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Our focus as of late has been sharing with you what lies between the covers of Beautiful Scars. Since our baby’s now a whole week old (goodness!), I think it’s time to take a look at what’s OUTSIDE the book. After all, it’s the face that the world sees first!

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but Durwin and I are both pretty big design/illustration snobs. We have both been known to gravitate towards a book in the store just because of a fantastic font, snappy color palette, or cool spot UV. Once we actually pick it up and look it over, sometimes that pretty face doesn’t have anything underneath it. But, it always makes us look. And when you’re competing for attention in a crowded bookstore, that’s exactly what you want.

Durwin has a lot of experience designing and illustrating some outstanding covers (just take a look at the Avodart how much and see how awesome he can be). His Officer Down series is exceptionally beautiful. (I’m bragging on him because he absolutely would not do it himself!) So, when it came time to illustrate the main image for the cover, Durwin took the lead. We wanted a fairy-tale vibe, in the tradition of the Golden Age illustrators. We’re both hugely influenced by people like Howard Pyle, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Kay Nielsen, and NC Wyeth. We took our inspiration from a fantastic Harper’s Bazaar cover – it perfectly encapsulated what we wanted to reference.

Cover 1 Inspiration

The cover is from 1916, just about the right era for our man Ridley, so it was great material to be inspired by. This piece is incredibly lyrical, with a great sense of scale and playfulness. Just what was needed. And this is what came out!

Scars Mock Up Cover

Of course, we wanted to be inspired, not flat-out copy what was happening, but definitely you can see bits of the original make its way into this version. The cover needed to express a beginning, a sense of advenure about to begin, so cherry blossom branches in the spring are a perfect symbol for that. Ridley and Maddie stand gazing onto both the real world, and Maddie’s imagined world beyond it. It’s hard to tell where one stops and one begins – and that’s just perfect, as one story line flows right into the other as you read through the book.

This version is what many people saw for many years while we were finishing up the book and it was still an ethereal dream. We were lucky to work with phenomenal designers to give us an even better design, which frames the cover and still has that great fairytale feeling that we were hoping to achieve. So, this is what you see when you walk into your local comic book store:


Oh, but one cover was not good enough for us. NOT BY A LONG SHOT. Durwin and I have pretty different styles when it comes to illustration. These two styles merge together to create something pretty great, which you can see in the interior pages. But, we’re both proud of the work we do on our own, as well. So, since the front cover is primarily Durwin, we decided that I should do an image for the back cover in my style, as well. And that’s right here!


I think it makes a great ending to the book, with the fantasy characters flying off to even more adventures. (Although, the image is flipped on the printed cover! It works better, as they’re flying to the right instead.) It’s a good companion piece to the front, which features our real-world characters. Together, they encapsulate what makes our individual styles great, while the interiors show off what teamwork can do. Go team!

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We’ve been going to comic conventions for years (decades even) to set up shop, sell some art and meet and greet. However, there isn’t anything quite like going to a convention when you have a book out.

Emerald City is one of our favourite conventions to go to! It already boasts huge numbers, proximity, and a host city that is a lot of fun to hang out in. Also, it’s a comic-centric convention which means not having to battle video game, movie and toy vendors (and the booth babe armies they employ).

Comics and stories is the name of the day and that’s how we like our conventions!

But what made this convention special was the launch of Beautiful Scars to the world!

The book might be so small, but the box is so heavy!

Boom! and Archaia had a huge presence in the convention, setting shop in skyway, connecting the artists in two rooms. It also meant that we got to hang out with our peeps (and they shipped our heavy books for us!). So good to hang out with Mel, Tay, and Irene!

Our Archaia peeps and family!

Conventions are about connecting with people. We were proud to have our students set up shop and show their wares (Mariya Olyshevska, Amy Clare, Cole Pauls), but a big thanks to Louisa Tsui for holding down the fort while we did the errands that needed to be done.

