Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 18, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Tracy Campbell

tracyHeader 13Here is Tracy explaining her process:

Below, I’ve included some of the steps I used to draw and paint the “Watermelon Barrette”.


  • Draw the design, scan it, and then reduce the drawing to fit the surface.
  • Trace the design onto tracing paper.

Tracy Campbell - Barrettes - B & W Illustration



  • DecoArt Americana Acrylics.
  • DecoArt Matte Varnish Sealer.
  • Krylon Matte Finish Spray.
  • Brushes—1/8” and 1/4”      Stipplers, #1 and #3 Round, 3/4” Wash, #2, #4, and a #10 Shader, #6      Filbert, and a #10/0 Spotter.

Wood Surface Preparation:

  • Sand the wood barrette with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper.
  • Remove the dust with a tack cloth.
  • Apply one coat of DecoArt Matte Varnish Sealer.
  • Allow to dry, sand, and then wipe clean.
  • Paint the background with at least three coats of paint.
  • Center the tracing over the barrette.
  • Slip the dark blue dress-maker’s paper under the drawing, and then
  • Trace the main pattern lines with a stylus and/or a pencil.


Color Worksheet:


tracybarette2 Drybrush Tips:

  • Use a 1/8” Stippler to      drybrush small areas.
  • Use a 1/4” Stippler to      drybrush large areas.
  • Dip the brush into the      desired paint color.
  • In a circular motion,      wipe off the excess paint onto an absorbant paper towel.
  • In a circular motion,      applying slight pressure, begin in the darkest area and move toward the      lightest area.
  • Follow the above steps      until the desired results are achieved.

 Finishing Touches:

  • Let the piece cure (I      wait three days).
  • Apply one coat of DecoArt Matte Varnish Sealer.
  • Let dry (15 to 30      minutes).
  • Lightly sand with a      brown paper bag.
  • Apply at least three      coats of sealer, sanding between each coat.
  • Spray with Krylon Matte Finish.

Did you go to school for art?
No, not unless you count the “How to Paint” workshops I signed up for in 1991.

What types of things helped you to develop as an illustrator?
In 1994, a published picture book illustrator encouraged me to draw my own designs. So with shaky fingers, I picked up a pencil and gave it a whirl. And voila! The fabric tree and snow mama was my first design, and I painted it on slate.

Tracy Campbell - Potted Fabric Christmas Tree 3

I continued studying “How to Paint” books, and then with three years of drawing and painting practice under my belt, I designed “How to Paint” pattern packets. During that time, I attended a Tuesday morning group for young moms at a local church. The moms loved my designs, and they invited me to teach on Tuesday mornings. One of the designs I taught them, Noah’s Flying Angels, was painted on a wood piece.

Tracy Campbell - Noah's Flying Angels

My confidence bloomed like the flowers in my garden, and I decided to sell my expanding portfolio. Without access to the Internet, I packed up my car and traipsed all over Southern Ontario, begging and pleading with store owners to stock my designs on their bulging shelves. Krafty Kennedy’s, a store in London, Ontario, took a chance and purchased my packets. Wait, it gets better. They even asked me to teach workshops. A few years later, I became a “Big Brush” teacher at national painting shows in Toronto and London, Ontario.

Here is a pattern packet design.

Tracy Campbell - Coaster Tray - I Love Coffee, I Love Tea

What was the first piece of art you did where someone paid you?

A small marketing company hired me to design thirty cards. I recently revamped “Gone Fishing” to create a Father’s Day card.

Tracy Campbell - Father's Day Card (1)

Did you start out doing interior design work?

It wasn’t until 2004 that I received accreditation as an International Design and Decorating Professional. I then obtained my Staging, Color Consulting, and Professional Organizing designations. While I was running my decorating business, QC Design School approached me to tutor students and, later, to facilitate Color and Professional Organizing workshops. I’ve recently cut back on my decorating services to allow more time to pursue my new love…writing.


What are your favorite art materials?
Hmm…I don’t really have a favorite. I paint on many surfaces—illustration board, slate, tin, wood, and canvas.
Here is a “Musical Angel” I painted on a CD box.

Tracy Campbell - Musical Angel CD Box

Have those material changed over the years?

Yes, I’ve discovered Copic markers, which I must say are not forgiving. To avoid making mistakes, I test the markers on scrap paper to ensure I choose the correct tint, tones, and shades. The upside, I reduce my painting time in half.

Here is a very rough sketch for the painting below.

