Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 26, 2015

Illustrator Saturday – Elizabeth Rawls


With a unique blend of counseling and fine art degrees, I write and illustrate children’s picture books that encourage emotional intelligence and resilience through humor and imagination.

  • BFA in Art and Teaching Certification from the University of Michigan
  • Master’s Degree in Counseling from Central Michigan University (Licensed Professional Counselor)
  • A current member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators since 2006
  • Past Assistant Illustrator Coordinator with the SCBWI San Francisco-North Bay Region
  • Selected to join the Illustrators Mentor Program sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI in Colorado
  • Participated in a contest and my illustration was accepted into the Rocky Mountain-SCBWI 2015 calendar
  • Previously facilitated two monthly author/illustrator critique groups through SCBWI in Colorado

Recently I have relocated to Boone, North Carolina with my husband Terry and a newly adopted 4 year old German shepherd named Greta, who keeps me company in my art studio. Our children are young professionals residing in Washington DC and Denver CO. When I am not working on my latest book we can be found hiking the trails of North Carolina or enjoying the many activities that this region has to offer.

Here’s Elizabeth discussing her process:

I saw this illustration done by Norman Rockwell and I really liked the image – it sparked my imagination.


I started to play with ideas and tried to make up a story in my head of what the illustration is about. I usually do thumbnails first, unfortunately I did not save those but below is my first drawing.


This is when an illustrator critique group is crucial in that when they looked at it they gave me feedback like “What is he diving into?’ “the arm is off” etc. Pushing me to explore the idea further.

This is my second draft:


I thought this sketch was good and was tempted not to show my critique group again but start the painting, I love that part and sometimes I rush too quickly to the final painting stage before I have a strong composition. I am glad that I waited, my critique group gave more valuable feedback like: “The scene needs a little more space to breathe, my eyes need a place to rest” and “what type of pool of water is the boy jumping into (again setting)”

Pushing me to continue to define my illustration.

The third draft was the charm:


I knew this was the drawing to illustrate!

I went on to the final version using watercolor and colored pencil. I ran it by my critique group one more time and they gave me small adjustments to make that I completed using Photo shop such as lightening areas and darkening some values. Thank you my Denver critique group “The Squibby Bookcrafters!”

ElizabethRawlsThe Dive

Finished Illustration.

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating for the last ten years, previous to that I was a fine art painter.

ElizabethRawlsTubular Turtle

What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

When I was a college student at the University of Iowa I used to copy images on dorm doors with acrylic paint for $25.00 each. These paintings were washed off the doors by the end of the year.


What inspired you to go for your BFA in Art at the University of Michigan?

I have always loved creating images and decided to pursue my interests as an undergraduate.


I see that you also received your teaching certification when you graduated. Did you plan to teach art when you finished college?

I student taught at a high school level and then was a substitute teacher, but I found that I did not have the patience and passion that I believe is required for that field.


Did you immediately leave college to get your Master’s Degree in Counseling?

Ten years after college I started on my Masters Degree, with marriage two children among other things in between.


How long did you do counseling?

I was a mental health counselor for nine years, most of that time with Central Michigan University as a Counselor in Residence. During this period I also volunteered for Hospice Of Central Michigan facilitating adult and children’s grief groups, which I found extremely rewarding.


When did you decide to go back to doing art?

I was always doing something creative but I never really got the time to pursue my art. Then, ten years ago while living in Michigan my husband was offered an exciting opportunity in Washington DC. We made a deal: I would support his career and relocate wherever the opportunities took us if he would support my dream of creating and illustrating children’s books. He has kept his end of the bargain and more; since Washington DC I have lived in Denver, San Francisco, and now Boone, NC.


Tubular Turtle

How did you start out with your licensing work?

One of the best decisions I’ve made came two years ago when I got the opportunity to work with Kimberly Montgomery, an art licensing agent from Montage Licensing. I was trained as a fine artist and she helped me commercialize and polish my work, which I found very appealing. Kimberly is currently my agent and continues to be wonderful to work with and great at selling my artwork.

Check out my art licensing website at:


What type of things do you do to find work?

For children’s books I enter illustration contests, send out post cards to art directors, and also submit my book dummy to agents and publishers. For art licensing I focus on consistently sending new images to my agent, and she takes it from there.


Do you think the licensing work helped develop your style?

Absolutely! I have learned to paint a more polished final image. I love to create fun and whimsical art licensing images along with children’s book illustrations.


Have you seen your work change since you left school?

Yes it has changed in that previously I worked in acrylic and created large paintings. Currently, I love to work in watercolor and colored pencils.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

About ten years ago I thought to myself “how hard can it be to write and illustrate a children’s book?” I have eaten all of those words and more, as it is one of the most challenging endeavors I have ever attempted. . . and I love it!



From Ducks in a Row

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own picture book?

Yes, that is my true passion and goal. I have just finished a book dummy called SHOELACES SCHMOOLACES about a little girl named Schwartz and her dog Buttercup who is challenged by her Uncle Tex not to open his present until she learns to tie her own shoelaces. Using a cowgirl shoe-tying rhyme Schwartz sets out to tackle the task getting into hilarious knots until she is triumphant and opens the gift to find; cowgirl boots!

Check out the entire book dummy at :


Have you ever thought about doing a wordless picture book?

Absolutely! I believe my main strength is illustration and would find a wordless picture book a wonderful challenge.


Do you illustrate full time?

Yes, my mornings are devoted to children’s book illustration, my afternoons to art licensing.

super size meSuper Size Me!

Are you represented by an artist rep. or agent? If not, would you like to find one?

I currently have an art licencing agent as mentioned above, and I would love to find an agent for my children’s books! I am also interested in illustrating children’s books.


Have you ever worked with a self-published author? Would you be open to that?

My preference is to focus on my own dreams, which keep me very busy. So I don’t know that the risk of taking on a self-published work would fit into my plan at this time.


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

Watercolor and colored pencil.


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I take pictures, use google images, and look at a lot of children’s books.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Yes, to redesign drawings and then to fix any problems in an illustration.


Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Not yet but that is my next goal.


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Not is magazines but one of my illustrations was featured on the SCBWI Carolinas newsletter.


Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, we live in a log home that has a beautiful loft that is perfect for my studio.


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

My i MAC and Photo shop, and of course our six-year-old German Shepherd Greta!


Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I adhere to BIC (Butt in Chair), and when I really don’t feel like working I have an hour glass that I turn over and tell myself to just work that one hour – I find that once I get going I have no trouble continuing; if I am interrupted I lay the hour glass on it’s side and know that I still owe the rest of the time.


Any exciting projects on the horizon?

I have another book dummy that is dear to my heart called DUCKS IN A ROW that needs revision, and I plan to work on it next. Its about Bailey whose father is coming home and wants to get ready by getting her ducks in a row. Yet these wise-quackin’ ducks are determined to avoid directions and amuse themselves until Bailey realizes: “Who needs ducks in a row when you can have a box of quackers!”


Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Yes, your website is a wonderful example of getting my name out there and I really thank you for the opportunity. It is also nice to have my websites up so that anyone interested in my work can see my images.


What are your career goals?

To get one of my children’s books published and sell a lot of art licencing images.


What are you working on now?

For children’s books: I am finishing up a 24 page book dummy called DO YOU DARE? BIG BELLY BEAR! A book about Chef Bart trying to get his teddy bear to eat his cooking creations such as bug burgers, worm waffles and fish fries only to find out his bear “is already stuffed”.

And in art licensing I am finishing up a series of dancing Santa’s.


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

One tip that helped me “work smart” is to use Photo shop to print your drawing on watercolor paper (it really saves time) use a low opacity so you can barely see the lines, print and then start water coloring.


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

I have a couple of thoughts:

1.Join SCBWI ( Society of Book Writers and Illustrators)

2.Join an illustration critique group. I was part of the Squibby Bookcrafters in Denver and their feedback really helped lift my technique and creativity to a new level.

3.Check out Will Terry & Jake Parker, both very successful illustrators who teach an online class on Illustrating Children’s Picture Books, this class cut my learning curve in half. Check it out at


Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us.

To see more of Elizabeth’s work, you can visit her website: Or you can email her at:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Elizabeth. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Fun to see your studio, and I love the illustration of the child eating the watermelon!


  2. Elizabeth, your work is adorable and so colorful! 🙂 You know, I don’t know if you know about Celebri-dots, but your first “underwater” illustration would be PERfect for it! It’s easy to submit and a wonderful way to participate in a great venue and get your work out there even more 🙂 There are plenty of dots to look at (oh, I just love them!) and it’s easy to submit (on the right side bar).

    And I’m also a big fan of seeing studio spaces! Thanks for sharing yours 🙂 Thanks, Kathy, for the post! I hope you’re well, my dear 🙂


  3. Elizabeth, so happy to see your work here! I missed seeing you at our recent conference now that you aren’t in the Rocky Mountain Region anymore. Keep up the good and fun work! – Dow


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