I Am Famous

First, I'm not a blogger. I don't trust myself to give anyone advice as I tend to stumble through life learning along the way.  Second I spend most of my days hidden in my room working away and taking care of my kids etc..,  I am kind of a hermit but braver behind the screen where no one can see me.  So this is huge step for me to write about anything in public.  Knowing that I probably have a gozillion grammar not grandma mistakes my dad could pick out, I'm still going to take that step and talk about this book. Every year I tell myself I'm going to write more about my experiences as an illustrator but then great projects come along and I get distracted.  So bare with me if you see sentences that are cringe worthy. My kids are probably shaking their head when they read this and going "Mom, let's keep it positive, ok". Okay,Okay.   Here goes and thanks for taking the time to read this. I appreciate it.

As parents, we've all been through this where every new stage our children reaches or some special (ordinary) thing they have done, we would rush to photograph or film them to a point that we may look a bit crazy obsessed to the outside world.  But yet, it's these very moments we want to record so we can later share our stories/experiences with our children and grandchildren.  I've spend many evenings in bed telling my kids about their baby, toddler days and sometimes together, we look at the photos and videos and have a really good time laughing at some of the sillier stories. It always brings us closer together especially in these moments. It also helps them understand how important they are in our lives.  Once the chaos of the day ends and they are lying asleep in bed, I would find myself sometimes looking at the videos smiling and tearing up.  I honestly miss those days and I'm so glad I've photographed and video them in every stage of their lives.  As much as it drives them crazy and the "NOT AGAIN MOM!!!", I'm glad to be the paparazzi in my children's lives.

So when I was approached to illustrate I Am Famous, I was quite excited because it was very much a character driven book and I love working on these type of stories. What made it sweeter was it reminded me of the times I had with my little ones. Making the book was like reliving those sweet memories and not so sweet ones of my kids. I can definitely identify with this book in many ways.

This was my second time working with Albert Whitman. I had illustrated a book A Day with Parkinson's for them and it was a great experience. So it was nice to come back together again with the team to make another book.  Tara and Becky's story made it easy and fun to do. I laughed at some of their descriptions and my kids thought it was hilarious which pretty much sealed the deal. 

So I wanted to share some character sketches and final artwork for I Am Famous written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie that just came out this week. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I have making the artwork for this very lovely book. For links to booksellers online, you can go here

Tara and Becky, the authors have also included some downloads that teachers/parents and kids can do for fun together along with the book. You can download it here.

Sharing some sketches and layouts of I Am Famous

Kiely knows she is famous! The paparazzi (her parents) follow her every move, documenting with cameras. It’s exhausting being famous, but someone has to do it! She even gets to perform a big song at her grandfather’s birthday. When she messes it up, she’s worried she’s lost her audience forever, but it turns out that no one is as loyal as her fans who love her.

With character sketching, I always go back to googling, lots of back to figure drawings and looking at different attitudes and character of kids.  Memories and photos of my kids are also great references for character sketching. 

Character Sketching

My son the Ninja warrior, photo ©JLV

My son the Ninja warrior, photo ©JLV

My kid and her friends on a field trip.  photo ©JLV

My kid and her friends on a field trip.  photo ©JLV

My daughter playing THOR.  photo ©JLV

My daughter playing THOR. 
photo ©JLV

My daughter who is the shy kid but let's go at home Photo ©JLV

My daughter who is the shy kid but let's go at home Photo ©JLV

Following his sister's foot steps. photo ©JLV

Following his sister's foot steps. photo ©JLV

My son experimenting with his own homemade PiZZA  photo © JLV

My son experimenting with his own homemade PiZZA  photo © JLV

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Thumbnails or Storyboards are probably my favorite part of the illustrating a book. Usually I start with some rough sketch ideas. then I move on to the thumbnails. In this part, I go through a few revisions on my own, print it out and lay it all out on the floor before I decide on which ones to send to the client.  Usually this takes at least a few weeks or more depending on how complicated or simple the story is. Sometimes books with the least words are the most difficult ones and sometimes you find yourself being asked to illustrate every little thing that's been describe in the book.   Some of the layouts I will send two versions so they can decide for themselves which works better with the text.  Then, they come back with the text laid out and comments and I rework them again.  It's a bit of going back and forth because the authors would like to give their comments as well. Once it's all approved, I work on final layouts with pen and ink and get the final approval to colors. Some publishers don't ask for a final line art. Some projects are a bit more complicated which means we need that extra bit of process to make sure it's all going in the right direction.

