Archives: Cakelustration

2015 Highlights Foundation Picture Book Boot Camp

Highlights from Highlights

Picture book boot camp faculty Denise FlemingPat Cummings, Peter Brown and Greg Pizzoli


Arrival and Tour

The Barn
Touring the Highlights Magazine Offices

Carolyn Flores loves her dinos!

After an evening of touring, everyone had an opportunity to share their projects with all the attendees.  There was so much talent to be seen!

This is the story that I presented  about a koi fish. Junichi’s story is based off of a Chinese folktale about how a koi fish endures swimming upstream to the top of a waterfall and becomes a dragon. This story represents why the koi kites became one of the symbols of Japan’s children’s day.

Tale of the Dragon Fish
Junichi was always last and wished he could swim

as fast as his brothers and sisters.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to fly,” thought Junichi.


The faculty presented their work and we got busy on our manuscripts.

Greg Pizzoli
Peter Brown
Pat Cummings
Denise Fleming
Little Cabins in the woods

Pat Cummings and Martha Rago
Sheli Petersen and Carolyn Flores are ready for the photo!

Denise thought we all needed a new pair of teeth

for our group photo.

Denise looks just lovely with her new set of teeth!

Time to get to work!

We separated into 4 different groups, each one lead by a faculty member. My group was lead by Greg and we were called the “Baby Pigeons”. We worked all morning with our groups then in the afternoon presented our manuscripts to the other 3 faculty. We had only 15 minutes to share with each one and boy did those 15 minutes go by fast! It was a really intense day. I think I became more confused as the day went on and later found that I had to do a lot of purging of my work to make it a more finished peice.

That evening the Guest Faculty arrived. Nancy Paulson of Nancy Paulson Books, Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffor Content agency, and Martha Rago the art director of Random House/Golden Books for Young Readers Group. We presented our work to them the next day.

The Lodge

The lodge is where I spent most of my Friday evening into the wee early morning of Saturday finalizing my manuscript and book dummies. Thanks to Carolyn for kept me company and let me use her drafting tools. I still think I was the last man standing that night.



My little cabin

Patricia Keeler and Robin Rosenthal

It was fun to hear what everyone thought of my story.

I feel inspired to return home and work

on it until it is ready for submission.

Sketching by Lori Ann Levy-Holm


Final Workshop Day

I thought it would be fun to share a few little adornments for the cupcakes at our last meal together. So, I took out my trusty cake decorating tools and got to work. I did have to improvise on a few things.

Rolling out the modeling chocolate.
Using the top of a salt shaker to shape the flowers.
Just a few little flowers
with pearl candy centers.
Yum! Yum! Yum!

So they weren’t as elaborate as I usually make things, but I think they were appreciated. The chef at Highlights kept telling me how slow I was…This is why I would probably fail at being on a cake show!

Greg and me!
Martha, Peter and I.
Me and Denise with our pearl whites, not the dingy ones.
Me and Pat
Robin, Shelli, Carolyn, Leni and Renee
Sheli, Tom, Renee, Peach!, Carolyn and Leni
Me, Allison, and Carolyn

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the Highlights Foundation‘s Picture Book Boot Camp. It was an incredible opportunity and I learned so much more about the industry. Thanks to the wonderful faculty; Denise FlemingPat Cummings, Peter Brown and Greg Pizzoli for an unforgettable weekend! Thank you to Highlights for the wonderful facilities and to all the attendees who made my weekend so special!

Sheli at her little cabin in the woods
Nice little swing on the property.
Boyd’s Mill Press
Down by the Creek

Nice trail we took alongside the creek.

Love all the vegitation.

Stone steps to the creek.


Good Night!

Feature in American Cake Decorating Magazine

Thank you to American Cake Decorating Magazine for featuring me in their “In My Kitchen” section of their July/August issue.

Here is the link to the American Cake Decorating Magazine website where you can purchase your copy of this months issue. It has great tips on cake decorating and is loaded with information about what is going on in the industry.

In this issue I am honored to share a tutorial with other cake friends on how to paint a flower design on a cake. It is something that I hope everyone tries. It is a lot of fun once you get the hang of it and can be a quick and elegant way to dress up a fondant covered cake. Nothing is better than a blank canvas, and it is even sweeter when it is made out of cake!

Below is my youtube video of the whole process:



Kidlit411 Spotlight

I wanted to share with you my process of the Pied piper cake that I did recently. I will post some photos here, but would appreciate you checking out the Kidlit 411 blog site to see the full interview.

Character Sketches

Starting the background and

I created a goat out of clay for reference.

Lots of little flowers out of gum paste

Making mushrooms

Background out of foam core and fondant

Gum paste trees

Cake base covered in modeling chocolate and fondant

Pied Piper skeleton

Adding the modeling chocolate

Final Pied Piper

Goat skeletons

Sculpting goats out of modeling chocolate

One of the final goats

Three goats done and 4 more to go

Here are a few of the other critters

that were added to the cakelustration

And the final image of the Pied Piper

Very elated that The Pied Piper won Best of Divisional Competition

at the That takes the Cake 2015 show in Austin, Texas

Thanks for viewing, I hope you enjoyed the process shots.

Winning The Tomie dePaola Award Experience

I’m had a great time at the SCBWI Winter conference in NYC. It’s been so nice to meet up with old friends and make new friends too! But I must say the highlight of my whole weekend was to have lunch with the very talented and generous Illustrator Tomie dePaola.

Every year Tomie puts out a prompt for illustrators to create a piece of artwork for a competition through the SCBWI. This year’s prompt was to illustrate a lovely poem that was written by Lin Oliver. She is one of the founders of the SCBWI. I was honored to win this award. SCBWI paid for my travel and conference and also the lunch with Tomie (which is a new addition this year).

We had a lovely lunch. I will really cherish this day! It was so nice to just be in the presence of someone that has been in this industry for over 50 years. He has over 250 books and is well respected in the children’s book world.

Here Tomie was showing a little girl that was sitting next to us during lunch,
his Brava Strega Nona heartwarming pop-up book

Below I’ve added a few photos of us and a cake that I brought to the conference all the way from Texas. It is a Margarita cake, buttercream icing, fondant with polymer clay characters on top. I created the characters in clay because I knew the fondant would not travel well. This one happily made it to Tomie’s studio in New Hampshire.

Steve Mooser, President, SCBWI and Lin Oliver, Executive Director, SCBWI
Announcing the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola Award

Lin, Tomie and I

Below Tomie is showing my daughter his pop-up book and signing many other books

I would encourage other illustrators to enter the SCBWI Tomie dePaola’s competition.
Thank you 🙂 and Good Luck Illustrators!


2014 SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC

This is my experience of the 2014 Winter Conference in New York City

It all started with this one image, this cakelustration was the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola competition. As my award, the SCBWI gave me an all expense paid trip to the 2014 SCBWI Winter conference in NYC! And the best part, lunch date with Tomie himself!  I am still in awe of my experience!!! I want to share with you my full experience with the talented and generous Tomie dePaola, but that will have to be in another post. So for now I will talk to you about the amazing weekend experience with my new and old friends.

When I arrived, I immediately had to attend the Regional Team meeting where we spoke about what would transpire over the weekend. It was interesting to find out that there were over 1,080 members in attendance this year. I met other Illustrator Coordinators and Regional Advisers, from all over the nation, even from the UK and Australia.

They went to dinner and a show, but I spent time with my cousin and children in the city. We had some delicious New York Pizza!

–––––––––––––––––––Friday Illustrator Intensive–––––––––––––––––

The intensive started off with a bang with Mr. Tomie dePaola himself! Cecilia Yung, Art Director and Vice President, G.P. Putnum’s Sons and Nancy Paulson Books prepared a Q & A about Tomie’s journey as an children’s book illustrator and how he uses the picture book as theater.

Tomie dePaola is an award winning author and illustrator who has won several awards for his works.

“Every book is like a child, you never know what will happen along the way. Once the baby is out, you don’t feel the pain, only JOY!” -Tomie dePaola

Brett Helquist illustrator/author spoke on casting and character development. He said, “you should always Practice, Practice, Practice….”

Paul O. Zelinsky spoke of illustrators on set design -staging.  “Don’t line up things, be aware of the elements, characters, and backgrounds and how they relate to each other.”

Did I mention I had a stow away? A little rabbit named Magic, found his way into my suitcase and traveled with me to NYC.

Remember the Rabbit cupcake topper that I made for Richard Jesse Watson? It met an untimely death with a wild studio cat, so I made a non-edible replacement out of Sculpey. Magic will make a new home in Richard’s studio soon.

He went with me to drop off my portfolio for the Portfolio Showcase. This is a showcase of over 200 illustrator portfolios of conference attendees. They are viewed by several industry professionals during the showcase that happened the evening after the intensives.

At the Illustrator Intensive,

Magic was making friends every where we went.

Sarah Baker and Pricilla Burris

Cecila Yung and Pat Cummings

David Diaz and Lin Oliver

Paul Zelinsky was showing us his process, then of course Magic had to get in on the action.

There were these really delicious candies strategically placed all over the hotel during the conference! As you can see Magic enjoyed them too!

–––––––––––––––––Saturday Conference Day–––––––––––––––

Lin Oliver started the conference with a few statistics and  a short powerful speech from Kristen Fulton. She was a veterinarian who became a writer soon after a life changing event happened to her.

Our first keynote was author Jack Gantos. He stated, “characters can carry a weak plot, but a weak plot cannot carry a character.”

I went to Laurent Linn’s break out session and he talked about how illustrators need to be socially connected through, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and websites. Also illustrators should be using Postcards as a marketing tool. Maybe send out 3 or 4 a year to a selective mailing list.

“Then it was off to lunch with Tomie dePaola!”

I’ll write about this in my next post 🙂

The rest of my day was spent with Tomie and then some time in my room absorbing all that had transgressed throughout the day. Soon it was time to get ready for the evening party! I was the only Texan Regional team advisor for our Texas/Oklahoma table. Pretty surprising, but I guess we do have to travel pretty far to get to NYC.

David Diaz’s daughter, Tina WissnerDavid Diaz, Kary LeeChristine Brallier, and Me

Afterwards we had an after party with Illustrators. Tomie dePaola brought the cake I gave him to share with everyone. It looks a bit deflated. Oh well, it still tasted good.

David Diaz, Priscilla Burris, E.B. Lewis, & Cecilia Yung

David Diaz, Tomie dePaola, Pat Cummings, Paul O. Zellinsky, & Sarah Baker

Tomie and I cutting the cake

Tasting the cake. 🙂

Paul and I cowboying it up!

––––––––––––––––Sunday Conference Day––––––––––––––

Lin, Tomie and I getting ready for the morning announcements.

And drum roll please….

And the winner is Akiko White with her illustration made with cake.

So nice to have my cheerleaders in the crowd.

My daughter and I  – me and my writer friend Tina Wissner

We had a few more speakers before the day was over.

Kate Messner was our next keynote speaker. She was amazing! She spoke on the power of failure. Kate had an opportunity to speak at TED Talks in 2012. She left most of us laughing and crying at the same time. “Failure teaches us to celebrate the dance” –Laura Hamor

Keynote panel on the art of the picture book with Peter BrownRaul ColonMarla FrazeeOliver JeffersShadra Strickland moderated by Arthur Levine.

Autograph Party

Paul O. Zelinsky                                  Oliver Jeffers

Jane Yolen and daughter Heidi E.Y. Stemple

Tomie dePaola

Peter Brown

Tomie dePaola, me, and Lin Oliver

And here are some of the books that I acquired while I was at the conference.

