Random Acts of Creativity by Karen Windness

Dorothy in Oz Postcards

I have a goal to send out quarterly postcards. I got behind this year, but attending a big conference gets me on track. Here are my current sample postcards:



These are the 4″x6″ standard cards printed through

The plastic sleeves give me the option to mail without covering part of my design with an address sticker. An art director may not open an envelope, but postcards are typically welcome. There are plenty of places to get plastic sleeves, but I was in a rush so I ordered these: LINK 

Follow the yellow brick road and happy creating!


#4outthedoor#scbwi #kidlitart #oz #illustration

What’s in a Showcase Winning SCBWI Portfolio?

I just got back from #LA18SCBWI (2018 international conference for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in Los Angeles) and I’ve been taking notice of what goes into a winning showcase portfolio for several years. Here are my observations.

What Makes a Winning SCBWI Portfolio Showcase Entry
(As Far As I Can Tell)
Kaz Windness – August 2018

The book

  • The portfolio book follows the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase rules.
  • Simple, clean portfolio book.
  • 10-12 fabulous pieces. (Top out at 12, seriously! Show only the best!)
  • Name clearly displayed, usually hand-drawn/designed by the artist.
  • All pieces face upright (no turning the book).
  • Typically, the art is mounted rather than displayed in plastic sleeves. This avoids reflection while viewing.
  • There are no mediocre pieces or blank pages at the end.
  • The art is thoughtfully organized and one piece flows to the next.

The art

  • The style feels unified throughout. No big shifts in style or media.
  • Picture book appropriate art is featured. Some middle-grade work is also fine.
  • The work is literary (artsy and unique) rather than commercial.
  • The art is textural (looks like live media, even if digital).
  • Each piece evokes a clear mood utilizing color and lighting.
  • Each piece tells a story. The narrative makes the viewer ask, “What happens next?”
  • 2 or 3 of the pieces are from the same story and feature the same characters.
  • There are multiple projects featured and no more than 3 images from one single project.
  • Few or no words are added to the art. Think clean viewing without clutter or distractions. (Hey! It’s like The Life-changing Magic of Tidying for portfolios!)
  • At least a few of the pieces show characters interacting with each other.
  • There are both illustrations with backgrounds and samples utilizing white space or less-busy backgrounds. (Pace so there are quiet moments in your portfolio.)
  • Diversity has not been neglected. (Are all your people white? Are diverse characters drawn with respect and authenticity, not just white people with brown skin?)
  • Utilizes multiple camera angles for mood, meaning, and variety.
  • The artist understands color, lighting, composition and has a strong handle on their media.
  • Shows children interacting with animals or adults (mom/dad/grandparent) in emotionally sincere moments.

The judges are looking for a fresh, modern and unique approach, but there have been commonalities in the winning style for the last several years.

  • Flattening of perspective was a noticeable trend in the last few winning portfolios. (Example: The floor does not recede back into space, but lays flat behind the character(s).)
  • Incorporation of collage with paint. Also, watercolor/gouache with pen or pencil. (Mixed media.)
  • A simpler, painterly/rough-drawn approach rather than highly rendered pieces. Childlike/child approachable. (Check out Catbird Agency for style cues, but it must be your own style rather than derivative.)
  • Simpler, unified, and on-trend/modern/fresh color palettes. Thoughtful use of grey.

The sample card must represent the portfolio well. This is what the judges use to narrow down their winning picks. Judges snag postcards from portfolios they like and take those cards to a table to discuss with other judges. If multiple judges have grabbed the same card, that portfolio will be fetched for closer review.

  • Name clearly displayed and the same as on the portfolio.
  • The art must be easily viewed, so not just a small postcard or business card.
  • Two-sided is better, both sides featuring a different scene from the same project, ie. a full environment on the front and a spot illo on the back. Black and white printing on the back is fine.

For postcard printing, I like Moo but GotPrint is also recommended.

PLEASE NOTE: You get seen at these shows, so if playing to the win is going to keep publishing people from viewing the kind of work you really want to do, don’t play to the win. Do you, Boo! Plenty of illustrators get discovered without ever winning any SCBWI contest or recognition. You are already winning by showing your work.

For a portfolio checksheet, please see this blog entry:

For visual examples and portfolio tips and tricks, please see my Pinterest boards:

This blog entry refers to hardcopy portfolios. Web portfolios are similar in some ways but different in many others. We’ll save that for another discussion.

Happy illustrating!

Kaz Windness

Summer 2018 RMC-SCBWI Newsletter Interview

Blue Bear was selected as the new logo for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, so I was asked for an interview. Here it is!



If you have an interest in writing, illustrating, and publishing children’s books, the SCBWI is a great organization! Join HERE!


This is a surprise wedding gift; a painting of the couple’s beloved dog, Roscoe.


Gifts are fun because I can experiment with style and color. The “save the date” card had several different Roscoe shots, which is exactly what I want for reference. How could I resist?

Acrylic on board, 11″x14″


Dorothy in Oz

I recently read The Wizard of Oz and just had to draw these characters. The imagery leans more movie version (hello ruby slippers), but I did my best to give props to the original story, too.oz-windness-web

My 9-yo son complained that I’d got Dorothy wrong. He’s the same kid that quotes Martin Luther King Jr. and is moved to tears by racial inequality, but he was sure I was wrong and Dorothy was white. We had a good talk about why it’s so important to show diversity in books. And the other thing? Not once is Dorothy’s skin color mentioned in the book. So why do we presume that she’s white? Let’s challenge our presumptions. Every child should see themselves in books and every child who doesn’t have the opportunity to experience diversity in their communities should at least experience it through literature. Bucket by bucket, let’s melt the wickedness that is prejudice. Diverse books matter!  -Kaz

Redbubble merchandise HERE!

Original sketch:



I’ve had this little guy running around in the back of my head for several months. Stubs is a child’s writing pencil, but he dreams of being an artist. Will he fulfill his destiny before the lead runs out? It’s a story about dreaming big and blooming late–in short, my story.


A Girl and her Bear

Based on a beautiful friend’s beautiful daughter, Devyn. Enjoying a little time after big commissions to make art just because. There is beauty in the world. Dream a dream of love and hope.


Painted in Photoshop using a pastel Grutbrush.

Fatima with a Pearl Earring

I teach illustration at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. I went to grade assignments and ended up drawing one of my students. This is Fatima with a Pearl Earring.




This fuzzy little guy is ready to celebrate! Partypillar products: HERE caterpillar-KAZWINDNESS.jpg


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