My 28 Days of Kid Lit Art

Mar 18, 2019
Lively coatimundi troop on light blue background with rainforest plants and leaves. Pattern, surface design.

One thing you may not know is that I’ve been doing a personal 100 day project. Actually, I’m on my second one. After I ended my first, I turned around and started the next one. In case this is a new concept for you, #the100dayproject is a ridiculously popular Instagram meme started by @elleluna. The idea is to create for 100 days in a row.

My first personal 100 day project was completely private. I challenged myself to sketch every day for 100 days. Part of my motivation is my desire to grow my skills to take on illustration for children’s books and, fingers crossed, graphic novels. When I hit the 100 day mark, I had grown so much…but not as much as I wanted. So I rolled over into the second 100 days, this time with the intention of developing a style that fits kid lit specifically. And then, I got this bright idea to share my daily drawings on Instagram for the entire month of February under #28daysofkidlitart.

Reclining jaguar on dark background; handlettering in yellow "More purr less hiss." Original art by Tara Rodden Robinson

Illustrating rainforest creatures allowed me to recall so many incredible experiences that I had while I lived in Costa Rica and Panama. Many of my illustrations were inspired by memories of the years I spent working every day in the actual rainforest. I even came up with an idea for a children’s book and wrote an entire synopsis!

This daily public challenge was quite a lot more strenuous than I imagined it would be. First, I had to let go of the fear that I would lose all my followers when I shifted my style and emphasis. (And I did lose a bunch at first.) Once I let go of my worries about how I might be perceived, I found myself feeling so much joy!

I also enjoyed the freedom to be more expressive and less realistic that I’ve been in the past. Feeling this release has had some big benefits in that I find I’m able to use texture and line in ways that I’d never done before. Not only that, but I started illustrating bugs and animals along with birds. This is where the first 100 days of sketching started paying off as I found that I am far more confident in my drawing skills than I used to be.

By mid-month, though, I started feeling very dissatisfied with my work. I found that the look and feel of the cartoony style of illustrating didn’t suit me. I looked at what other illustrators do and felt that my work looked amateurish. Not only that, creating at the pace of Instagram is both exhausting and limiting. I wanted to develop concepts more deeply but there just wasn’t enough time. I found myself rushing from one illustration to the next without a chance to fully think through what would make each one work better. There were a few notable exceptions; the Coati troop, my beloved jaguar, and the tent-making bat all show real progress, I think.

Admittedly, my 28 day experiment was a bit impulsive. I’m glad I did it, though, because it propelled me out of my comfort zone and into new territory that I’d been wanting to explore. Now that the month is over, I am excited about doing more fully realized pieces and exploring character development. Onward!

What about you? Have you ever undertaken a 100 day project of your own? How did it turn out? I’d love to hear from you.

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