Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 3, 2021

Mira Reisberg – Illustrator Critique

Helen Deasy is our First May Illustrator Critique this month.

Helen Deasy is an illustrator and writer with 18 years of experience as an elementary classroom and art teacher. She studied Fine Arts and English Literature in college before going on to get her Masters degree in Education. She’s working on her first author illustrated picture book. Learn more about Helen at or see more of her work on Instagram at @helendeasyillustration

Here’s Mira:

Hi Helen, I’m delighted to be working on this these and giving you some suggestions. As you will see , these are pretty quick and dirty but I’m hoping to get some concepts shown and told in this. This first image is very sweet, but my eye isn’t really sure where to go. You’ve got a nice underlying circular composition, with lots of lovely little details that kids will love. But because the lightest and brightest things are in the background, my eye keeps going there. Also, I’m not sure if this is a facing page and something will be on the right side because if it’s a double spread, the gutter will go right through the text and other elements making it really awkward. So, I am going to assume that it’s a facing page with something else on the other side. Here’s your first image:

So here’s where I brought it into Procreate on my iPad and started playing.

One of the most important things to convey in children’s book illustration is emotion and relationships, so even though it was nice having the two characters hard at work, I changed Olive’s eyes to have her looking at Louie and dulled the cabinets in the back and lightened the front table-cloth. But she looked a little creepy. Also, I removed as much of the outlining on the two characters as I could and amped up the highlights. I was a bit concerned about the yellow under the sink, so I closed that up and removed the cute mouse hole, which you can bring back as peeking through a partly open cabinet door if it’s important to the story. In the next image, I changed the angle of Olive’s head to add a bit more interest, raised her ear, lowered her hair on the top of her head, and made her smile more open, or intimated that she might be talking. I also closed up the yellow under the sink and added a muted purple to match the rest of the palette to bring the table forward.

Excuse the cabinet baseline bumping into Louie’s head, but I also added a little bit of a beginning pattern onto the tablecloth and began a pale checkerboard on the floor. Finally, after some initial confusion, I realized that what I was reading as Looet, was actually Looey, so I made that a little clearer in this image above. And then, I got really annoyed with how much real estate the background was taking and …

In this final image above, I played with scale to really focus on your characters and add more drama, moved the portrait of the two of them, and moved the text so it wasn’t so close to the edge or gutter. There’s a bit of a weird tangent where the chair and the hair and the sink connect that you’d want to address but I had to do something about the background seeming more important than the characters. I think this approach helped with that.

Helen, I am so very happy that you’ve registered for our upcoming illustration course as I know you’ll go through quite the magical transformation. I can’t wait to see your version of this. Also, I wanted to give a shout out to another former student Jannie Ho’s work (she took our writing course) as I think you’ll love it and learn a lot from her. She works in a somewhat similar style but uses lots of patterns:

PS I am including your 2nd image below (there wasn’t a third one) but I didn’t do anything to it, because I thought it was fine the way it is. But on 2nd thought, you could brighten the highlights and get rid of the black outline parts to spiff it up a wee bit. Louie is an adorable character.

Dr. Mira Reisberg (AKA The Picture Book Whisperer) is an Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s book imprint Spork and the Founding Director of the Children’s Book Academy. Her students have published close to 600 children’s books and won MANY awards. She is excited be co-teaching a course on the Craft and Business of Illustrating (and Writing) Children’s Books with Red Fox Literary agent Kaitlyn Sanchez, and brilliant illustrators Chantelle and Burgen Thorne In a not-too-distant life, Mira was a literary agent and a children’s literature professor. She has a Ph.D. in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on kidlit. Find her at or on Twitter @ChildrensBookAc

Thank you Mira for taking the time to offer some suggestions for Helen. Helen I loved the colors and your little ducky.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Yay, Helen! This is so cute and I love seeing your work pop up here! – Julie Lope

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julie;) It was a lovely surprise!


  2. Wonderful! I am not an illustrator, so it’s interesting to learn about all of the considerations that go into illustrating a picture book. Thanks!


    • Thank you Angie. I love teaching all sorts of folks, especially people who think they can’t draw or make art 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the critique, Mira! I learned so much. Can’t wait to make the changes. Thanks for the opportunity, Kathy. I love your blog so seeing my work here is a treat.


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