Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 14, 2011

Illustrator Saturday – Karen Romagna

This week I would like to introduce you to Karen Romagna; winner of this year’s NJSCBWI Logo Contest.  In warm weather, Karen uses her front porch as an outdoor studio. She says, “The lighting remains consistent all day. It’s perfect.” What a lovely place Karen has to use for her illustrating.  It is very interesting to see how her logo evolved.

Karen says, “My logo design has a history that began a few years ago. I stumbled across a photo of my mom when she was 3 years old on vacation with her family at Lake George. It seemed to me to be a sweet moment in time. Someone, possibly my grandfather, captured an instant when she stooped to pick a flower. The sun shined in her hair and her sundress billowed out behind her.

I wanted to capture it on canvas so I painted a miniature oil sketch. I always intended to do more. It still sits on a bookshelf with our family photos. I can’t help but smile when I see it.

This past Christmas season when it was time to paint my annual card I went to the old photo again. There is something about it that pulled me back. Was it the sundress, the flower, or witnessing a magical moment from my mother’s childhood? This time my mother wouldnʼt be in a sundress or picking a daisy… Instead she would be in a snowsuit… doing… what? I knew she had to be giving someone a present. Hmm… Of course. It could be a candy cane and, well who likes a candy cane more than a rabbit?

So I made a sketch and then painted a watercolor. I then followed up with an oil painting. As often happens I ran out of time completing other deadlines and on December 23 decided that I would finish it up for NEXT year’s card!

Then earlier this year I decided to try my hand at this year’s logo contest. It would need to be simple and it should be charming. The old photo was still sitting on my drawing table… I changed the hair, kept the rabbit and added a book. There it was! I love how the simplicity of the line drawing is all this old photo needed to bring it back to life.

Finishing this logo reminded me that sometimes in life we try too hard and may miss the freshness of our original inspiration. I hope that as we close in on this year conference every one of us experiences that feeling of excitement we had as a “beginner”!

Since the logo is printed on a black background the image had to be reversed and tweaked for the bag.

The Sailboat

Flying Frog

Moonlit Frogs

Watercolor sketch for my picture book “the Yellow Ribbon”.


Santa and Lamb

Santa’s Surprise

This is Karen’s inside Studio.  Well, sometimes the weather just does not cooperate. 

Karen is an illustrator and writer. Her studio is in Hunterdon County, New Jersey where she lives with her husband and two sons. Coming from a well established art career, Karen is now branching out into children’s illustration and picture books. Her many years painting portraits of children in the surroundings they love has provided much inspiration for her lively and colorful illustrations. Karen paints primarily in oil and watercolor.

You can meet Karen at this year’s conference and see her accept her award. 

Stop by Karen’s website to see more of her work.

Yesterday I said, “I have something up my sleeve.”  Here is what it is:  Carlie Webber Agent at Jane Rotrosen Literary Agency is joining us at the conference.  She will be doing one-on-one critiques.  You will be able to see her picture and bio on tomorrow’s blog.  I hate to pass up an opportunity when it comes along and Carlie is busy building her list of writers (YA, MG), so I smelled opportunity.  Anyone who wants to reserve a spot with Carlie can e-mail Laurie Wallmark  the first 15 pages and synopsis, then mail your check for $55 to NJSCBWI  PO BOX 660  Ringoes, NJ  08551.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Those illustrations are lovely. I have forwarded the info to my children book—friend.
    Maybe, I will attend with her.

    The pictures are so beautiful



  2. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the beautiful artwork, but esPEcially loved hearing about the logo’s origin (great old pic from 1928!!) and seeing it’s many stages, from painting to the next. Thank you for sharing all that 🙂


  3. Congratulations! That’s a beautiful logo. Thank you for sharing the story behind it. (I love Lake George!)


  4. Congratulations on the logo! That’s great work, and it’s neat to hear that you felt pulled back to that picture. I love your work. If I can ask a question here–I’m wondering what the size of that mini oil painting is?



    • Hi, The oil sketch REALLY is just that. It is only 5″ x 7″. It was painted very quickly. I always intended to do something more with it. I just wasn’t sure where to take it. So, in the meantime have enjoyed it mixed in with my collection of family photos.


      • Thank you so much for the quick reply. That’s inspiring. I never thought of doing quick sketches and small in size with paint. I think the sketch is great, by the way. If it’s not too much trouble, maybe you can tell me how you got it onto the comp.? Scanner or picture of it or is there some other way. Thanks again for the reply. I did earn a minor in art, and always find myself wanting to paint and draw, but never feel as though I have the time. Small sketches may be something I might try. 🙂
        I like to think I use this same idea with my writing, which I do make lots of time for. Making small notes or drafts of stories until I figure out what to do with them. And again, I really like your work!


      • Hi Chris,

        I scanned the painting. It is so small that this was the easiest way.
        You should think about quick paintings, especially outdoors. That’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s so great to find a quiet spot with a nice view.


  5. I met Karen at one of the 2010 Networking Dinners last in NYC. She is as gorgeous a person as is her artwork. Thanks for sharing your process, Karen!!! YOU ROCK!! 🙂


  6. Amazingly talented!! Thank you for sharing.



  7. No wonder your logo is so good. It’s got a great back story. AND it’s of your mother. Good karma!


  8. Congratulations Karen! It was great reading all that went behind the logo and makes it that much more sweet 🙂


  9. Karen, I was just looking at your wonderful indoor studio and noticed a couple of things. Is that a baking pan to the left, sitting on the tray? That’s actually a great idea for a “palette.” 🙂

    I was also noticing your chair, and though it’s very cute, it doesn’t look like it lends to comfort for hours of painting!


    • The trays are butcher’s trays. I have purchased them before at Artist Supply Warehouse (years ago) when they had a store in Norwalk, CT. The 2 trays I currently am using were purchased by a friend on e-bay. She gets the best deals! They are wonderful for mixing colors and wash up so nicely. You got my curiosity up so I just checked some catalogs. ASW still carries the trays. They have a couple of sizes and are reasonably priced. My trays are 8×12 and 12×16.

      You’re right about my chair. I have a cushion that I moved to a different chair a couple of weeks ago. After a short while the cane seat gets pretty uncomfortable. I should get myself a new cushion!


      • Thanks, Karen! Do you know, in all my years of doing artwork, I never heard of using butcher trays for palettes. lol I just looked on the site and they offer enamel and porcelain. What do you use and do you think it makes a difference? (They looked like enamel to me.) The one thing I would think is the enamel are probably lighter and don’t break (though I’m still imagining the pans you bake in lol).

        Anyway, thanks for giving me (and anyone else) that info 🙂 And yes, get a new cush for your tush 🙂


      • Hey Donna Marie,
        Yes, I use an enamel tray. I think you’re right. The surface is probably good… but porcelain would be heavy. The enamel trays stack nicely too. They last for years without staining. I had used a plastic palette with a cover for a long time. It was great… but stained.


  10. Just lovely. Thanks for this post.


  11. Karen,

    Thanks for the info. about scanning the painting. Quick sketches sound great!



  12. Karen; I loooove your art!


  13. Congratulations! What an honor. Great work and I love the story to go along with it. You are a great person. I just added a link to your website on our site due to your Advisory Committee membership. Glad I tested the link to be sure it worked, I got to see your great news.


  14. Karen,
    I have always been so proud of your art work from every xmas card I received from you to all the portraits I have seen you paint. But I couldn’t be prouder of you now. Congratulations on your award, so well deserved and beautiful. And an inspiration to your Mom.
    Love you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: