I’m still here… sort of!

By heather at 7:33 pm on Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Well I’ve definitely fallen off the social network bandwagon! Down the track I expect I’ll be able to start illustrating and blogging again, but for now, if you don’t see me posting… just assume I’m too busy enjoying my kids to do so ;) Here are some happy snaps of what I’ve been keeping busy with the last 12 months… and to officially introduce Ruby Rain Castles, born July 25, 2012.
Before July 25, 2012…


…and after!









Filed under: business of illustration, Hera, Hank, Ruby1 Comment »

A Happy Easter Tweet!

By heather at 1:11 am on Sunday, April 1, 2012

heather castles easter chicks eggs imagezoo royalty free colouring page

Here’s an Easter tweet for your little ones! (Just right click to view full sized image, and save from there to your desktop.) If you post a link to your child’s finished coloured in page, I’ll post it up here to share with other readers :) Here’s the link to last year’s Easter colouring page free to download.
heather castles easter chicks eggs imagezoo royalty free colouring page I used my ipad to vectorize (digitally trace!) my illustration in InkPad using a 50c rubber-tipped stylus I picked up on eBay. (Please keep in mind this colouring page is for personal use only, the original illustration is from my royalty-free collection available at Imagezoo.com.)

Filed under: illustrations, ipad Leave A Comment »

Happy Birthday Mama!

By heather at 8:10 pm on Friday, March 30, 2012

heather castles ugly happy birthday mama

hera castles happy birthday mamaWas my birthday yesterday (32!), so I treated myself with a little arty time. I had stumbled across other artists who came up with some illustrations based on children’s drawings, and had a go with my Ugly Mermaids illustration. So when my daughter Hera drew a picture of me (left), herself & Hank on my birthday last year… I had to have another go at it! Busy life as a mum has kept me from colouring in my pencil drawing till today :) Again I used Sketchbook Pro on my iPad to do the colouring, and to touch up a couple child-induced spills!

Filed under: illustrations, Hera, Hank, ipad Leave A Comment »

Crafty | Big Colour & Play Drawings

By heather at 1:22 am on Friday, February 10, 2012

I have been doing these big colour & play drawings for my kids over the last couple years… I find attention spans of toddlers & preschoolers can dwindle pretty quickly, so I draw a big picture that we can work together on a bit each day until it’s finished. We start off with a slice of recycled paper from a big pad, butcher paper or big pieces of coloured paper.  My daughter loves mixed media, so the markers, crayons & pencils all come out. When the colouring’s done the glitter or cut paper come into play. (I love the mix of kid scribble and adult colouring… I try to stick to the big boring areas like sky while Hera does the fun bits, makes the kid’s part really stand out).
The play aspect comes in with stickers and paper dolls. Kids love to decorate and stick (and peel, and stick, and peel) stickers, and this big play surface is fun for their imagination. Once they get unsticky, we glue them to stiff paper and cut them out and reuse them as paper dolls.

(This is the first one we ever did, Hera drew the first hill and the rest evolved from there!)
A few of the big colour & play drawing ideas we have done (again and again!) are :

  • • Underwater scenes (Octonauts!)
  • • Castles (with paper princess stickers)
  • • Roads with hills and ponds (Great one for driving cars on afterwards!)

Once all the creative play is done, the big drawings make great posters for rooms. And once they come down from the wall, they can be potato-stamped to make into home made wrapping paper.

(Lifecycle of this craft : Tree > Paper > Big Colour & Play Drawing > Poster > Wrapping Paper to ?!)

Filed under: green design, Hera, crafty3 Comments »

Green Craft | Rejuvenate Dried Up Markers

By heather at 1:00 am on Friday, February 3, 2012

I stumbled across this tip at Stubby Pencil Studios… breathe life back into dried out water based markers by dipping them in water! I had a bag full of dried out markers I hadn’t quite found another use for, so gave it a go. The method I used was :

  • • Put just enough water in the bottom of a container cover the tips of the markers (In hindsight, tall glasses would have worked better as they won’t tip!)
  • •  Dip the marker tip in and leave it for a few minutes.
  • • Remove from marker and put the cap back on. I only waited a few more minutes before testing them out, and they worked wonderfully.

Not sure how many times this trick will work, but my daughter was pleased having a dozen old markers back into the fold and has been colouring up a storm! (And for those curious, the coloured water from runoff ink was too watered down to reuse as paint.)

Filed under: green design, tutorials, crafty4 Comments »

On Maternity Leave… Again!

By heather at 1:03 am on Friday, January 27, 2012

heather castles maternity leave

Well, I’ve been off maternity leave, freelancing part-time for the last three months, only to go back on it again… am delighted to be expecting my third baby in August. So, I will be continuing my casual approach to blogging for a while longer!

If you were thinking of contacting me for illustrations while I’m on maternity leave, I am referring my clients to Jason MacKay… he’s a talented digital illustrator with published children’s books under his belt, has a great style and work ethic… and he’s my brother, so I know him personally and recommend to anyone looking for illustrations!