Tracy Campbell - Thanksgiving Dinner - Rough SketchOnce the idea takes shape, I redraw each figure, scan it, and then enlarge or reduce each element until I’m happy with the placement. I then transfer the final drawing onto Strathmore WindpowerTM smooth finish, acid free Bristol.

Tracy Campbell - Thanksgiving Dinner

How long have you been illustrating?

I seriously began illustrating in 1994, so that means almost twenty years!

I like your note cards. How did you start creating and selling them?

Thank you, Kathy. Some of my three-dimensional wood designs were the inspiration that lead me to produce a line of square-shaped greeting cards, which I submitted to the Thirteenth Uniquely Ontario Creative Arts Show in Toronto, Ontario. My cards were judged on design, workmanship, promotional materials, and saleability. After receiving a score of 92 out of 100, I was invited to participate in the show that assists in the growth of Ontario’s best home-based entrepreneurs. I was disappointed I didn’t receive 100. 

Tracy Campbell - Singing Birthday Angel

Tracy Campbell - Sunflower Angel  1

Tracy Campbell - Toys 1

Kathy, I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment. Regal Gifts hired me to create A Country Charm Collection, reproduced on wrapping paper and gift cards.

Here are just four designs.

Tracy Campbell - Christmas Clad Reindeer

Tracy Campbell - Holiday Clad Reindeer 1

Tracy Campbell - Christmas Angel

Tracy Campbell - Christmas AngelsMy confidence soared. I queried a well-known calendar company in Markham, Ontario. Rejected, I sulked, unaware God was still at work. A few months later, I received a call. My name had been passed on to Zebra Publishing. They hired me to design a “baby’s first year keepsake” calendar, and the following year, a “twelve-month folk art” calendar. Both calendars sold like hot cakes in mom-and-pop bookstores, Chapter’s bookstores in Canada, and Barnes & Noble in the U.S.

Tracy Campbell - Calendar Cover Art - Baby's First Year

Tracy Campbell - Folk Art Calendar Cover

It looks like you have written and illustrated a children’s book. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Our Story—You & Me is much more than a children’s book. It’s also a record-keeping book sprinkled with quaint quotes that will appeal to mommies and expectant mommies who want to capture the milestones of their baby’s first year. The book is unique in that it elevates a record-keeping book to an early-reader storybook a mom can read to her child, and uses a child’s natural curiosity about their first year of life to help interest them in reading. In the years to follow, mom and growing child will giggle together, poring over candid photos of things like a toothless grin, wobbly first steps, the ultrasound, and other special moments. This fifty plus page book mirrors my calendar art and will make the perfect baby shower gift.

Tracy Campbell - Book Cover

Do you have plans to self-publish?

I’m on the hunt for an agent.

Is illustrating children’s books a new direction for you?

It sure is. 

tracybunniesHave you ever illustrated something for a children’s magazine?

I haven’t pursued that avenue yet, but I have been published numerous times in American and Canadian “How to Paint” magazines.

Here are two tear sheets.

Tracy Campbell - Sweet Cherry Pie

Tracy Campbell - Barrettes

The drawing and painting instructions for the “Musical Angel CD Box” are similar to the “Watermelon Barrette”. Below, I’ve listed the differences.

Tracy Campbell - Musical Angel CD Box

Additional Supplies:

  • DecoArt Walnut Gel Stain.
  • Krylon Matte Finish Spray.


CD Box Surface Preparation:

  • Prep the box as per the previous instructions, paint the base Napa Red, paint the lid Antique White, and then paint the edge Deep Teal (apply at least three coats of paint).
  • Drybrush the Deep Teal area with Blue Green, and again with Deep Teal plus Buttermilk to brighten.
  • Apply scotch tape 1/4” from the edge, and then paint the border Country Red.
  • Paint corner squares Lamp Black.
  • Dilute the gel stain with water, and then apply with a foam brush. Wipe the excess stain with a cotton cloth. Let dry.
  • Spatter with Burnt Umber and again with Lamp Black.
  • Trace main pattern lines onto the lid.


Color Worksheet 1:

Tracy Campbell - Musical Angel - Color Worksheet A1

 Color Worksheet 2:

Tracy Campbell - Musical Angel - Color Worksheet A2

What have you been doing to get your artwork noticed?

I have an online whimsical shop over at and a website over at, where Fine Art America reproduces my original whimsical works of art on metal, stretched canvas, and acrylic. You can also buy unframed prints or framed prints that are ready to hang on your wall or on a friend’s wall.

