Sandwich feast!


Feast by Sheri Roloff


Use a Graphic Designer’s Mindset to Boost Illustration Impact

Art, Children's Books, Illustration

It turns out a graphic designer’s perspective can be a huge asset when illustrating. Often a few key tweaks can take an illustration to the next level. I try my darndest to think like a designer, but whenever I need outside feedback on my illustrations, I ask my designer friend for her thoughts and BAM! improvements abound.

Here’s my newest example. I created a title page for my in-progress graphic novel using the concept of a TV show opener. You know, the part where the show’s setting and characters are introduced during the theme song. Here’s what I initially came up with:

Cognito Sanchez_Title Page_v1 by Sheri Roloff

I was pretty happy with it. It felt balanced. I liked the flow and layout. But when I placed it within the context of the cover and the chapter 1 sketches, it felt a little out of place. Now, this is an area where graphic designers shine: creating a cohesive look and feel across multiple materials. Upon asking for feedback, my designer friend suggested flooding the background with a color to better coordinate with the cover. And that’s when it hit me: expand the skyline image and extend the water behind the panels below. I also added bubbles, just for good measure. Here’s the result:

Cognito Sanchez_Title Page by Sheri Roloff

So much better! I’m much happier with it, and it coordinates far better with the cover now:

Cognito Sanchez_Cover by Sheri Roloff

It’s exciting when small changes make such a big difference. For more in-depth look at how graphic designer superpowers can boost illustration work, check out my SCBWI blog post. Or befriend a graphic designer today!


Flight of the Flightless Birds


Ostrich, Penguin and Chicken were sick of hearing “You can’t fly!” from their flight-worthy friends, so they took matters into their own hands….or wings…or talons? Flippers?!? …you know what I mean. Now they’re the most adventurous birds on the block.

I created this drawing for July’s SCBWI Draw This! word prompt: Adventure. My illustration “Noisy Ninja Bounces Back” is currently featured in the June gallery. I also posted it here. Comments and feedback are always welcome!

Flight of the Flightless Birds by Sheri Roloff

Wacky Wednesday Post #13: Noisy Ninja Bounces Back


The SCBWI Draw This! June art prompt is Bounce. This one little word inspired me to depict the joys and perils of being a tambourine-loving ninja.

Noisy Ninja Bounces Back by Sheri Roloff


SCBWI WI Fall Conference Recap from a Newbie’s Perspective


As I mentioned in my last post, I attended my first SCBWI conference last weekend. Here are a few highlights and thoughts from the experience.

Folder artwork by David Diaz. Design by Sarah Baker.

Folder artwork by David Diaz. Design by Sarah Baker.

What surprised me

It was a smaller group than I had anticipated. Maybe 100-ish people? It was a very welcoming group, and it seems easier than I expected to get involved and make lasting connections.

What I learned

I learned a ton! I won’t go into great detail as to respect the presenters’ content rights, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience and I learned tons of tidbits on writing and illustrating various levels of kid’s books. It was really helpful to hear from author, illustrator and agent/publisher perspectives. I would definitely recommend this conference to anyone pursuing the craft of children’s books. Connecting with and learning from like-minded individuals was awesome. I look forward to attending again next year!

Two tiny (random) tidbits

Thing 1:
Conference attending 101 – keep business cards in the back of your name tag lanyard. This super basic but super convenient bit of advice was shared at the new conference attendee session lead by Melissa Gorzelanczyk. It allowed me to swiftly swap business cards with a number of people without digging in my bag like an awkward panda.

Thing 2:
“You can’t tinker a novel into working.” These wise words were spoken by Susan Campbell Bartoletti who did an extremely informative presentation geared toward novel writing called “Home Repair Tips for the DIY Writer.” I took a ton of notes, and I think a lot of her methods and recommendations translate into picture book writing as well. You can’t just tinker with the words until the story “works.” You need to make sure the fundamentals of the story are sound before you hone in on making the language just right.

Did I have the guts to use my promo materials?

Confession time. I didn’t work up the nerve to hand out my one-sheet for Run, Cheetah, Run. It just didn’t feel right! I focused more on making connections and swapping business cards vs. promoting. Maybe at a larger conference with more editors and agents it would make sense. I’m still glad I went through the exercise of making it, and I hope to use it in the future.

I’m really glad I brought an illustration portfolio. It was helpful when talking to other illustrators, especially those who also had portfolios. It was really cool to see other people’s work. I met several very talented individuals! In summary, the business cards and the portfolio were great to have.

More on illustration portfolios

I also learned a lot during a session with Martha Rago the Executive Art Director at Harper Collins Publishers. I gleaned helpful tips from her presentation and some quick, in-person feedback on my portfolio. Good news: she likes spiral bound portfolios as it supports a tidy presentation. Yay for doing one thing right! Overall though I need to ditch illustrations that aren’t telling a story and add in more sequences and narrative-building illustrations. This is something I kind of knew, but it was good to hear firsthand as it relates to my specific illustrations.

One last highlight – my manuscript critique

My in-person manuscript critique with JoAnn Early Macken was an immense help. She provided very thorough written feedback that I received the first evening of the conference. I then had 15 minutes with her the next day to discuss and ask questions. I have a lot of great actionable feedback for Run Cheetah Run to tighten and build the story. She also had a lot of positive things today say regarding the language and the premise (yay!).

To sum it up, the Wisconsin SCBWI Fall Conference was a great experience that I would wholeheartedly recommend to kid-lit authors and illustrators alike. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

It’s conference time! Promo materials: Round 1


I’m going to my first SCBWI conference this weekend – the Wisconsin chapter’s fall conference “Risks and Rewards.” I can’t wait to learn stuff!

I’m also looking forward to networking (eek!) even though it’s outside my comfort zone. I put together some promo materials that I can hopefully share in a non-awkward way. I got some business cards printed with my favorite illustration to date.

Business Cards

I also put together a one-sheet for Run, Cheetah, Run. I haven’t found a lot of examples of people doing this for picture books – it seems more like a novel thing, but I thought I’d give it a whirl. After all, I’m trying to pedal myself as an author/illustrator and this gives me the visual space to show that.

Based on what I gleaned from the World Wide Web, I included book-jacket/query-type copy about my story in the prominent spot, an image that supports the story, and then a short bio and small picture of me. I managed to put this together in InDesign. There’s room for improvement, but it’s not too bad for a silly word-slinging copywriter, eh?

Run Cheetah Run One-Sheet

The third thing I put together is an illustration portfolio. I wasn’t wild about using a sheet-protector-style portfolio with a black cover, so I designed a cover and used plastic snap-ring binding instead. I included a clear plastic sheet on the front and back. Not sure if that’s cool or not, but I’ll find out! One of the sessions I’m going to offers a portfolio critique, so I’m excited to get feedback and learn more about what to do and not to do. Oh, and the blurry parts in the photo below are my address. I figured since you put them on your manuscript, they should go on a portfolio (but not on the internet). 🙂


Well, that’s all for now. Here’s hoping I work up the nerve to make connections! Nerd squad here (that’s me!) is mostly just looking forward to learning stuff.

Later, gators!