Welcome to our new illustrator guest post series, Saturday Afternoon Picnics! And welcome to Susan Stockdale, author and illustrator of Spectacular Spots, and our very first guest blogger!

In this series, we’ll turn the blog over to your favorite Peachtree illustrators. They might take you on a studio tour, share an exclusive illustration, or do something completely different!

So pour yourself a glass of lemonade, sit back, and learn all about Susan Stockdale’s process of creating the illustrations that Horn Book called “eye-pleasingly dramatic” and Kirkus called “a feast for the eyes.”


Illustrating Spectacular Spots
a guest post by Susan Stockdale


What kinds of animals have spots, and why do they have them? To hide more easily? To warn enemies to stay away? To recognize animals of their own kind?

I wrote and illustrated Spectacular Spots, a companion to my book, Stripes of All Types, to answer these questions and to introduce young readers to the behavior of all kinds of spectacular spotted animals. Spotlighting (pun intended!) animals with spots allowed me to paint intricate patterns – my favorite activity. Painting patterns calms and soothes me. Looking at repeating patterns also helps me feel a sense of order in a chaotic world.

The illustration process for all my books is the same: create many sketches of each animal; select the one I like best; create a final drawing; submit it to scientists to confirm it is factually correct; revise if necessary; and paint the image in acrylic on paper. Here are two Spectacular Spots illustration progressions:

I looked at reference photos like this…
and began drawing the owls. At first, I focused on the babies and showed the mother owl flying in the background before a full moon.
Then I moved the mother owl to the foreground and showed her flying diagonally, as seen in this sketch.
Here is my final drawing, in which I changed the text from “spotted owl” to “swooping owl.”
Here is the final illustration.
Holstein Cows:
I created many sketches of the spotted cows in a pasture. I liked this one best.
Next, I decided to make the illustration more engaging by having the cow with the larger face look out at the reader. I had fun embellishing the tufts of hair on top of the cows’ heads in this final illustration, in which I changed the text from “spotted oxen” to “grazing cattle.”
Matching Game:
Pattern recognition is important for developing critical thinking skills and math comprehension. At the end of my book, I invite readers to match the spotted patterns to the 19 animals featured in my book.
Shapes that repeat,
what a visual treat.
I had fun with this book,
using spots as my hook!

Thanks so much to Susan for giving us an inside look at her process! (Aren’t those owls just precious?) Spectacular Spots is on sale now! Visit your local library or bookstore to pick up your copy. And don’t forget to visit Susan at www.susanstockdale.com