Tuesday, November 24, 2020


 I was the featured illustrator for KidLit411 for August! What fun! 


http://www.kidlit411.com/2020/05/kidlit411-banner-illustration-contest.html


Here is my response the interview questions:


1.       I’ve always been an artist. I was a painfully shy, quiet child, and drawing was my way of expressing what I was interested in and thinking about. Most people would describe me as self-taught, because I don’t have an art degree. I have taken many classes, been to many lectures, conferences, retreats, and workshops, which have provided me with a good foundation. But my greatest education has been with friends, fellow artists and writers who all share their skills and experiences with me. They push me to look beyond my own experiences, and my art and writing have grown because of it. So I like to say I’m community educated.

I signed up for a children’s book illustration class at Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2006, searching for a way to share my art with other people. That class was all I needed! I KNEW that this was what I meant to do!

2.        Thank you for having ongoing opportunities for artists to show our work!

The brief for the contest specifically requested something with birds. I love to draw birds! You will often find a bird somewhere in my illustrations. Banners can be difficult because of the format, so I was trying to do something graphic with a lot of contrast. I limited the small details I love to do and went a litter bolder than normal. Birds are very curious and smart, so I tried to play off that with my illustration. Bright colors and pattern were the finishing touches.

3.       I love to study other artists. It’s been a long journey to figure out my “style” of art. At first I would just copy artists I admired. Some of my favorites are Barbara Cooney, Jeanette Winter, Grandma Moses, Matisse, Clementine Hunter, Erin Stead, Vanessa Brantley Newton, and Judy Schachner. Over time I figured out how to absorb at little bit of everything I loved and apply it to what I wanted to do. It has really taken a long time to get to where my art is today. The last few years I feel like I have finally found my voice as an artist and writer. But I love learning, so that is always evolving and growing! I LOVE patterns and like to add them everywhere.

4.       Process…Yikes! I am so interested in seeing other artist’s processes because I always feel like I am doing it wrong. I work traditionally, but I have started sketching on an Ipad. Everything always gets transferred to paper eventually.

I usually work at about 125% for finished art. I transfer my drawings to either Arches or Fabriano watercolor paper (cold press) with graphite paper. I paint with watercolor paint or gouache. Sometimes I use both! I prefer traditional gouache because you can use it like a watercolor paint, but I also use acrylic gouache. While I use Photoshop/Procreate for the drawing stage, and finishing touches, I like my paintings to be one big final piece. I always question this strategy when I have to start something over.

5.       Recently I have been creating dummy books for a few of my manuscripts. I currently don’t have an agent, so submitting on my own again has been scary! Without my writing group and a few close friends, I don’t know if I would have the capacity to stay focused and keep putting my work out there. Some days are harder than others. My writing group meets once a week and it really forces me to make time for my art and writing.

6.     Outside of my writing group and close friends, most people don’t know that I am a healthcare worker. On social media, I try and maintain my “life as an artist” image, but I need health insurance and regular paycheck! So from someone on the inside…wear a mask!!!

7.       You can find me online at

Website: colleenmuske.com

Facebook: Colleen Muske

Instagram: colleenmuske

Twitter: @colleenmuske


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

 I haven't posted in sooooooo long! Rest assured I am working away in my studio. Playing with gouache, making so new pieces to update my portfolio, writing, rewriting and drinking lots of coffee!

Check back soon for a post about getting an agent! I am happily represented by Rick Margolis of Rising Bear Literary. It has been several months since I signed with Rick and we have been very hard at work. More to come soon!

Happy pi day!


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Who Do You Write For?

     I've heard Gary Schmidt speak a few times. To me, he was at his best at the Hamline MFA residency program lecture in July of 2015, where he paced back and forth, speaking without notes. A one man show. There was laughter, lots of laughter. A few tears, okay maybe more than a few. Impressed with his knowledge of history and endless stories, I thought I would never hear anything so eloquent again. I was wrong.
     On Sunday, Gary was the last speaker at the #NY16SCBWI conference. The person next to me was an illustrator. She was thinking about leaving and getting in line for autographs.

     "Don't leave" I said. "Stay. It will be worth it."

     "But I'm not a writer" she said.

     "It doesn't matter. Don't leave. It will be worth it".

     Gary was full of exceptional stories. He spoke about writing. He spoke about kids.

     "Who do you write for?" he asked.

     Gary explained who he wrote for. The kind of kid he wrote for. The kind of kid I was. The kind of kid I still am. When I am writing and trying to pull from my experiences and my emotion from that time in my life, I am that kid.

     Sitting on the runway waiting for the plane to take off, I reached in my bag and pulled out Gary's book Okay For Now. I started to read. It was snowing and the plane was delayed. I read. We had to wait in a long line to be De-iced. I read. Down to one runway for take offs and landings. I read. We waited. I read.

     The woman sitting next to me was carrying a HUGE bible, (about 17" x 11") weird, right? Occasionally she would look at me and I knew she was wondering why a grown woman was reading a book meant for middle school kids, but I kept reading. And when I asked her to turn on my light because I was too short, I am sure she thought I was reading at the appropriate level for my intellect. But I kept reading.

     When Lucas came home from the war and his mom greeted him, I cried. I cried because I am a mom and because I was the kid Gary writes for. In a voice used for a seven year old, bible lady told me it would be okay, we were going to take off soon.

     I finished the book, almost at the exact time the wheels touched down. I was home. On the way home from the airport, I told my husband about the kid I write for. It felt good to say it out loud.

     "I was that kid" I said.

     "Sometimes you still are" he said.

     Maybe that bible lady wasn't too far off. During that flight, reading that book, I was that kid. When I was eleven, a book changed me. It changed the way I looked at my life and gave me hope for my future.

     Thank you Gary D. Schmidt. Thank you for writing for the kid I was and sometimes, the kid I still am.

     So whether you write with words or with pictures, ALWAYS remember who you are writing for. You might be writing for me.


Monday, February 8, 2016

New York, New York

     Ready or not, NY here I come. Anxiety, stress and stomach cramps should set in sometime Wednesday. Leaving the comfort of my studio and the company of my dog for the Big City is a bit daunting. I've been to enough conferences to know that I'm not going to land a six figure, four book deal or sign with my dream agent. I am looking forward to meeting a few Facebook friends in person, connecting with my online critique group members, and soaking up some knowledge from  all those smart, talented  SCBWI people.

If you see me standing in a corner biting my nails, come say "Hello", I promise I won't pitch my YA novel or any PB Manuscripts. I frown on stalking editors, I don't talk in elevators unless necessary and nothing will be shared in a bathroom (so unsanitary).

See you in New York!
Colleen





Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Moving Up?

I'm trying to add some pieces to my portfolio that will appeal to an older audience. This is the first of three or four I hope to complete before heading to the SCBWI Conference in NYC. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Road Trip Time!

Projects are complete, automatic replies to work email turned on, dog sitters in place, laundry done, suitcase packed, writing materials ready, traveling watercolor kit secured, car washed, vacuumed and full of gas, because this road trip begins at 6:00am!

St. Paul to the Thousand Islands Region of NY with lots of stops along the way. Follow my Twitter and Instagram for images of things that inspire me, daily doodles and good eats. 

See you in the morning!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Practice Does Not Always Make Perfect



I've been playing around a little bit. You are not seeing the four flat out rejects. Seriously, if I paint this picture one more time I might go crazy. Or drink. Or both.