Hi Everyone!

Thanks for checking out my blog today! With the upcoming release of Gustav Gloom and the Castle of Fear (book #6), the final book in the series, I wanted to share some behind the scenes of the illustration work I did for this book.  The process is quite involved and is comprised of a team of people to make each book happen. Adam-Troy Castro is the author behind this fantastic series, which is published through Penguin Random House.

I personally enjoy talking about the process behind my illustration and fine art work. This blog, and others, should help you understand the process and time that goes into the creation of an entire chapter / picture book. Another blog will follow showcasing the painting process for the book cover.





2015-05-21 14.27.26

Working on initial concept sketches. While reading through the manuscript, I sketch out quick ideas, sort of like snap shots of specific moments in the story.



2015-10-30 12.17.55

Lots of thumbnail sketches.

Thumbnail sketches are really rough ideas, trying to place the figures and/or background within the composition. When you’re working on your first ideas, I recommend not getting too detailed right away, because then you’re committed. Hard to make improvements if you’re committed. Plus, you want to get the ideas you have to paper as quickly as possible. You can’t do that if you take your time with a finished drawing.


Here are some examples of thumbnail sketches I completed for a few illustrations.

2015-11-02 12.34.24

At the drawing board working on more finished sketches. At this stage, additional references are sought to complete each sketch. One of the most challenging aspects of this book series was making sure characters look consistent throughout each book, so I have to repeatedly double check clothing, hair styles, etc. . .



2015-09-15 11.33.01

This is jumping ahead a bit, but after two or three rounds of rough sketches and finished sketches sent back and forth between myself and the team at the publisher, I start prepping my boards to paint. I’ve had so many people tell me I should work digitally. No way! I love making things by hand. Every step is part of the process, and I enjoy the hands on experience of working with the materials.

I cut all of my illustration boards down to size. Each illustration is about 9” x 13” (give or take a bit smaller or larger). I then prime the boards with gesso, sanding in between coats, which acts as a seal on the board so that I can then paint on them.

I don’t have a step showing that, but please feel free to look through previous blogs showcasing the gesso stage of the process.



2015-09-15 11.31.16

Boards are cut and primed for paint!


2015-12-04 12.31.27

I then tape my illustration boards to a sturdy foam core back to prevent warping. You can see some loose sketches as well.


2015-12-04 12.23.38


2015-11-13 12.15.06

Illustration #1 in the book. The People Taker!


2016-01-17 14.37.06

Paints are mixed up! I always mix up colors first that way I can keep painting without stopping frequently to mix colors. I use a very specific paint mixing process to establish my grayscale.


2015-11-13 12.53.01

Painting in process. I use oil paint, which I love! It stays wet (which you love or hate-I happen to love it), it allows me to blend and create soft gradients with ease.


2015-11-13 14.39.41

Finished illustration #1!

2015-12-30 14.49.37

By far, one of my favorite illustrations to paint in this book!

There is a video floating around on my social media sites showcasing the painting process:



2016-01-19 13.12.38




I also photograph and prepare a digital file of each finished illustration before sending them to the publisher.

Each book has about 17-19 interior illustrations in addition to the cover, so this entire process is repeated for EVERY illustration! Each illustration takes a few hours to paint.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out this blog. Stay tuned for a blog featuring the cover illustration for book 6!