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Final Color Interiors 

Artwork is done with pen and ink. I scan it in and work with photoshop.  I don't work with any fancy filters, keeping it simple and the rest is just a matter of playing with colors and patterns. I looked back to when my daughter was going through this stage.  It was a fun time being in character with her.  She went through many of these moment.  The Ladybug daddy, true story except it was more like Lady Bug Mommy. I still have the costume safely stored in my children's memory box.

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Final art p.3.jpg

Color Comps for Cover

I worked on the different colors,poses and dress styles on her. We decided to give her a Hollywood style and pose as she walks down the red carpet.


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I Am Famous_JKT color comp.jpg

Some links you can check out



Author Website     |  www.beckytarabooks.com

Publisher Website  | www.albertwhitman.com

I need glasses. WAIT!!!!! I need WHAT?

     Why glasses?  One of the reason I'm writing about this is being an illustrator means I am drawing all the time, making art, creating stories from manuscripts and ideas from clients. It's important that you are able to read your emails and see what you are making. Sounds quite simple, right? it's not so easy as you think when your mind and body are standing on opposite sides.

     Lately I've been resisting the idea that I need glasses.  I've worn them since I was a kid till my 30's when I had a sudden revelation that I've worn it long enough, so by now I should have 20/20 vision. The optometrist and I spend hours going back and forth disagreeing on the results of my eye tests.  Where the hell did he get his degree? He blamed my resistance, I blamed him for his crap discounted machines and bad degree. (Of course, his machines were all high end but in my mind it was all his fault).  I knew my eyes better then him so I stopped wearing them.  I threw them in a box, stuffed it into the storage and I've not seen them since. 

     As far as I was concern, I had 20/20 vision.  Everything was clearer depending on what I was looking at. That's when I discovered selective vision.  My definition of selective vision is deciding to see only what you want and the rest stays blur or visually out of sight. This discovery have helped me out of trouble and confrontations in more ways then one.  And as long as I'm not driving or cycling, I do not need them.  I can identify my children from their smells and loud voices.  I've got my groceries down to A-Z.  I have walked/cycled the same path for the last few years taking my children to school and know my way around the city.  And I've got my secret weapon: using my spider senses to steer me in the right direction with some help of my husband who sometimes puts his arms around my shoulder and say "honey, this way, you've been looking at the wrong direction".

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     The point I'm trying to make is in the last few weeks, I've find myself squinting when I'm trying to read a map, book, directions  the text on my phone. I feel like a secret agent attempting to decipher the letter whether it looks like an "a" or "e". By the time I'm done, I'm sweating buckets and I still have five more letters to decipher. Okay, I'm exaggerating but still it's getting to the point where I'm thinking, I've to go to my optometrist/enemy to have my eyes checked again.  Maybe it's just the late nights working and staring at the computer, reading the manuscripts, having tired eyes that's making me doubt my super 20/20 vision. My pride tells me I can wait cause just the other day I was able to read an entire page without squinting so I'm still okay.  I'm resisting, I know.

     Whether it's resisting  the changes in my eye sight, the  backache,  who knows.  Isn't it a state of mind anyways?  If you think you are young, you stay young.

     BUT I realize that I'm not 18 anymore and I can fight it as much as I want but I won't be able to stop the change. Next to my kids and husband,  making art is something I love and have done all my life since I was a toddler. I can't imagine not being able to see what I'm doing.  So when the time comes and if I have to visit my beloved optometrist, I will do so.  Do whatever it takes as long as you can get back to your drawing board but always take care of your body because without it, you can't do anything else.

Till the next time.