Too cool for school…

We had a wonderful time hanging out with our art friends! Special shout out to David and Julia Petersen, Mike Yamada, Victoria Ying, Becky Dreistadt, Frank Gibson, Stuart and Steve Ng (let’s grab dinner again soon!), Ryan Hill, Jen Vaughn, Matt Bogart, Scott and Georgia Ball, Royden Lepp and Britney Lee… talking shop, comics, and the value of foam core is always a great time! We also got to meet new artists at the show: Braden Lamb, Shelli Paroline, Brandon Graham, and Cil Cheung. We have the coolest art neighbours!

Day 1

Beyond signing our books, the commission work, and the many Jimmy John’s sub runs, we wanted to thank all of the people we’ve met over the weekend who generally wanted to read our book. One story that stood out came from meeting Ketty, a young gentleman who read our book and felt a special connection to the book on the spot. The book reminded him of his grandfather and we all shared a moment we’ll never forget. Needless to say, I’ve never drawn with that much water in my eyes… Hopefully the drawing has dried out.

Day 2

So thank you all for coming to visit us in our little corner of Artist’s Alley. It was a convention we will never forget. And Ella, we’ll draw you another Superdog next year!

Day 3. See you next year!

Up next… San Diego Comic Con! We can’t wait.


Beautiful Scars Preview Party

Saturday, March 22 is a night that Guin and I won’t soon forget. It was the date that we shared Beautiful Scars with the world (albeit, localised to Vancouver). From 8:30-10:30 at Kafka’s, we sold books and prints, had a slideshow going, and even live painted for an auction. Friends who helped illustrate the Fairy tale section of the book were on hand to sign their prints and make us look cool (thanks to Ola Volo, Robin Carpenter, Nomi Chi and especially our field generals Amanda Visell and Michelle Valigura!).

Kafka’s Coffee  and Tea was packed, noisy, chaotic and absolutely a blast. And before the end of the evening, all the books were sold out.

But this wasn’t what we will take away from the event. What made the evening special is that we got to spend time with our friends and illustration family. From current students to former students, from fellow faculty and deans from Emily Carr to our peers in life–cramming everyone who welcomed us into Vancouver and kept us going on this project was a gift for Guin and I.

We thank everyone who was on this journey with us, and especially for those who had to root from afar because they couldn’t make the festivities. We heard our cheering section all the way to Canada!

If we had this much fun at the preview, imagine how we’ll feel when this book finally launches (and stand by for our Emerald City adventures to boot!). We thank you in advance for your support and cheer!

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John Van Fleet is one of the more impressive guys you’ll meet. And I’m not just talking about his goatee. He’s creative and clever, and will keep you in stitches. He’s also an outstanding artist with a huge amount of creativity. (There’s also a professional poker player under the same name, and I’m not entirely convinced that he’s not ALSO John in some kind of disguise.)

He has a really provocative style that combines 3D models with painting to create some really interesting mixed-media paintings. His clients include D.C. Comics, The Walt Disney Company, Mammoth Records, Sony Pictures, MGM Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Warner Brothers and Electronic Art, and now, little ol’ us!

When we were thinking about the moment to assign to John, our thoughts went right to dragons. Specifically, our dragon. This moment shows where Nightshade the dragon is slain, and plummets to earth (not too much of a spoiler; we won’t tell you how it happens!).  With John’s 3D prowess, we knew he could deal with such a massive form in a really cool way. And we are so, so thrilled with the result. I love the distressed feel of this image, it feels like a cellophane film strip about to burst into flames. His version of Nightshade is truly terrifying – a perfect end to a perfectly evil creature.

Check out more of his amazing work at his site!

Edit: Here’s the obligatory awkward reaction shot, this time from a very sickly Guin! Even with the plague, she’s super excited about this dragon.


Thumbs way, way up.


I received my preview copy in the mail today! (It hasn’t made it all the way to Canada yet, poor Durwin.) It was the most exciting moment I’ve had with this book so far. We worked so long on this book, to get it finished and then proofed and edited, to finally have it in my hands as a finished thing is an incredible feeling.