Filed under: business of illustration, Hera, Hank1 Comment »

Happy Holidays

By heather at 7:11 pm on Friday, January 20, 2012

heather castles christmas crafts potato stamp

This is your (belated) holiday card :) Hope you had a happy and safe holiday with your family and friends!

heather castles christmas crafts potato stamp

Was fun making Christmas Cards out of some of Hera’s old drawings, a great way to reuse them. Hera & I glued the drawings down onto cheap holiday cards from the dollar store, then once they were dry we cut them out and did potato stamps on them.

heather castles christmas crafts potato stamp

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Christmas Craft | Potato Stamp Paper

By heather at 7:47 pm on Sunday, November 20, 2011

christmas potato stamp wrapping paper recycled

I’ve wanted to do this for years, and having a 3-year-old to do it with gave me the perfect excuse to have a go at making potato stamp holiday paper. Was an easy, quick craft… all you need is a small potato and knife to cut the pattern out of it, a little paint and a flat container to put it in, and large paper. We reused Hera’s old drawings, which added a quirky flare with creepy stick figures peeking through the trees! Hank was too busy practicing crawling up and down off the ottoman to join us ;)
christmas potato stamp wrapping paper recycled

christmas potato stamp wrapping paper recycled

Filed under: green design, inspiration, Hera, Hank, crafty1 Comment »

Children’s Book in Progress | Step 1 : Setup!

By heather at 8:36 pm on Friday, November 18, 2011

heather castles sid rules the ruse childrens book illustrations

I’ve just started working on illustrating and designing a new children’s book, eeeeeee! Now that the contract was signed, the deposit received, and I’m ready to put pencil to paper, and thought I’d share my process as it’s happening.

1) Setup :  30 minutes
• Printing out copy of contract
• Print out and fill out time sheet
• Print out manuscript
• Set up a folder on my laptop to organize files created and received along the way
2) Analyzing the story : 2 hours
• Reading through the story to determine how much text will go on each page
• Underline key visual imagery to be included in illustration mentioned in story
• Make notes for ideas for imagery I have while reading the story
• Sketch thumbnails of the layout with notes on rough concepts for each spread

3) Gathering Imagery : 30 minutes
• Using Google Images to find imagery to use as reference and inspiration

4) Preparing proof for author : 1 hour
• Scanned any thumbnails
• Created book layout in InDesign
• Inserted the text and scanned images into the layout according to my thumbnails
• Described each page on digital “sticky notes” on each page
• Emailed author a PDF proof of the concepts for review
heather castles sid rules the ruse childrens book illustrations

Time spent so far : 3.5 hours
Materials : pen, 8 pieces of recycled printer paper, ipad, and InDesign on laptop.

Next up over the next couple weeks are more detailed sketches…

Filed under: work in progress, illustrations, childrens books, business of illustration4 Comments »

Have you visited your website today?

By heather at 3:17 am on Friday, October 28, 2011

I had the pleasure of receiving the news that another one of my children’s books won a Mom’s Choice Award (will keep you in suspense as I get more details!) Shortly afterwards I started to receive emails from Terry Doherty, Director of New Media & Alumni Marketing, with tips on how to promote our books. This one focused on how accessible and up-to-dateyour online presence is.

The first thing Terry asked was “Have you visited your website today?” I hadn’t …being on maternity leave it isn’t high on my priority list between changing diapers and answering the non-stop questions my 3-year-old rattles off to me during the day!

But Terry, whose job was to connect my online presence with theirs, went on and wrote :

“Sometimes I get lucky and I find the buttons that will take me to other platforms, but I would have to say 70% of the time I end up having to log into each of those programs separately to discover that yes, you are on Facebook, use Twitter, have a YouTube channel, or have a blog.”

Several “observations” were also offered in this email… but I think they are more accurately described as big, black holes! The tips are so good I’ll quote them here :

  • • “Check your dates. Website copyright dates of 2009 and “coming fall 2010” for your next book send the message “this website isn’t maintained.”
  • • Check your links. If you’ve changed your website or blog host, make sure your links still work and that your RSS feed goes to the new blog.
  • • Check your message. Do the blurbs about your product say different things? Does the data on your website match up with the details on a seller site? is your message consistent?
  • • Connect with your partners. Do you have links to the website and/or blog of your collaborators or producers (e.g., publisher, illustrator, manufacturer)? Do they work?
  • • Is your news up to date? If the last “public event” on your website calendar is a year old, but you’ve got an event next week, who’s gonna know?
  • • Ditto interviews and special features … people want to see reviews, interviews, demos, etc. that are recent.”

Terry finished with a statement that made me set aside the last hour updating this blog…

“It is my job to do that legwork and dig down into the pages of your website and search your name, product name, producer, and collaborator on every platform individually. It takes me about an hour per honoree to do that. Do you want your potential customers to work that hard? “

Filed under: business of illustration2 Comments »
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