A Year of Kids’ Books #7

So I am almost two full working months into this year's kids' book project, and I am closing in on completing my first book that I'll submit. To all of you who've asked if the books are available to buy: they are not finished, but thank you very much for your interest.

My plan for these books is to seek traditional publication once they're done. I am not against self-publishing (I've done it before), but until I have the kind of household name that allows me to self-publish and generate enough sales to make it so that the work I put in pays out more than I put in, it doesn't make sense to do it on my own. In any case, I really appreciate the kind words and comments from friends and family, and the moment the books are available, I will let people know. 

That's a lot of watercolors on the floor.

That's a lot of watercolors on the floor.

The past week was a little rough. Everyone in the house got sick, and we did some home improvement stuff (and it was Valentine’s Day). But things are back in full-swing again on the twitch stream, and I hope to soon get the youtube channel up and running as well.   

Here is the link to the most current twitch stream where I talk a little about character design while sketching up two more pages for the book in progress. Click the button to check it out.

Thanks for all who’ve popped in and said hello on twitch. I know it happens early, but there is no other time I can work. So it means a lot that anyone at all takes the time to say hi. If you can't sleep, I'll be there every Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 5:30 a.m. till 6:30 a.m. unless the girls wake early, and then I will leave you hanging. And I will not be sorry about it.

Another week down. Back to it.



A Year of Kids’ Books #6


This has been a bit of a slow week as far as progress on the current book goes. But the first draft of the next book is about done, and I do have a few more of the sketches for the current book finished up. As I near the end of the work on this first book, I have started to get ready for the "pseudo-animated" versions of the books that I'll be doing for my youtube channel. This is mostly for my daughters (at least initially), but they'll be available on Youtube for anyone to watch when they're done. Animation take a long time if you want to do a Hal-way decent job, but that's true of most things. Fortunately we have computers top speed things up a bit.

Anyway. Two books are done, and I am hoping to get this third one done bye the middle of next month. 

Don't be afraid to stop by my twitch channel to see what I am working on. I do the work from 5:30 till 6:30 a.m. EST, so most likely you aren't awake when it's going on. But the videos are there to watch anytime (for free in case there was any question.) 

View the channel by clicking the button below.


I hope everyone has a great weekend.


New Potty Chart

Potty training is on my mind all the time, and in order to try and make it fun when possible, I've been making potty charts with Pinky Panda Bear for my daughter to get excited about. Because I want to make sure it keeps being engaging and fun for her, I've added a character to each of the charts. Eventually this will become untenable, but for the moment, it's not a big deal. She requested Nick the Beaver this time (he's an engineer who builds all the things that Pinky, Dozer, and Igor use to go on their adventures. Yesterday he built a robot to clean up their play room. It didn't go well (but that means there'll be a book, so I guess it went well overall.)

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Here is the Potty Chart:

Hopefully she like the way Nick turned out. I think he looks all right. But he'll keep on changing as I figure out more about the way Pinky and the other characters should look and move in the world I'm building. 

All right. Back to making. Thanks to everyone for your support. 

A year of kids' books #5

Last week I streamed a lot of prep work for the pages I'll be doing in watercolor and ink for the book I am currently at work on. The roughs below are just some of the work I did on the stream.

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Pinky and Dozer Bunk Bed.png
This one I did the watercolor for already.

This one I did the watercolor for already.

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This is a longer children's book than I've done before (32 pages or so), so it's a bit more of a challenge getting enough illustrations (and making sure that those illustrations are the right ones.) But the best way to get better at a thing is to continue to challenge yourself, and I am going to keep doing that.

I have two books completed already this year, and I am excited to show the second one once it arrives (Shutterfly sent it to my old house....) But this book seems like it may take me a couple more weeks depending on what kind of parenting and commission demands come my way (both sets of demands are a blessing; that is not sarcasm for anyone who may be confusing my present self with my self from the olden days).

So I'll continue to build and customize the twitch channel while I work away at this book, and then when it's time for the next book, that's what the channel will focus on. (I will stream a game now and then as well, but that will be rare considering gaming is not a high priority for me at the moment). 

If you are interested in seeing what I'm up to on twitch, please stop by. I'll be posting the videos (or at least the ones that have some kind of lesson or value) to youtube at some point so people can stumble across them whenever they please, and I may make a few tutorials here and there. My main focus this year is kids' books with Pinky Panda Bear, Dozer Panda, and Igor the Elephant and finding those books a home with a press that believes in what I'm doing, and that means I won't be spending a bunch of time creating any kind of content that is unrelated to that goal.

Please check out the twitch channel, consider following me even if you can't make it to the stream (since it is free and helps me out). And if you don't know what twitch is, then I will gladly explain it to you in detail. Amazon bought it, so it's not going away anytime soon.

Here is where you can find me on twitch:

Thanks for your support. Keep on making. I will too.

Last stream of the week.

I worked on the bunk beds that Dozer and Pinky Panda Bear sleep in today while talking to a couple folks who showed up to hang out. 

Feel free to check out the channel and a big thank you to Beardedninja for the donation. Every dollar helps me make the channel better.  

You can see the latest stream by following the link below. Keep on making. I will too.  



Random Art Post: Dozer Excited

Here is what I worked on today during my twitch stream. It's a reference image I made to prep for the watercolor I'll do later this week.

That's what the channel BDJ Makes is all about: making things.

This year I am making kids' books, and if you check out the stream live or on demand, then you'll get to see much of the work that involves. You'll see mistakes, and you'll see failures and successes. 

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You can see the stream (and listen to a little convo about a potential commission by clicking the button below.)

Thanks to all who've checked it out so far. Don't be afraid to follow me there. It's free, and every follow helps me out. Happy Wednesday.


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In order to hold myself accountable and to continue to build a community around BDJ Makes, I’ll be doing Twitch streams of my digital character designs and prep work for the watercolors and more. Theae are gonna be at like 5 am EST, but if you want to check it out later, they’ll be available to watch on Twitch on demand (until they expire there), and I'll also post them on my Youtube channel where they'll remain until the internet dies. I'

If you want to come chat with me while I’m working and see what I’m up to, this is one of the best ways to do it. Be advised that any stream may end immediately when one of my daughters wakes. But that just makes it more exciting for everyone, right?

Click the button below to check out my twitch channel. And if it is something you're interested in, please don't be afraid to subscribe. It's free, and it helps me.

A year of kid’s books #4

Pinky Panda Goes Potty.  

Here's the cover for the potty training book I did for my daughter.

Here's the cover for the potty training book I did for my daughter.

This is the first book completed for my first BDJ Makes project: A Year of Kids’ Books. The book has a very specific audience: my daughter who we are potty training. I guess it is also a test to see if books really can make a difference in the world. The jury is still out, but my daughter is making progress. That is more than I can say about anything I wrote about war and the military making an impact on what was or is happening in the Middle East.

At first I wasn’t sure if I should include this book on the list of books completed, but it makes sense because BDJ Makes is about making things that are fun and useful, and this can be both; additionally, this is the first book I finished after beginning this project. So, if nothing else, perhaps this little book will inspire some people out there to make things of their own that might help them to live happier lives. Hopefully it also motivates my daughter to use the potty like a big girl.

Here is an interior page that shows the print quality. It's hard to "show" the sturdiness of the book, so all I can do is tell you it is as solid as any board book I've purchased from a big five publisher. 

Here is an interior page that shows the print quality. It's hard to "show" the sturdiness of the book, so all I can do is tell you it is as solid as any board book I've purchased from a big five publisher. 

I used Pint Sized Productions to print and do the layout of this book. This was the second time that I used them. The previous time I made a book about numbers for Shannon’s first Christmas. I did all the art for that book digitally (with a mouse; I will not willingly go back to that method). This book was done with watercolor paintings that I imported and altered digitally after the fact. 

I think the quality of the board books Pint Sized makes is high, and I like that the books are printed in the USA. So I decided to go with them again for this project. (There really is no other board book option I am aware of, and I didn't want this one to be a 20 page hardback book which is the minimum size that shutterfly will do.)

The illustrations were done on the remaining Canson XL watercolor paper in one of the notebooks I bought back when I was doing a bunch of studies. It’s become apparent to me over time that Canson XL is not great paper (at least not for the style I work in). But it got the job done, and I was just using the paper to get the look I wanted for the final digital images anyway. They did not all turn out as good as I wanted, but the book is done, and it needed to get here so we could resume potty training. So it is what it is. I am not going to sit around and dwell on it forever. There are plenty more books to write. 

