Musing on Process

I am asked often about where my stories come from. I’m sure each and every writer out there is quizzed on this—and frequently. It can be a difficult question to answer, employing self examination and introspection, or an easy one with a flippant—yet true—“I’ve no idea.” 

Sometimes, depending on the audience, I like to lie about it. Or, if you will, make up a story about how I make up stories. One of my favorite is “the second drawer down” answer. I talk about a piece of furniture purchased at a garage sale that when I got it home, unstuck the drawers, I found the second drawer down was filled with ideas. I take them all out and the next day it is again filled with ideas. Boy, I wish that was real.

As an illustrator as well as writer, my ‘where do my stories come from” also have a twist to them. Something along the lines of “do you write the story first?” or  “do you draw the pictures first?” 

The answer to that is almost always, the story was inspired by a picture or sketch I’ve done. 

I’ve talked about Bunnies!!! before and how it began with a wild sketch.

And became this:

Likewise with I Love You More than the Smell of Swamp Gas. From this sketch…

…came this story and book.

I’ve got several manuscripts I’m working on now that come from simple character sketches I’ve made. No real idea who or what I was drawing when I drew them, but they all seemed like there was more going on than what just what I drew. 

Sometimes my sketches are inspired or influenced by things in my world. And then a story might come from those sketches

Like this one. A friend was telling me about the mythology(?) of cardinals and I found it kind of fascinating. This sketch came along within a few days of that conversation. And then another…

and another.

I love the characters and they were begging me for a story. So I tried writing it. Like most first drafts it kind of sucked. I made some more sketches,

and wrote some more. I introduced another character and rewrote it again.

And revised it and revised it, adding further sketches between revisions. I think, at revision 10, I am 93% there. 

This is not an unusual process for me. Draw, write, draw, write. It doesn’t always work but it is a great way for me to get started.

I don’t know if this story becomes viable, but again, I love the characters and I’m going to try and make it work.

Some of you may be familiar with another exercise I do.  To challenge both my drawing skills and my story skills I add things (mostly monsters) to old photographs. If I can make the photos evocative or fun or both, I’ve succeeded. 

Here’s some recent examples…Inspire any stories?

So, I guess the answer to the question, “Do you write the story first or draw the pictures first,” the answer is always, “Yes.”


  1. Love how you add monsters to old photos, Kevin! Any chance that could become your next PB? Thanks for sharing your process. As a writer, it’s fascinating to hear how ideas develop for illustrators and writer/illustrators.

  2. Such an interesting post! Love the personality you’ve created with that young girl.

  3. Your artwork is wonderful. And I wish I had one of those drawers too!

  4. Love it!

  5. I wish I could draw. Maybe I should try. You never know what I could make happen.

  6. OMG, I adore all of these. Your style is so cool, and I appreciate that you share your process. We often think there’s a right way to do things, and there’s not, whatever works for you, works for you, the end. And it is FOR SURE working for you!

  7. Wonderful answers! And even better results. Those photos are the best!

  8. Your artwork is vivid with emotions & colors–love it! And as a writer, it’s interesting to learn that illustrators also go through rounds of revisions.

  9. Loved reading about your process. Your illustrations are so appealing and fun. Love the old photos!

  10. Kevan, this is such a great post. Always willing to go where your mind leads! These monster-added photos are … well, something big’s going to happen there, I can feel it.

  11. Lynne Marie Pisano

    So fun! I always enjoy your posts, Kevan!

  12. Did you write a fun post or an informative one? YES! 🙂

  13. Thanks for sharing your process, Kevan. I’m already in love with the cardinal characters. Can’t wait for this one!

  14. Thanks for sharing your musings. Your characters always feel like friends.

  15. Thanks for this interesting perspective on your work, and to follow up on the “where do your stories come from?” question, YOU just gave me an idea for a blog post. Thanks !

  16. Your characters are so delightful! Thanks so much for your insightful post😊

  17. this post was very encouraging and inspiring. I want to get to know more about the little girl in red. Thank you!

  18. Love it! That’s a great way to begin a story (if I could draw). Thanks for sharing with us!

  19. Thank you for sharing your process for creating art and stories. I’m certain some kind of heartwarming story will emerge from your cardinal illustrations. And those monsters in the photos? …there are some wild stories to come!!

  20. Your ways for coming up with a story are fascinating. Creating the illustration and story as you go along is interesting and I love the monsters added to the photos. Thank you for sharing your process, Kevan.

  21. This post was a fun read. Thanks, Kevin, for sharing how you come up with ideas!

  22. I love your illustrations, Kevan, but especially the girl and the red cardinal. WOW!

  23. Love these illustrations – and the idea of the second drawer down!

  24. Another great post, Kevan, about your process. You have me hooked with your character sketches a girl, carxinal, and fox so here’s hoping that story finds its true path.

  25. Those pictures are hilarious. Thank you for sharing your process. Inspiring!

  26. Thank you for sharing! I loved seeing how your process has worked.

  27. Kevan, your Art is what I call Happy Art. Big, bold but not too bold, with illos that make a person smile. That is a true gift. I like that you have several different styles, You could have an entire business just adding Monsters to people’s old family photos! think how happy people would be! Add a song with the photo and you’ve got a great greeting card. What will become of the girl with the cardinal? I love her so much. She reminds me of myself when younger. I talked to animals back then too. I now have a cardinal family that has set up a nest the last 2 years, right next to the porch where I play guitar. They seems to like it. What is that girl’s story? I am so curious, esp. w/the fox added. I also have a beautiful, tall legged fox in the woods that I live in, Thank you for sharing your creative process too. I never analyzed how I composed music and songs before kidlit, I just let it flow. I still do, but now I’m more picky about word choices. The same language that will light up a sentence does the same thing with song. I will be watching for more from you. Thanks for the smile. Happy Art is my thing. Happy Music too.✌🏼🎶🎨📚😊

  28. Love this post. Love the illustrations!

  29. Wonderful post, Kevan! I am obsessed with your photo bombing monsters. They’re fantastic! ❤️🎨

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