So incredible that it deserves a ridiculous animated gif!


Click to play!

Only about 6 weeks until it can be in your hands as well. Yes!

Keep Warm These Holidays!

Guin and I have been doing holiday cards for a while now. The general work flow is that we realise that the Holidays are coming, we panic, and then we create a card.

This time, we combined two of our favourite things for this year’s card: movies and sweaters.

So welcome to our Christmas Story sweater pattern! We hope it keeps you warm on these holidays.

Fah rah rah rah rah! Rah rah, rah rah!


(If someone actually turns this pattern into a sweater, scarf or stocking, send us a pic and we’ll post it!)


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This week was Mary Blair’s birthday. She was born in 1911, so this would have been her 102nd one. I didn’t even realize until I saw a post on Facebook, and thought it would be a great time to talk about her. Because I always want to talk about her.


If you’re not aware of her work, or aren’t one of the 15,971 people on Facebook who have “liked” Mary Blair’s page, she was a phenomenal artists who worked for the Walt Disney company in the 1940s and 50s, working on films like THE THREE CABALLEROS, CINDERELLA, ALICE IN WONDERLAND and PETER PAN. blair-mermaids

Her style was ahead of its time, blending modern, bright color with simplified, graphic shapes. She also produced illustrations for children’s books, advertisements, set designs, and Disneyland attractions including It’s a Small World, which is the closest we’re going to get to living inside her head for a few minutes. Her work continues to look super fresh and contemporary even today.


I want to go to there.

I think I have wrote about her on here before at some point, but it’s always good to talk more and spread the Gospel of Blair. Everyone has that artist that became a huge influence in their life, and was a litmus for their work. A turning point. For me, that was her.

I can’t remember exactly the first time I saw her work. I think Durwin showed me her first, and it was love at first sight. Her work taught me so much about color and how to use seeming disparate color with great results. If you look at her paintings, she uses bizarre color choices, ones you wouldn’t think to put together. I was always timid about using color, often sticking to analogous or otherwise limited palettes because I couldn’t get the riotous riotous color I wanted to behave the way I wanted. It would always end up looking like a hot mess. Her color, the absolute fearlessness and joy with which it seemed to be approached with, inspired me to take chances. It also taught me the value of…well, value (no pun intended). Her colors only work because she had such a strong sense of value. They don’t fight with each other. It always has a clear sense of focus. It seems effortless, but in reality it shows what a master of color she was. I learned that she was highly influenced by the Fauvist movement, and I can definitely see that in her work. I still have a fairly extensive image morgue of her work that I turn to for inspiration when I’m stuck.

I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the Disney archives while with the Hartford Art School MFA program a few years ago and got to see her work up close and in person. I couldn’t believe how many pieces that I had admired, or works from series that I had loved, were just…there. Hanging on the walls. It was an amazing experience. I just wanted to absorb them into my skin, to take them home with me (but of course I could not, or risk Disney Jail. Worse than Real Jail). She inspired me to think about my work more cinematically – to set a stage and tell a story with color.


This nondescript building houses the most amazing things.

Mary Blair also had a phenomenal sense of shape. I love how simply she can describe a shape and have it just work, whether it’s a figure or a castle or anything else in between. Her characters come to life, in their extreme two-dimensionality, and jump off the page. They aren’t the best to literally animate, however, and I have read that the animators struggled with her designs on occasion. BUT, she could capture the essence of a character or a scene so well. It’s harder to be simple and effective; a lot more is forgiven or hidden with complexity. I think that’s one of the reasons her work resonates with so many people – it’s simple, straightforward, and has nothing to hide. It’s perfect.



This is a postcard from the Mary Blair exhibit in Japan, that I didn’t get to see in person (my super wonderful husband bought me the set). It sits on the corkboard right by my desk to serve as constant inspiration. We all need reminders of what to strive for in our work, and though I have many art heroes that I look up to, she’ll always be the biggest to me.



The Disney Effect


Durwin and Guin on our first day signing at
the Archaia Booth…

Time to catch people up on our San Diego Comic-Con experience…

Exhausting while being exhilarating! We got to sell a ton of prints (heartfelt thanks to those who supported our 2013 artistic endeavours), we introduced the con to Guin’s cousin (Ryn = Mind Blown) we got to meet a bunch of new people (hello Royden Lepp, Shane Vidaurri, Moro Rogers, Paul Morrissey and Heather Nuhfer), but most importantly we got to preview our book through signings at the Archaia Booth (thanks to Mel Ceylo, Scott Newman and Tay Taylor for putting on a smooth show) and during our Workshop (shout out to Clydene Nee and Inez Gowsill).

Our favourite celebrity sighting? Hands down, signing comics next to Alyssa Milano (and her wall of beefy security guards).

Our favourite Comic-Con moment? Following two of San Diego’s finest heading towards the Archaia Booth. The Dispatcher calls them: “Proceed to Hall A, we have a woman who is fully nude.” The Police Officer’s reaction: “FULLY nude?” The Dispatcher’s confirmation: “100 percent.”


However, for Guin and I, the highlight of this crazy trip is always the Monday after the con, when we and the rest of our booth buddies head out to Disneyland down Anaheim way. Joining Scott Hampton, John Van Fleet and Chris Moeller on this annual event is quite the experience. For all of us, we find that leaving a convention space with 120,000 people to travel to an amusement park with considerably more people is strangely relaxing… It may be the rides, recapturing our youth, or maybe even dinner at the Blue Bayou (shout out to Mike and Liz Kennedy), but year after year, we do this ritual and are always happier for it. We even buy matching tee shirts to commemorative every year.


The most excellent Scott Hampton models this year’s
Disney shirt! Score!

After Disney, we stayed at the beautiful casa of Amanda Visell and Michelle Valiguera (and their pack). These are two wonderful LA artists that we feel pretty fortunate to call friends. They are known for being lowbrow artists and have even been referred as the next wave of mid-century artists. However, Guin and I discovered them through their Disney work (one of these days, Guin will have to recount the Pirates of the Caribbean 40th Anniversary Shirt Tale).

photo (1)

Disney art from the wonder studio of Amanda Visell
and Michelle Valigura!

A special treat was being invited for lunch at Disney Feature Animation with Mike Yamada and Victoria Ying, two wonderful concept artists (and their booth in San Diego was spectacular!).

photo (2)

Off to Disney’s! Thanks to Victoria Ying and Mike Yamada!

(I apologize for my serial killer mugshot photo. The Indiana DMV does not take Glamour Shots. -G) Guin and I recently visited Disney Features last year with a school group, and this time was super special as well. Seeing the amazing art on the walls, both old and new, was inspiring. Being at Disney’s (how it was referred to back in the day by Disney vets) made us wonder what is it about this place that energizes artists from all different industries, ages and walks of life.


For the theme park, they use the same exacting standards today as it was when I had to use tickets to ride rides in my youth. And even though 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is now Finding Nemo, and you no longer have to get comfortable with another stranger’s lap on the Matterhorn, the classics are still classic and the new stuff just fits in seamlessly. Even if Guin HATES the fact that Woody is in the Small World ride, she’ still happy her original work remains intact. And as far as the artists that work for Disney today, I feel that they are the best artists around. Splashier artists might work in other studios, but an average animated Disney feature or ride still ends up being more enjoyable than some studios/parks’ best efforts.

It’s an exacting standard that years in and years out has not changed. And as long as that’s the case, then I for one will be in line buying the tee shirt and drinking the Dole Whip.

After all, we’ll be buying a $200 Sleeping Beauty book from Stuart Ng this week. It’s from the happiest place on earth after all.

Tune in next week when we’ll have Beautiful Scars announcements! For now, we are exhausted!

D + G

After our final Archaia booth signing!

After our final Archaia booth signing!