Birds in Hats

Top Hats Erika Schnatz

It’s been some time since I’ve had my work displayed anywhere. There was that one time I had a piece up in a robot-themed show at a taco shop, and then someone STOLE MY PIECE OFF OF THE WALL, so maybe that’s the reason it has been a while? Or perhaps having a full-time job was the culprit.

In any case, I drew some birds in hats for the Tiny Wonderland show at Leanna Lin’s Wonderland in Eagle Rock, CA. The rule was nothing larger than 5″x 5″, so I found some 4″x 4″ panels and was plagued with indecision until several days before I need to mail out my work (nothing like artistic procrastination). I quite like these silly little birds, and if you like them too (and would like one to hang on a wall), a few of them are still available on to purchase:


Cat Detective in Color!

Erika Schnatz Cat Burglar

Like my previous post, this was another let’s-color-this-in-Photoshop-at-the-last-minute-because-I-need-a-new-portfolio-piece situation. I’ll likely go in and play with the color a bit in the future, since I like this character. Maybe he could get his own picture book.

Erika Schnatz Cat Burglar

Animal Doodles in Glorious Color

Erika Schnatz Animal Doodles

So I drew these animal characters ages ago for some Daily Doodle prompts on Twitter, but didn’t color them in until last week when I was desperate to find new pieces to put in my portfolio for a children’s book conference. It wound up being one of the strongest pieces in my portfolio since I haven’t completed many kid-appropriate illustrations in the past few years. I’m going to see how this style works with my new picture book dummy, because I need to figure out a color solution that is not terribly labor intensive. I have over 30 characters on one particular spread, so for the sake of my sanity I’d like to keep it simple.

Erika Schnatz Animal Doodles


December Catch-up

I did a number of (people) portraits in December! Please enjoy, and keep an eye out for a new drawing project I will start posting next week.

First up, a collage-type poster for my friend Melanie, who commissioned the piece as a Christmas gift for her (new!) husband. They went to London on their honeymoon, so I got to cobble together a bunch of different landmarks.

Schantz Honeymoon Portrait

I was also commissioned to draw some portraits of my cousins (thanks, Mom!). They went over quite well on Christmas day.

The Green Children

The Rice Children

Editor Extraordinaire

One of my colleagues from Ooligan Press requested a color portrait for her website, and I was more than happy to oblige! (It was especially fun to draw a tiny Webster’s Dictionary and Chicago Manual of Style.)

Bess Pallares Portrait Erika Schnatz

Bess has a crazy amount of comics knowledge and is a super editor. She’s also an acquisitions co-manager for Ooligan Press this year, so she’s an all around awesome person.

Check out her website here!

If you’d like a portrait of your own, I’m available for commissions. Just drop me a line!

How to Design A Book Cover for Ooligan Press

Rhythm in the Rain Final Front Cover Erika Schnatz

The idiom goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” As someone who has created a handful of cover designs, I say, judge away. If the cover design is effective, it will help sell the book.

Many publishers have a designer or teams of designers on staff to tackle book cover design, but since Ooligan Press is a teaching press, it relies on its students to take cover concepts from brainstorm to final files. Under the helpful guidance of the Design & Production Manager (my role during the 2014-2015 academic year) and a weekly peer critique, students design each book published at the press.

The cover design process at Ooligan is democratic; students who attend the design meetings vote for the top three cover concepts, then the whole press votes on which design will make it to print. After designing a number of concepts that didn’t quite make the cut, one of my concepts was chosen as the final cover for Rhythm in the Rain: Jazz in the Pacific Northwest (woo!). Here is how the process went:

  1. Read the design brief: the project team working on the book puts together a design brief with the assistance of the design manager and then it’s sent out to the entire press via email. Since there was no manuscript available to peruse (normally step 2), the design brief was doubly important.
  2. Brainstorm! If you’re like me, this means some pencil-on-paper action to play with shapes, concepts, and overall composition before/after/during a search for design inspiration. And writing teeny tiny notes to yourself.

Rhythm in the Rain cover comps Erika Schnatz

3. Make some mock-ups: Time to hop on the computer and create some comps. These are the initial three designs I brought to our peer critique:

4. Revision, revision, revision: My peers responded most positively to design #2, so I took their feedback and ran with it, to produce the following variations:

5. Cover vote! After a few weeks of revision time, the design team voted on three cover concepts to go in front of the entire press. My design was one of the three, and I believe the first cover above was the one I chose to show (I hadn’t had time to make too many adjustments in the prior weeks). We received some feedback from the author on the final three cover concepts, and members of the press chimed in with their own thoughts. Some of it was useful and some of it was not. It was pointed out to me that the bark texture in the background was a bit arbitrary (I agreed). The final vote was tallied, my concept was chosen, and it was time to get back to work:

From this point on design decisions were made by the publisher, the project manager, and myself. When I sent out these variations, the third version was the clear standout. From there it was a series of very small nitpicky design changes, like moving trees around and playing with the background color of the cover.

Rhythm in the Rain Final Front Cover Erika Schnatz

6. Finish it: Once a front cover was agreed upon, it was time to design the spine and back cover. The back cover will inevitably change a bit before the book is printed based on the blurbs and book summary, so I had some fun with the placeholder quotes in the meantime. Voilà!

Rhythm in the Rain Final Full Cover Erika Schnatz

(Since Esperanza Spalding is one of the most well-known jazz figures in the Pacific Northwest, she turned into something of an inside joke. Sorry, Esperanza!) If you need a design for your next book, I’m available!

Sneaky Peek of Our Super Awesome Wedding Activity Book

Schnatz Duncan Wedding Activity Book

Unless you attended our wedding (hey there immediate family and close friends), you probably haven’t seen this yet. Dan and I co-created a wedding activity book as a gift for our guests, because we enjoy taking on ridiculously complicated projects within short periods of time. Also, what better way to put my master’s in book publishing to use than to design a book?

Schnatz Duncan Wedding Activity Book

Eventually I’ll put up all 24 pages of fun and excellence, but for now you just get to see the cover (which depicts Dan with a burrito and I with a book while riding a giant turquoise HamHam, as you do). However, we have a bunch of printed copies that we’re sending out to all of the lovely folks who sent us a wedding gift, so if you donate to our honeymoon fund and email me your mailing address (schnatze at gmail dot com), you will get a copy of your own!

Did I mention the activity book includes poop emojis? Yeah, we went there.