, to the glow of the rising moon at night. I hope you enjoy this story which is a great tool for young readers (and a reminder for myself, an old-ish reader) to take in every moment and be mindful of the sounds, tastes, smells, and connections you have throughout the day. In this very busy, very stress-filled world, I feel that this is something we can all take to heart as we start each day.

From my graphic design/print background, I wanted to also say that I am incredibly impressed with the quality of Sounds True publisher's printing! From the jacket, to the endpapers, and more, there are wonderfully crisp details: spot gloss varnishes, vibrant rich colors, matte heavy text paper, and so much more. And from my old lettering days, it was a true delight to get to handletter the cover! I'm so very grateful that they approved of it and added the varnish too! :)

***Enter for a chance to win a copy of this hardbound picture book by 1/15/20 (sorry my graphic says 1/14 but I'm extending it to 1/15) midnight PST by commenting below, and should you ever read the book or purchase a copy, please consider leaving a review (,, etc.) as it's a great way to share your thoughts about the book! Thank you in advance.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


For picture book/book creators, this post blew me away...thank you John Shelley ( for this incredibly helpful post regarding signatures and how books are printed, and why there are certain page counts for picture books.

Number of Pages

Picture books are constructed from signatures. Pages are laid out and printed together on large sheets, which are cut in half (giving 4 sides), then half again (8 sides), then folded, making a bundle of 16 pages called a “signature”. Many picture books consist of two signatures sewn together, resulting in a 32 page book. It's the most common format, and as common is generally easier to produce, it's best to submit dummies with a 32 page plan. However for slightly extra cost an extra half sheet (8 pages) can be added, making 40 page (2.5 signature) and 24 page (1.5 signature) books. Three signatures would create a 48 page book, four a 64 pager and so on. Even more confusingly, on rare occasions sheets are removed too - my last book in Japan, a version of Jack and the Beanstalk, is an irregular 44 page separate ended book - that's three signatures with one sheet (4 pages) replaced by separate endpapers. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Beet harvest...who likes beets?

...or perhaps pinecones?

Happy November, and upcoming Thanksgiving to all here in the states!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Follow That Map! by Sheri Tan, published by Lee and Low books - A GIVEAWAY

Hello, hope everyone's doing well!
I wanted to wish a happy belated "book birthday" to
Follow That Map! by Sheri Tan, illustrated by me, and published by Lee and Low Books!

To celebrate, I'm giving away a copy of the paperback, so if you'd like to enter the BOOK GIVEAWAY, please leave a comment to enter by 10/27 midnight PST. Good luck!

This Dive Into Reading early chapter book reader was a true challenge to illustrate, truth-be-told! There were multiple scenes of crowds, buildings, and interior shots of buses and subways, and it was a challenge to provide easy-to-follow (not daunting) illustrations of what it would be like to use public transportation. Thankfully with the keen art direction by Maria Mercado and guidance by editor, Jessica Echeverria, I feel that we succeeded and I’m so proud of how this sweet book turned out. Following Pablo and his friends as they walk, ride the bus, then take the subway to finally arrive at Coney Island, is such a rewarding feeling as you empathize with Pablo's friends how sometimes travel can be challenging. Someday, I'd love to visit Coney Island, and maybe I'll take the same route the kids follow. :) It was an honor to illustrate this 8th book in the series and I hope you all get a chance to enjoy this story! Visit:, or your local bookstore for a copy, or do enter for a chance to win!

PS - thank you, Kirkus, for a wonderful review..I'm very grateful.