Robert Quackenbush has a painting assignment for you


Robert Quackenbush is the author and illustrator of nearly two hundred books for young readers.

His story characters have become known all over the world. Whenever he speaks before audiences of children - which often includes author tours from Alaska to South America and from Europe to the Middle East - he is introduced as the father of Henry the Duck, Detective Mole, Miss Mallard, Pete Pack Rat, Sheriff Sally Gopher, and many more. He is the three-time winner of the American Flag Institute Award for outstanding contributions to children's literature and winner of an Edgar Allan Poe Special Award for best juvenile mystery.

He graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles and has a Masters in Social Studies and a Ph.D. in Childhood Education.

He'll be our guest instructor for September's Guest Group Critique, set for 7 p.m. (U.S. Central Time)Wednesday, October 26.

Scroll down for this month's assignment.

Your fairy tale assignment: Final art for a two-page spread

Robert Quackenbush's assignment for our October 26 Guest Group Critique Halloween Party is straightforward and precise. "It is the way I start my classes," he says. "Fold eight sheets of 8 1/2" x 11" sheets of paper in half and gather them together.

"Number each page and you will have 32 pages - the standard number of pages for a picture book."


"Page one will be a title page; Page 2 will be the copyright page; Page 3 will be the dedication page; Page 4 will start you story and Page 32 will end your story.

"On these folded pages layout in quick sketches your story and pictures.

"Then do a finished illustration in any media you chose of a spread from your 'dummy' book (two facing pages is a spread) without text.

"The size of the finished illustration will be 10" x 16" or 8" x 20", depending on whether you want horizontal or vertical 8" x 10" book, which a standard size for a picture book when closed.

"For subject matter I suggest a fairy story or nursery fable – one that hasn't been done before. You can find that out by googling the name of your selection and see if it has been done. There is always a market for unusual folk tales and fables.

"You might even consider a fable or folk tale from India that has not been published before in the U.S for a wide audience including India that looks for books in English. Or write your own story, which is even better."

downloadA Halloween Hunker Down

Scan or take a photo of your finished 2-page spread and that's what you'll upload into the October shared folder, now set up for you here.

Try to get it in by the end of day October 25, the day before our 8 p.m. (CST) October 26 live session with Robert.

At 7 p.m. U.S. Central Time on Wednesday, October 26, we'll meet with Robert on this unlisted YouTube page.

He'll talk about his own work and process a little, then pick about 10 pieces from the October folder to talk about and teach from. (We'll cover the rest of October's spreads in another, future 'just between us' session. Watch your e-mails for news about that.)

This is an opportunity for you to create a piece of final art to include in a picture book dummy of your own – or very nice portfolio piece, at the very least.

To access all of the past critique replays and other resources in the members' area, you need to first register yourself (with a user's name and an easy-to-remember password that you'll give yourself) here:


After that, you’ll be able to log in each time to the library here.

Or by going to the site directly here (where you'll be asked to log in.)

Tech tip: Last Pass is a good, free password management solution to help you keep up with passwords if you're looking for some help, there. I know it can get a little crazy with so many membership sites and passwords.

Once you're inside the Guest Group Critiques members' area, you might enjoy checking out some of these pages to get you started:

🙂 Tutorial page on how the critiques and uploading to shared folders work

🙂 Our visit with children’s publishing literary agent Kelly Sonnack about how to present yourself online as a children’s book artist

🙂 And this valuable session agent and art rep Nicole Tugeau

To navigate the library of archived videos from previous sessions with our guest instructors, go the Guest Group Critiques home page, then click on a face!

Please holler back if you have trouble with any aspect of your Guest Group Critiques membership, run into difficulties using the site, or have any questions!

Guest Group Critiques are meant to help you develop your portfolio as you discover more about your craft, the children's publishing market and yourself.

We hope you can join us for October's process visit and Q&A with Robert Quackenbush and his review of some of our submitted  fairy tale (or your own story's) illustration spreads on Wednesday, October 26. 


Monthly group critiques are 'perfect practice'

They tell you...

  • What isn't working

  • When to push harder

  • When to just stop

And help you to...

  • Get a fresh perspective

    Our guest critiquers – illustrators, author-illustrators, children’s literary agents, art directors, maybe an editor or two  – examine your final in a spirit of teaching and mentoring.

  • Think more like a pro

    Watch up close and personal how full-time creatives evaluate and troubleshoot their own and others’ pieces.

  • Prepare for that thing

    That upcoming kidlit (or illustrators’) conference, important promotional mailing, post or sit-down with a client.

  • Sharpen your discernment powers

    Remind you of those bedrock principles of draftsmanship, design and communication. (Funny how they keep bringing you back to those.)

  • Meet your tribe

    Your colleagues and the expert practioners. Who share their What I Wish I Knew Then stories and become your contacts in ‘the biz.’ (It’s called networking.)

  • Get better at getting better

    Practice with critiques helps you understand the hierarchy of feedback and how to navigate it wisely – knowing what’s valid for you now, vs. what to set aside for later.

Improvement comes from consistent focus

Sometimes it will be your work being discussed. More often, someone else's...

Either way, you'll benefit by being there. You'll take away the insights to help you later — when it's just you behind the table making all those decisions, big and little required for a really good picture.


You don't have to go it alone...

With a subscription you can participate in all of our monthly live critique programs and immediately access replays of all sessions we've enjoyed and learned from so far by these top professionals:

Click on the photos to see their websites!

Mira Reisberg

Mira Reisberg, author-illustrator, teacher and founder, Children's Book Academy

Karien Naude

Karien Naude, illustrator

Karien Naude

Chris Schechner, designer, illustrator and art director for 20+ years for "Pockets" magazine

Loraine Joyner

Loraine Joyner, senior art director for 23 years with Peachtree Publishers

Author-illustrator Jeff Crosby

Jeff Crosby, author-illustrator

Marsha Riti

Marsha Riti, illustrator

Christy Stallop

Christy Stallop, illustrator

ustyme books art manager Nick Balian with the cover of his

Nick Balian, illustrator animator, art manager for digital publisher ustyme Books

Nicole Tugeau, agent and artists' rep, Tugeau2 Children's Illustrators

C.S. Jennings

C.S. Jennings, author-illustrator

Annette Simon

Annette Simon, author-illustrator

Mark Mitchell,

Mark Mitchell, author-illustrator and moderator

Denise Fleming

Denise Fleming, award-winning author-illustrator

Penguin Random House art director Giuseppe Castellano

Giuseppe Castellano, Penguin Random House art director

Wendy Martin, author-illustrator and teacher

Wendy Martin, author-illustrator and teacher

Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan, award-winning author-illustrator

Jodell Sadler and KidLit College

Jodell Sadler, founder KidLit College and agent

Kelly Sonnack, senior agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency