Author Archives: Dayne Sislen, Children's Book Illustrator

About Dayne Sislen, Children's Book Illustrator

I am a children's book illustrator and graphic designer. I love working with self-publishing children's book authors to help them bring their characters and scenes to life on the printed page. I have spent over 30 years in the design graphics, advertising and marketing business, working with some of the most creative people in the industry. I can take your story idea from character development to finished illustrations and printer ready files. I run on coffee, chocolate and colorful Post-it notes.

Just signed up for PiBoIdMo



November is Picture Book Month. PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) is a brilliant idea to celebrate the month by coming up with a new picture book idea every day in November. Visit Tara Lazar’s blog to sign up. You might surprise yourself with all your creative ideas. Then you have a whole year to work on the stories.


SCBWI Missouri Fall Conference


SCBWI_MO_logo-11Just finished up two days of a fantastic SCBWI conference. If you’ve never been to one, you should go. If you missed this one, shame on you. There was an exciting mix of experienced authors and illustrators and beginners of all levels. Everyone was there to learn and meet other people who share the same interests. I was so tired and excited Saturday night after such a full day, I didn’t think I would ever settle down to fall asleep. Then bright and early Sunday morning I had a workshop on picture books with Jodell Sadler.

On Saturday I had critiques with Giuseppe Castellano, Jodell Sadler and a peer critique group headed by Jeannie Ransom at 8-9:30 pm that night. I thought these critiques would be high stress, but they were fun and enlightening. It really helps to have respected talent in your field critique your work. I learned so much. I was also able to attend keynote speeches by Giuseppe Castellano, Dan Yaccarino and Jodell Sadler. There was so much more I wanted to learn, but had to use my time wisely. It’s a shame, if you want to write and illustrate, you must miss speakers who are speaking concurrently. My workshop with Jodell Sadler on Sunday was very inspirational for me. She lives and breathes picture books. Since I want to illustrate and write my own picture books someday, her words really made an impression.

This is my third Missouri SCBWI conference. I enjoyed myself so much, I’m thinking of branching out to the big conferences in N.Y. and L.A. or even neighboring states next year. It won’t take much to convince me.

I would like to congratulate Wendy Martin for winning the banner contest for 2014. You can see her wonderful banner here. I would have liked to use her image to illustrate this blog post but didn’t think that was correct.

Please, if anyone has any notes to add to share. Use the comments below. Posting pictures of the events would be nice.

I believe in putting yourself out there every day


I decided to write and illustrate a book for myself, even though I am busy with illustration work I am doing for other authors. I’ve been working on this book for a long time. I made the decision to sign-up for a professional critique from Jodell Sadler in conjunction with the 2014 Fall Conference for the Missouri SCBWI. I am also doing a portfolio critique with Giuseppe Castellano, illustrator and art director at Penguin Books. Both these critiques make me push myself and get things done. I love pressure.


Here is the cover of my picture book about a self-centered, obsessive-compulsive cat written in the first person. The cat gives her story and the illustrations tell a far different reality. I have been writing this book for quite a while, I put together a rough dummy to go with in the story in the last two months in between other jobs. Actually the illustrations came first, but they were all in my mind. When my critique group couldn’t figure out why the cat way saying one thing and I was talking about something altogether different, I had to do the rough illustrations and make a dummy.

Book I illustrated is finally printed!



Printed samples have just come in for a book I illustrated last year for a self published author, Leila L. Leidtke. I posted several early versions of the cover and illustrations on this blog as I was working through the creative process (see  8/2/2013, 8/7/2013 and 10/17/2013 ). This book took about 9 months to finish and another 6 months before it was printed. It’s a good feeling to be finally have closure on this project. The author and I are very pleased with the finished product. Currently, books can be ordered directly from Friesen Press, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  There is also an ebook version available, I haven’t seen it yet.

Need a Kick-in the pants to move your career forward?


I find the only way to keep myself motivated is to keep setting goals and making deadline. I sign-up for critiques with agents and publishers at SCBWI events. I find I must be motivated to create my best work, deadlines help me keep on track. I am busy illustrating picture books for other authors, but to get my own work done, I must take a risk and commit. Read my blog to see how I accomplish this.

Need help with rewording my illustrating contract.


Once again it’s going to take me over 8 months to finish illustrating a self-published children’s picture book for an author. The author seemed willing to work quickly and we get along wonderfully. I thought I could finish her cute book about a “round” little girl who wants to be a ballerina in the school play in 5 or 6 months. Olivia in Round

I know the issue  is  my current contract, as Kim Wilson pointed out earlier on this blog. My contract doesn’t limit changes for each page or limit the amount of time an author has to approve a drawing.  Kim said she asks for 4 days turnaround. Unfortunately this contract was signed before I got the advice to change that part. I state that no changes can be made once I start the color on the illustrations, so they change them over and over in the rough and finished line stage. I have changed the faces on the characters in this book as many as four times on a several of the pages and I am still reworking on the line art on most pages. I think I need to stop being so accommodating. Things are not getting better!

I worked as a graphic designer and art director for most of my life so I’m used to being paid for a job based on hours worked, not a flat fee. I feel when people are paying per hour, they don’t make as many changes because it is costing them money. I didn’t mind making changes when I was paid by the hour, because I was being paid to make them. When you offer a service like illustrating a book for a flat fee, people want to get their money’s worth, so they change things. How do you word your contract to limit the amount of time for approval and how many changes do you allow on each illustration at each stage? I need help, I have another book contract signing coming up soon and want to write a better contract. I love what I’m doing, but need to be more efficient.

Don’t try to work on vacation!


My husband and I decided we both needed a break from the terrible cold and snowy weather we’ve been having. So we packed our beloved Scottie Gillis in the car and drove to southern Florida. We found warm sunny weather and a relaxed laid back style of life that we took to right away.

Gillis_onthebeachThinking I would have a lot of time on my hands, since I don’t play golf and my husband does, I had packed the car with rough sketches for a 31 illustrations for a picture book I’m working on. I also packed my Mac Book Pro and my Wacom tablet and pen. I thought I could work in comfort, instead of freezing. Read my blog to see what happens…

Sorry this photo isn’t an illustration of Gillis… I was just so relaxed and… I WAS ON VACATION!