Once upon a prickle

Posted by on Aug 14, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, pastels | 3 comments

Sometimes the seed of a story can take awhile to sprout. Lyn Smith wrote a picture book story in 2008 during a graduate class in The University of Southern Maine’s literacy education program. She titled it “A Prickly Tale” and just a few months ago her sweet book dummy came my way.


The story follows a porcupine making it’s journey through the woods, an event witnessed and photographed by her husband, Brian Smith. Lyn and I were matched up in early May by Maine Authors Publishing, and I said a big YES to illustrating the book.

While the photos within were informative, I also gathered a pile of books at my local library to continue my research. I had a lot to learn about porcupines!


First off, I didn’t know they climbed trees! They can sleep and eat in trees for days. I’d never drawn a porcupine, so to warm up, I drew pine boughs.


These later became end paper ideas. It always helps to just start drawing. The rest followed, such as my little color pencil dummy.


I presented this to Lyn in late May when we met for the first time at Arabica in Portland. She looks happy!

During the two weeks I was at an art residency in Nova Scotia, Lyn held onto the book dummy, refining the text and sharing it with her elementary students in Kennebunk. Her purpose in writing the book springs from her literacy work with children and a small group proved to be eager first readers.

photo by Lyn Smith

photo by Lyn Smith

We met again in mid June to discuss changes, such as a new title.


I dove into working on final illustrations. Here I have lightly transferred an enlargement of my dummy book sketch onto sanded pastel paper.


I always saved drawing the quills for last. If you ever wondered what a porcupine would look like without them, what about this?

I drew the interior illustrations before working on the cover. These photos show a progression from sketch to color.

It’s always good to take a break, and see it with fresh eyes another day. I decided to make the setting at dusk. The art will wrap around to the back cover.

Once I sent off the final art digitally to Maine Authors Publishing, I was ready for a break. Marty and I took off on a weekend motorcycle ride, stopping first at the Maine Wildlife Park. I’d heard there were porcupines in residence.

When I saw these two, I kicked myself for not finding them before I began drawing. They are adorable!


Between busily eating fruit and leaves, this one made a yawn. Notice the bright orange teeth!


Before we headed home, I ventured to pop in at Maine Authors Publishing, recently relocated to an 1823 Federal House in Thomaston.


It was a pleasure to meet the team, especially founder and president, Jane Karker.


I left my book dummy with Art Director David Allen and came back to Peaks. Both Lyn Smith and I returned recently for a meeting, discussing design and marketing details.


photo by Jane Karker

Thanks to Maine Authors Publishing for bringing us together. Stay tuned: A Porcupine’s Promenade is due to be published this fall!





  1. Looks like a marvelous book. Thanks for showing us the process.

  2. Congratulations to both Lyn Smith & Jamie Hogan for ‘A Porcupine’s Pronenade’! We will be watching and waiting for it’s debut.

  3. Lyn, I am so glad that you uncovered your draft and that you are getting it published. I can’t wait to share with my next graduate writing class what you have accomplished! Congratulations! The illustrations are wonderful too!

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