Tracy Campbell - Great Memories 1

Tracy Campbell - Bee Happy

Have you made picture book dummies to show art directors, editors, and reps.?

Not yet.

Do you have an agent?

I’m hard at work querying agents.


Do you ever use two different materials in one illustration?

Not materials per se, but here’s another style where I used a Micron pen and watered down acrylics.

Tracy Campbell - The Door replacement jpeg

The above piece was painted on illustration board. The process is the same as painting on wood, except I don’t have to prepare the surface. I just transfer the line drawing, ink the design, and then apply watered down acrylics.

I also paint on Paper Mache items.

tracyCandy Cane Ornament Painted on Paper Mache - Tracy Campbell 1

Tracy Campbell - Mitten Ornament

Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Oh my, yes! My earlier drawings and paintings were stiffer than my ironing board.

tracysheepHave you gotten any work through networking?
Yes, from author extradornaire, Susanna Hill. She purchased designs for her online course—Making Picture Book Magic. Take a peek over at

Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

Not at present.

tracyumbrellaAre you open to doing illustrations for self-published picture book authors?

Not at the moment. I’d like to concentrate on illustrating my own books.

Do you use Photoshop?

Yikes! I hear the learning curve is steep and I’m not getting any younger. I do scan my artwork, and manipulate my designs with Microsoft Publisher and Paint. Here’s one I reconfigured.

Tracy Campbell - Grow where you are planted

Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?

Unfortunately not.

How much time do you spend illustrating?

Not as much time as I’d like. Some days I work on marketing, other days I write and/or paint.

Do you have a studio set up in your house? Where do you live?

I have a second-floor studio in my 1841 farmhouse, nestled high on a hill in a secret location. 

Tracy Campbell - Our Farmhouse--Circa 1841

Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes, that you couldn’t live without?

My art and writing reference books.

What are your career goals?

My career goals are to find a literary and/or art agent, finish writing two picture books, polish my middle grade novel, and continue creating art that one day will appear on home décor and giftware items. Lord willing.

tracywateringcanWhat are you working on now?

Besides tutoring, I’m querying agents, blogging, writing a rhyming picture book, and adding art to sell on my website.

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

I love dark blue dress-maker’s paper. I lay my line drawings over the transfer paper, and then I use a stylus to trace the design onto any surface I like. The beauty of this paper is that as soon as you add ink or water—poof—the lines disappear.


Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Don’t be afraid to try new things, step out of your comfort zone. As Will Rogers once said, “If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple: Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”

Thank you Tracy for sharing your artwork and process with us. We will be watching to see how you develop your style to illustrate picture books.

If you want to see more of Tracy’s work or follow her in the future, her website is  Please take a minute to leave Tracy a comment. It is much appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This work has such a lovely, old-fashioned quality that’s so warm. I have to say, my absolute favorite is your “pink door,” Tracy. Just like a perfect first-sentence “hook,” I am compelled to know where that door is located and what’s beyond it 🙂 Kathy, maybe a future “first page” prompt? 😉

    Thanks for sharing, ladies 😀


  2. Hi Donna,
    Art is such a subjective thing. I chuckled when I read your fabulous comment about the “pink door” as it’s not my favorite. And I’m glad you find my work has a warm, old-fashioned quality.
    Thank you, Kathy for having me as your guest.
    Have a lovely weekend.
    Tracy 🙂


    • Yes, Tracy, it’s about a subjective a subject as you can subject yourself to 😉 Good luck in getting representative and living your dream 😀


      • Thank you, Donna, for popping back in and wishing me luck.
        I appreciate it. 🙂


  3. Artists and art teachers everywhere should be flocking to this site, Tracy. You shared wonderful instructions.
    Excellent post, Kathy and Tracy!


    • You’re too kind, Marylin. Hmm…perhaps I might start a feature on “How to Paint” on my blog.


  4. Oh Tracy,
    What a delight to go from one lovely art work to another at this site. Thanks for steering me here! I really enjoyed myself.


    • Hi Linda,
      Not only does Kathy offer inspiring art work here, but she also posts awesome writing information. Glad I steered you over here, and that you were delighted. 🙂


  5. Thanks for sharing your work and techniques, Tracy! You are very talented. I’ll have to say my favorite one was the bunny with the umbrella. So sweet!