I’ll just toss out the idea of doing a little tutorial on how to navigate and use the pint sized productions website in case anyone needs help, but I’m not going to do it unless someone specifically requests it. I do think the site is pretty intuitive; although, there were a few irritants along the way. Image sizing was the one that was most problematic, but that was most likely due to me painting on canvases that were not the same size as the final 8x8 pages. Live and learn. Adapt and overcome. And so on.

So there it is, folks. My first completed book of the year. Hopefully it gets one of my girls out of diapers and into the next more complicated thing my wife and I have to figure out how to teach her.

Keep on making. I will too. 

Random Art post. Igor the Elephant page from book in progress.

Just finished another page from the new book. This is the first book I’ll submit to agents and presses this year once I finish it. I have done finished two books so far but they are basically just for friends and family unless Tina convinces me otherwise.

Igor is grumpy because he couldn’t keep his eyes open long enough to read his fave book.  

Igor is grumpy because he couldn’t keep his eyes open long enough to read his fave book.  

It’s almost Friday btw. For you fellow potty trainers out there, I know weekends are meaningless when you’re potty training. But at least you know where you’ll be spending most of your time. Turn the fan on. 

Pinky Panda Bear Potty Chart

So I finished up the new version of my daughter's potty chart. It's a three goes and then reward system. Here it is with a blank at the bottom for you to fill in whatever name you like. Now that I have my mic setup working again, I'll post a little video on how I did it. You could literally do it by hand and then snap a picture with your phone and print copies of that if you wanted to. I am trying to become a better designer and illustrator or else I would've probably just found one of these online somewhere. I'll get the whole download thing set up later. I am, as usual, way behind on the things I need to accomplish this week, and I highly doubt anyone absolutely must have this chart immediately. If you do, then you can send me a message and pay me to get it to you. 

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Potty Chart art post.

So we're about to get back into this potty training thing again. I don't know why anyone else would want a potty chart that has a character no one other than my own family knows, but when I finish it up, I'll post it here so you can grab it. This is just a thing I did while getting my digital work space set up in my office this morning. I hoped to do a little video for it, but my mic setup is strangely non-functional. So rather than deal with that all morning, I decided to make something with the tools I have that are working. Oh. And for the chart, I'll just leave the name off so that you don't have to rename your kid.

Here is that thing.

Happy Tuesday!

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A Year of Kid's Books #4 (Back Cover process w/ pics.)

Because I was transitioning back to ink and wash for the Pinky Panda books after the last two weeks of coloring digitally, I did the back cover of the current book in watercolor. Kind of a warm up, I guess. 

Here is the sketch I did based on a Calvin and Hobbes reference (most of the book used Watterson poses as references.)

Here is the sketch I did based on a Calvin and Hobbes reference (most of the book used Watterson poses as references.)

I sketched this with my Pentel Graphgear 1000 with HB lead on Canson XL watercolor paper.  I am not a fan of this paper, having used better stuff, but I bought it back when I had even less of an idea of what I was doing than I do now, and it was very useful for learning.

(I’m not putting links to these products because I am not advertising for them. But it did take me about a year to find what tools work best for me, and I read about a million reviews and posts before I landed on these tools. If things get really slow progress-wise then I may do a more elaborate post on the tools, but I’d rather focus on creating since that is my goal. You can google any of the items I mentioned and find a hundred reviews.)


Here is the third phase. I forgot to get a shot of just the inking because I was in a hurry and focused. I started using my Pentel pocket brush pen (which is amazing, and so is the graphgear pencil), but the brush was having a tough time moving along the paper and inking uniformly. That is because the paper is cold press and has a rough texture. So I fell back on my micron fine liner and prayed the nib wouldn't bend before I got all the work I needed to finish done. It went fine. Hooray!


Still not quite done, but nearly there. Only so much to do with a piece this cartoony before the style breaks down. (In my humble and untrained opinion.)  I wasn't sure what else to add or if I should add anything at all at this point, but after I let it set for a few hours and played with my daughters, I got about half an hour to fiddle around with a twitch stream set up and realized that the painting probably could use a bit more color and shadow in a few spots to bring it to life.


So here it is. I don't think I'll do anything else to it or I may make it worse instead of improving it. I seriously believe that too much detail in a picture like this will kill the charm. 


I did not alter it anymore. I just taped it down, snapped a picture of it, and then adjusted a few things in Affinity Photo to get it ready to go on the back of the book. After I get a verification from my editor (who happens to be my wife), then I'll get this bad boy ordered and dive back in to the series of Pinky Panda Bear books. 

