My Totally Self-indulgent, Look What I Did Post

I’ve been in Red Wing, Minnesota all week with like-types at a retreat. And thought I’d share a little bit of my experience.

I love hanging with other kid’s book building people. Meeting two fellow PictureBookBuilders there was especially nice. 

With Jill Esbaum and Pat Zietlow Miller!!!

There was joy and inspiration at every turn. People read their works-in-progress to the whole group. We ate together, drank together, and played together. We put on costumes. We hunted scavenging-ly. We hiked, biked, shopped, saw the World’s Largest Boot, etc. 

We played music…

We played poker…

There were learning sessions and I took notes during them, and they all kind of ending up looking like this:

Which made me happy. Because I haven’t just sketched like this, without an agenda, with no idea what is going to come out of my pen, in a long, long time. It seems whenever I pick up a pencil (or stylus) I need to work on something specific. Either work I am contracted for or developing works in progress. I have no idea what any of these are about, but there may be a spark or two of story in one of them. Even if not, they were fun and good exercise. Made a little more challenging by working with the unforgivable ballpoint pen.

That no-agenda-creativity carried over when a handful of illustrators took over a table at the outdoor bar Wednesday morning. We got together to chat about our work, the industry, our concerns and anything else that came up. Naturally, we all had our watercolor and drawing stuff with us and after ordering a couple of carafes of mimosas, we began creating. Drinking and drawing, if you will.

My inspiring illustrator pals/muses, Deborah Underwood, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Kevin Lewis, Katherine Battersby, Laura Ludwig Hamor, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Lauren Paquette.
Inspired by a pen sketch from above, I painted this.
Deborah Underwood’s Quilt Bug.
Ruth McNally Barshaw’s adorable monster.
Katherine Battersby’s sketches. I love particularly the pigeon in a doughnut.

In the end, what I learned is what I’ve always known; we all work so isolated that when we get together with other creatives we love and admire, there seems to be a coming together of muses and I am more inspired, more inclined to pick up a pen or a brush and make something. And maybe it will be something great and inspire further exploration. Or maybe it will just be a good exercise in scribbling. No matter, my soul comes away filled.


  1. So much fun! I love getting together with other creatives!

  2. I think that’s what I love most about retreats and other gatherings of creatives—how they get your imagine recharged and those creative juices flowing. I’m glad to hear this was such an experience for you, Kevan. Btw, just read Ghost Cat and loved it.

  3. What a fun time! I’m jealous.

  4. Jody Jensen Shaffer

    Wow. Love the art!

  5. I don’t illustrate, but time with other writers is a treasure!

  6. The retreat looked inspiring and fun! Thanks for sharing

  7. I notice the hotel was established in 1875 on your sketch pad. The history buff in me would love that. Glad your creativity was recharged.

  8. A great post and amazing photos of everyone!
    Loved your sketches and hope there’s a story hiding in there!

  9. Dude hanging with you for four days is––well––real. And the best! And pretty much awesome in all ways! But don’t let it go to your head:)

  10. What a great way to recharge and reconnect!

  11. Looks like a great time was had by all. The St. James is a very special place to be.

  12. Sitting next to you while you sketched was a joy, watching that creative flow. Raising a glass to you, my friend.

  13. Hugs, Kevan. I feel exactly the same way — isolated from other illustrators most of the time, craving time with them at the retreats, so inspired by them, and giddy with happiness when we get to play with art together.
    We’ve got a pretty darned good thing, and I am grateful.

  14. Wow, Kevan. Even your doodles are amazing! So fun seeing you again. 🙂

  15. I love the pen doodles! And yes, getting together with other creatives makes for a LOT of inspiration (and fun) doesn’t it?

  16. Love your art, Kevan & can’t wait for your book with Dori.

    So great to see you, Jill & Pat! 2021 is too far away!

  17. I loved reading this. Such a wonderful time! The Veranda art session was one of my favorite parts of a retreat filled with fabulousness. I miss everyone!

  18. Loved so much seeing you and everyone, and YES to that need for connection and how inspiring it is. Also, sitting next to you at one of those learning sessions and seeing your notes made me incredibly happy. Not as happy as seeing your amazing self, but close! Super excited to see you at SCBWI soon!!

  19. How fun! Getting together is always a good idea, and it’s the perfect reminder for me today. Thank you! Those sketches make me happy. 🙂

  20. I love all of it! Kevan, so happy you get to do this. I forgot how much I missed seeing your rough sketches, full of charm and naughtiness. Finally, this year I’m part of a face-to-face group again with not one, but TWO illustrators and it’s soooo wonderful.

  21. This looks like it was so much fun! I’ve never seen a watercolor pen before! That’s awesome! I hope to one day have a group of awesome writing/illustrating pals like this!!

  22. I especially like that Quilt Bug!

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