2014 Austin SCBWI Conference

As the Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI SWTX I was fortunate to get to join the faculty and other members of the Austin team for an evening hosted by The Writing Barn. It was a lovely evening and I got to share one of my cakelustrations with everyone.

Lulu was a rainbow swirl vanilla cake, buttercream frosting, gum-paste and fondant. I’m pretty sure everyone enjoyed this colorful cake.

As I rushed out the door to the Austin SCBWI Conference, I forgot the most important piece to my auction donation, the character. I was so glad that my husband delivered the mouse for my typewriter cake because it was a big hit.

The first keynote was Matt de la Pena. He is the author of five acclaimed Young Adult novels.

Matt said, “you should put your head down and get into it, do what you do and you’ll be successful!”

He poised the question, “why is it that success is considered so much more important than the beautiful possibilities that exist before it?”

I took the illustrators track and listened to Laurent Linn and Kelly Murphy spoke about the collaboration between art directors and illustrators. It was nice to see the full process of the book take place from both points a view.

Kelly Murphy did the next keynote. Her illustrations are beautiful and give a real sense of the mood that she is trying to convey.

Laurent Linn did the afternoon break out on materials that illustrators use and how to market in what seems to be a sea of illustrators.

I had a portfolio review with Kelly Murphy and she gave me some really great tips for my own illustrations. She even said it would be interesting to see more of the element of cake in my illustrations.  She is also looking forward to a story that would go along with my cakelustrations.

The next morning was the illustrator’s intensive. Kelly Murphy did the first session. We worked on character and the difference in how a character would be illustrated for different audiences. The more simpler the character the younger the audience.

Laurent Linn worked with us in the afternoon session. Some of the illustrators brought artwork for him to critique. Laurent had given a story for us to illustrate a spread from.

I wasn’t able to create anything because I was perfecting my portfolio. But here are a couple photos from the critique.

Laurent is talking about Amy Farrier’s piece.

And here is the book that the story came from.

A few more pictures from the conference:

Houston RA Vicki Sansum, and McCourt Thomas

Shelley Ann Jackson (ARA), Kelly Murphy, me, and Samantha Clark (RA)

Matt De La PenaLaurent Linn, me, Larry Goode, and Jeff Crosby

Amy Farrier (IC), me, Lalena Fisher

Marsha Rita, Luz Marie, me and Patrice Barton

Amy Farrier, Melinda BeaversDiandra Mae, Laurent Linn, Shelly Ann Jackson, me, Marsha Rita

I enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones. 

SCBWI-Southwest Texas Website Banner

This is the Cakelustration banner that I did for the SCBWI – Southwest Texas. This was a challenge since it is such a long horizontal image. Did I mention that it is a margarita cake with a margarita lime flavored buttercream icing. “Are you drooling yet?” I made a few cupcakes with the left over batter. I brushed a touch of tequila over them, added tequila in the icing and my husband said they were the best cupcakes he had ever had!

I will be doing a Google Chat with illustrator and teacher Mark Mitchell from Make you Mark, Make your Splashes next week on the process of this illustration. Please join us Thursday, February 13 at 12:00 p.m. central time. Mark Mitchell has an on-line course on How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator, I would highly recommend his course to anyone who is interested in getting into the children’s book industry. Not only do you learn watercolor techniques,  you will also have opportunities to critique, be critiqued and meet up online with professionals in the children’s book industry.

I have also invited a few of my kid-lit friends to join me in the chat. Richard Jesse WatsonCarolyn Dee FloresJoy Fisher HeinTina Wissner, and Shannon Morgan, maybe joining us in the chat. I also invited a long time friend and talented cake artist Scott Bradshaw.

Below are a few logos and images that came from the same cake:

I do have to say that the water was a lot of fun to create.