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ToryTwo years ago at NJ-SCBWI, someone mistook Tory Novikova for my daughter.

Eek! Am I that OLD? No, really, Tory is quite young, so let’s just say that if I were a teenage bride, it could be a possibility. I mean, look at those eyes and hair! Totally plausible.

While Tory’s definitely not my daughter, she does work with her mom, and that’s pretty cool.


Torynova’s adorbable Mushroom Fairy Print leggings.

Her mom played a heavy role in inspiring the styles for Tory’s own fashion company, Torynova Couture.

“The woman had me drawing as soon as possible, so kudos to that child-rearing dedication. She’s a fashion designer, graduated from Moscow’s Textile Institute and had worked for the top fashion houses there and also made costumes for theater and ballet. Even my great grandparents worked on costume and stage production for the Bolshoi Theater, so one could say appreciation for the classics runs through my blood.”

With Tory’s talent and drive—she also illustrates for video game, comic and apparel companies—I knew picture books couldn’t be far behind for this Pratt Institute 2010 BFA. Flash forward to NOW and her book TUKE THE SPECIALIST TURTLE is swimming your way!


Tory, how did you land the job illustrating TUKE?

I was approached really out of the blue (for me, anyway) by Jim Ritterhoff about illustrating this children’s book he had written and meant to publish through his company, Chowder Inc. Profits were to benefit CCMI, the Central Caribbean Marine Institute and the Central Reef Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to sustaining coral reefs in the Caribbean. He seemed really dedicated to the marine ecology of the reefs, being a diver himself. So I came on board and drew him Tuke.

Your illustrations for TUKE are so vibrant and fun. They really bring the ocean and Tuke’s personality to life. Could you give us a little background on your process for creating the art?

I think there is a natural juiciness to my color palette and aesthetic, no matter how far I try to run away from it. It must be a side effect from having my eyes stuck to the TV, growing up watching too many cartoons for it to be healthy. Thankfully, it came in very handy with Tuke because the story takes place in the Caribbean Reef. Though I’ve never seen it in person, I’ve researched enough about it to know that it’s riddled with colors beyond imagination. In fact, the very first spread I finished in full color was the entire reef, which comes in right after the introduction. The reaction I got from Jim, who is an avid diver and knows the reef so well, was pretty much like—YES! This totally works! So after that point, there were no doubts about color constraints. Though, I did get to play around with different depths of blues, which was lovely.



As far as my process goes. The entire book, 60+ pages, was laid out in clean pencil sketches like a storyboard. And for me, clean is a relative term…since my lines are pretty gestural and loose (I really dislike the look of pencil lines that have been traced over lovely loose sketches). Anyway! After each page or spread was drawn, I went over it with an ink brush, picking up and adding textures that I could snap up and use later for the finish. Eventually these were all scanned and saved for later. Then came the flat vector shapes. I really enjoy drawing freehand in Illustrator – is that strange? There is a satisfying gravity about a solid mass that contorts to form the daintiest of details. The expressions of the animals were probably my most favorite parts to draw!



And finally, the image is completed in Photoshop, all the bits are assembled, and the color is fully applied. It may be a little tedious of a process, but it lent itself a lot to the look of the book, and Tuke! And of course there were many moments of going back into inks, rescanning, and altering the finished pages by administering bits of texture for the final polish.



So, what’s next for you, Tory?

Hmmm…what IS next?!?! Well for starters, I’m about as knee-deep into education and new media as I’ll ever be. In fact, I’m currently involved in the creation of an entire educational game world revolving around children’s books and characters due for release in 2014. So I’m definitely still deep in pursuit of creating for kids—video games, books, products, cartoons—you name it! But it’s always been a dream to illustrate picture books. So I’m very much looking forward to the next opportunity that comes my way! 🙂 Any takers?!

Well, I’ll bet there will be plenty of takers for our special TUKE giveaway! 

One lucky blog reader will win a custom sketch of Tuke made especially for them! You can even enter twice!

Comment or leave a question for Tory here on the blog for one entry, then Tweet or Instagram an image of the book with hashtag #TuketheSpecialistTurtle and tag @torynova for another entry. Contest ends September 21st and a winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

For more about Tory and her various projects, visit

jonwoodwardJonathan Woodward’s an artist, a nomad and a soon-to-be father. The man behind, a blog for aspiring children’s book illustrators, Jon shares his passion for creativity and his good business sense.

Woodward grew up in Nottingham, the home of Robin Hood. (Hmm, no wonder he was drawn to children’s literature.) He was known as the “arty one” in school, the kid who would always be asked to draw the posters for school plays.

After studying Graphic Design in college, Woodward worked as an in-house designer before going freelance in 2006.

To Woodward, freelance means freedom to explore. He and his wife rented out their UK home in 2007 and have been on the road since, living in Panama, Buenos Aires, Grenada, Toronto, South Africa, Thailand, Hong Kong and Dubai. The internet makes running their marketing and design business from anywhere possible.

Jon, how do your travels influence your illustration style?

I wouldn’t say that they have directly influenced it from color or style perspective based on the different cultures that we have seen (although that is an aspect I really love about the travel), but having seen so much beautiful wildlife and nature around the world, it has definitely influenced the subject matter that I illustrate.JWsorrow

Tell us about some of your most recent illustrations.

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy is the piece that led to my current collage style of working. I’d been flicking through magazines and noticed how much the hair on a particular advert looked like tree bark–it was one of those light bulb moments!

The idea for the final illustration came from a song I was listening to at the time that coincidentally tied in with my idea for the tree (and my love of crows!).


The Phoenix is from a recent set of four illustrations based on mythical beasts. Here I was trying to pare down the collage to a bare minimum–to create a bolder, simpler illustration style that might be more suitable for a children’s book.

I enjoy finding textures of a particular surface that are perfect for conveying a totally different texture in the illustration. This happened with the feet of the Phoenix. I found a picture of a model wearing a sparkly bejeweled top and instantly knew that I had to use it for the feet.

This piece was done mostly in traditional collage, with just a bit of detailing, adding the white eye and pumping up the colours a little in Photoshop.

JWsheep  JWwolf

A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing is where I first started using acrylic paint alongside the collage medium. It’s a technique born out of necessity, as I was struggling to find a magazine clipping to represent the wolf fur, so I started working into the collage with paint. I got a bit carried away in the end and ended up painting the sheep’s head and zipper on top of the collage, too.

This was an interesting piece personally, as I had previously been creating collages digitally using scanned magazine clippings, but I realized that my choice of texture ended up being a lot more interesting if I did the collage traditionally using whatever I could find within the magazines and materials I had. I don’t think I would have chosen the printed text to represent the sheep wool had I been doing the piece digitally.

Who are some of your favorite illustrators?

My illustration inspirations and interests are quite diverse, ranging from artists like Jon Foster, Dave McKean and James Jean all the way to Shaun Tan and J. Otto Seibold.

What is your ultimate goal as a children’s book illustrator?

I initially thought I wanted to go into comics or sci-fi and fantasy illustration for book covers, but the theme and content of my illustrations always seemed to gravitate back to one of my other passions: wildlife and nature. If I was only ever allowed to illustrate creatures great and small for the rest of my illustration career, I’d be a very happy man.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful artwork, Jon!

If you’re interested in learning more about the ilustration and design work of Jonathan Woodward, visit his blog and follow him on Twitter at @jonwoodward.

marsharitiMarsha Riti grew up in Texas where everything is big, including dreams. So I assumed that she had always dreamed of becoming a children’s book illustrator. Truth is, Marsha knew she had a place in the arts, but it took her a while to discover where that place was.

Marsha currently resides in Austin but she was raised in “the sticks.” Living in a sparsely populated town forced Marsha to use her imagination for entertainment. (Good training for a children’s book illustrator, huh?)

When Marsha’s not at her desk, you might find her cleaning, cooking, gardening, creating pottery, doing math homework, and hanging out with her boyfriend and friends.

bringing-in-the-harvestMarsha, how did you evolve from doodler to doer? What got you started in children’s book illustration?

I was always the best at drawing in high school so when I went off to college it was a no-brainer. In college I tried doing a little bit of everything. My only regret would be not taking metal working or lithography. Even though my interests were (and still are) all over the place I have always loved drawing.

After receiving my BFA from the University of Texas at Austin I went to work for a string of locally owned businesses, some of which were related to the arts, others were not. These jobs were great learning experiences: I can now show great professionalism in the face of adversity and I have also found my true love, illustration.

How did you find your true love?

I took a children’s book illustration class at a local art school. My teacher Mark Mitchell did a great job inspiring me to pursue children’s book illustration. He made the idea of being an illustrator accessible. Before I took his class I had no idea about where to start, but he did a really good job outlining ways to get into the field. I also got a better understanding of watercolor form taking Mark’s class.


Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your illustrations?

Two of the sample paintings were assignments given to me by my boyfriend, artist and designer Adam Norwood. He just gave me a simple phrase like: “full moon over the treehouse” and “fun in the rain.” Then I thought of an image that would best fit the words.

The other sample painting titled “Treasure Apartments” is for a book dummy titled Treasure Hunt that I have not yet finished. Here is a description of the painting:

treasure-apartmentsEach apartment has a very specific owner: the top is a fashionable twenty-something who loves the mid-century look. The next apartment houses the main character, the little girl. Her father (behind the paper) has been everywhere and has the trappings to show it. Then there is the pink apartment—she has lived a long life and loves to listen to her vintage record collection. The bottom apartment is a stay-at-home programmer who is also a bike enthusiast.

I really enjoy using my imagination to think up all kinds of interesting scenarios and characters. Then I get to think about the attire and items that would best show their persona. It is like playing with a really elaborate doll house.

treasure-apartments-detailHow would you describe your illustration style?

I think my style is illustrative and cartoony with an emphasis on fun.

Some of my favorite children’s book illustrators are: Samuel Ribeyron, Jean-Baptise Monge, Graeme Base, and Lisbeth Zwerger. These illustrators are inspiring to me because their work is visually deep both in the sense of space but also because they have texture and substance.

I am inspired by the composition of Japanese woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai.

For figure study and line inspiration I like to look at drawings and etchings by the old masters: Rembrandt, Titian, and Durer.

I have a fondness for minimalist art by Donald Judd, Frank Stella, and Carl Andre. For an artist to be able to break their aesthetics about line, weight, color, composition, and form, down to its base level is very inspiring to me.

I love the color field paintings by Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. They amaze me–the scale of their paintings envelopes you in color and can really change your mood.

I also find inspiration from installation art by James Turrell. His installations show beauty in nature in a deceptively simple way.

Other influences would be the early cartooning done by Winsor McKay and George Herriman. Their innovation, imagination, and humor are strong influences on me.

I guess I subscribe to the “less is more” school of thought that I am trying to merge with my love of lush illustration.

What are your goals for the future?
Finishing my first book dummy, getting work, and improving as an artist and storyteller.

Marsha, thank you for sharing your amazing art! Good luck to you!

Marsha Riti is a member of Austin SCBWI. To learn more about her work, visit and follow Marsha on Twitter @MarshaRiti. (Besides her daily doodles, I enjoy Marsha’s daily vintage furniture picks from the Austin Craigslist.)

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