Second update:

Tina said it was good to go. The book is on the way and I am back in Pinky Panda Bear business.  

Back to watercolor!

Here is the current version of Pinky and Dozer running through the Great Big Bamboo Forest on their way to see what’s happening at Igor the Elephant’s house.

I am back to ink and wash again, and it feels good to take a white canvas and do the full job of an illustration on that canvas alone. So I’ll likely return to all the inks I did for the previous book with colored pencils some day just to see how they look compared to the digital coloring I did.

Happy Friday. 


A Year of Kids’ Books #3

Week 3 has arrived, and I am well into the coloring for this project that I hope to finish before this weekend. I'm not trying to do a hundred books (or any specific number of books this year) but I do want to get through as many books I am happy with as I possibly can. As I've learned by writing books for the last ten years, the more I focus on completing books and actually figuring out how I need to work to get the whole book completed, the more I can focus on making the next one better than the book that came before. 

Just a couple kids jumping in the snow.

Just a couple kids jumping in the snow.

The picture above is from a book I'm doing in a style different than I'm using for the Pinky Panda Bear books. I did all the sketches and inking on Vellum Bristol board (This was an accident. I meant to get smooth Bristol board, but I was in a hurry and grabbed what they had at Micahels). Anyway, the paper has some texture to it that I can't really take advantage of using this style. It's a little disappointing, but maybe I'll get some colored pencils or pastels down the line and finish up the originals in that style just to see how it turns out.

The program I use for coloring and touch up was released for IPAD last year under my nose, and I am stoked that I can use the full blown program while sitting on the couch and watching TV while Tina and I veg out for the final couple hours of the day during the week. 

In case you care, it's Clip Studio Paint, and you can check it out here:

I could give a long explanation for why I use it instead of photoshop, but the main reason is to save money. I do have to use multiple programs to do all the things I could do in photoshop on its own, but I am not making enough money each year to justify the expense. And I like the programs I use. So if you're looking for a program that has a lot of versatility (and that is used by millions of artists worldwide), this is a good option.

Once this book is done, I can get back to the Pinky Panda Books. The first one is written. I just have to do all the art. Which, as you know, is no big deal. You just have to get up at 4 a.m. and work. It's easy to do when you believe what you're doing matters. Happy Monday.


A Year of Kids Books #2


This blog is not meant to be much more than a weekly catalog of what I’ve done on the work and search for publication of these books. I finished up Pinky Panda Goes Potty for Shannon and her cousin Kalona. It’s just a little biard book that I’ll order a couple copies from Pintsized productions, a place used for Shannon’s first book I made all digitally back in 2015(I think). I like them for the quality and that they are printed in America, but it does cost 40 ish bucks per book. But I’d rather spend 40 dollars on something that I hope will matter to Shannon when she is older than 40 bucks on something that will just get thrown away or lost in a pile of toys.   

One of the many things I love about Tina is that she actually listens to me when I talk. And because of that she got me a birthday gift that will help to keep my neck from breaking and also potentially prevent me from becoming a hunchback as I spend hours drawing and painting this year (and hopefully for many years to come). Here’s a shot of the portable easel and some of the work I’m currently doing set up on the kitchen table where I’ve been working recently just due to convenience.


The new Pinky Panda book that I’ll pitch to Immedium Press is well on its way. Three of the watercolor sketches are done. I’m doing this book on Winsor and Newton Hot Press paper and using winsor and newton paint as well as some pigma micron fineliners. Not sure if I prefer the fineliners for Pinky Panda vs the Pentel Brush pen yet but I’ll do one book each way and see what I like best or I’ll just do whatever I want because who cares? That’s the power of love. 

Igor the Elephant is grumpy. And he is too big for his house so he sometimes wears his roof as a hat.  

Igor the Elephant is grumpy. And he is too big for his house so he sometimes wears his roof as a hat.  

There is no way I can put this blog on a regular schedule because my work happens when there is time to do it. Basically that means I get about 15 hours a week if I never sleep in past 4 a.m. But in order to be a parent who is not a zombie, that is unrealistic and also crappy. I’m not gonna sacrifice being a present father in order to get these things done faster. 

Anyway...I will blog progress and process weekly until there are 52 posts on this. Then, I guess, I’ll move on to the next thing as I continue to adapt until I am too tired and lazy to do so. I hope that day doesn’t come for many years. 

Only 50 more posts to go. Have a great week.