    • Hi Sharon,
      I always smile when someone tells me they have a favorite. Glad you enjoyed my work and the small snippets I offered on how to paint. If I can learn to draw and paint, anyone can. 🙂


  6. Thanks so much, Kathy, for highlighting Tracy! She is an amazing artist…more importantly, she is an amazing human being!
    Tracy…LOVE your post…I learned so much about you…and your journey in art. I treasure the notecards of yours that I have…the only problem is that i don’t want to send them to anyone…I want to keep them for myself.:) I’m going to check out the baby book…my son and his wife don’t like to keep a lot of stuff around, but that just might be perfect for the new grand-baby.:)

    And Tracy…keep writing…it will happen!


  7. Hello Tracy,

    I love your art work, you are a true artist. I am so inspired by your story on how you became an illustrator. I was so moved by your story and similar stories that I have been trying my hand at a few sketches (I am a guy who has never had the courage to draw and show his work to others).

    One day I may post a few of my drawings. Thank you for being an inspiration.



    • Hi Paul,
      I’m glad to hear my journey inspired you.
      You can do it. Remember, fear is what keeps us from trying. And if we fail it means we tried and we learned something new which is never a waste of time.


  8. Wow great illustrations indeed I can see why you are shown off at this feed. An yeah keep at it all must do and be not afraid to try something new


    • Hi Pat and hats off to the rhyming cat.
      Thank you for spurring me on! 🙂


  9. Oh Vivian, reading that you think I’m an amazing human being is the highest compliment. Thank you for that.
    Now you know more about me than you did before, all thanks to Kathy who gave me this wonderful opportunity.
    As for my greeting cards, they aren’t meant to be kept. LOL You can always purchase more.
    I wish I could say my baby keepsake/storybook was available, alas, I need an agent first. Your enthusiasm made my day. 🙂


  10. Excellent tips as always. You are quite the talented craftswoman and I’m so proud of you. 🙂


  11. Hi Tracy and Kathy, It’s a pleasure seeing Tracy’s work. I thank you both for the interview. You are both powerful examples of women who work hard at their craft and show determination and discipline. Thank you for the inspiration!
    Diana Bletter, The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle


    • Hi Diana,
      Kathy’s posts inspire me too, as do your kind words! Thank you. 🙂


  12. Such a fabulous, unique and talented person. Great job highlighting Tracy and her stunning work.


    • Hi Susan,
      I had to jump in, Kathy did a wonderful job highlighting my work. 🙂


  13. What a surprise to see you over here, Tracy! Sorry I’m late. It was interesting to read about how you got started and see all your neat work!!


  14. Tracy your artwork is classically wonderful. It has a distinct style and is universal too. I hope your cards spread to more shops and I’m sure you’ll be an illustrator very soon.


    • Hi Catherine,
      I hope my cards spread too!
      Thanks for your encouraging comments. 🙂


      • I’ve had a great idea of a place near me that might stock them. It sells all sorts of beautiful ornaments, paintings, crocs lol. I’ll ask.


      • Thank you so much, Catherine. You can reach me through my website at 🙂


  15. Hi Kathy,
    Thank you again for featuring me. It’s been a blast. 🙂


  16. Tracy,
    This is astounding. I love your drawing, your techniques, and your creativity. God has given you a wonderful gift. Praying that He will open doors for you to spread the word about your art. Praying for the right agent to approach you about your new book.
    Many blessings,


    • Hi Janis,
      I appreciate your prayers, blessing, and your enthusiasm. 🙂


  17. Tracy, nice interview. I enjoyed viewing your work. 🙂


    • Hi Alicia,
      Kathy’s questions pulled the interview together.
      Happy to hear your enjoyed it. 🙂


  18. Great interview Tracy!! I can’t believe you actually taught yourself all that! Your work is amazing. I’m trying to learn not to stress about the little stuff, (it’s so hard though) and remember that God has a plan for me.

    It will happen, it just happens on his time not on ours. 🙂


  19. Tracy,

    You inspire the viewer by giving life and voice to your beautiful creations. You’re passionate and have a genuine love for your artwork. We can see it clearly in your work.
    You make it look so easy!

    Tracy, you are an amazing artist and person.



    • Hi Gilda,
      Thanks so much for your awesome comments. 🙂


  20. I really enjoyed this interview and the behind the scenes info of how you do your work! I’ve learned so much about you and your art. Thanks to both of you! Laura


    • Hi Laura,
      I’m happy to hear you learned a bit more about my art.
      Thank you. 🙂


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