Season's Greetings

Happy Holidays, friends! Hope everyone has a great time with family, and plenty of good food. I hope 2013 is as busy and exciting as this year has been.

Take care!

Jo March - Light Grey Art Lab

“You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women 

Happy to share the piece I did for Light Grey Art Lab's GIRLS: Fact + Fiction show. The premise was to choose either a historical or fictional female character to illustrate.

I chose Jo March, the heroine of Little Women. I admire her stubbornness and independence, plus I've seen the movie enough times that it's become part of my DNA. And, though I'm living in Texas now, I'll always be a New Englander at heart.

If you're in the Minneapolis area Dec 7th- Jan 4th, the entire GIRLS: Fact + Fiction show is on display, and the lineup looks fantastic. Address and times here. Plus, the exhibit is available as a book, or as individual prints here.

If you'd like a print of this Jo March piece, they're exclusively available here.



Thank you everyone!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway! The contest is now over, and I've already notified the winner. I really appreciated all of the entries, and if you didn't win this time don't fear- I'm sure I'll do another giveaway in the near future.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and take care!


Prints available, and a Giveaway!

Erin McGuire Prints

Hello! I'm pleased to finally be able to offer prints of my work through inPRNT! If you're interested in a print of one of my illustrations, check out what I have up here. I hope there's something for someone on your holiday shopping list as well.

Also, a Giveaway

As a thanks to everyone who has kept up with my blog, I'm also doing a giveaway! In thinking about what to give away, I thought about the art books I made for Spectrum Live this past year.

My art book is softcover, about 40 pages and showcases all of my recent work (some of which isn't available online), and there are very few of these left. As a bonus, I'll do an original sketch request in the front. I don't sell these books online anywhere. Short of meeting me in person, there's really no other way to get one of these books, which makes it a perfect giveaway.

To keep everything fair and legit, I'm using the rafflecopter widget so I can actually get a hold of you if you win-
a Rafflecopter giveaway
To enter, you can do one or both of the following-
- Comment on this post
- Follow me on twitter (@emcguirestudio), and post- Just entered @emcguirestudio's art book giveaway-

I'll be running this giveaway all week, and will pick a winner at random on Saturday, November 24th.

Thanks everyone, and good luck!

A Song for Bijou

My illustration for Josh Farrar's new middle grade novel with Walker/Bloomsbury- A Song for Bijou
Art direction from fellow Ringling alumni Nicole Gastonguay!

Goodreads summary-

Life for Alex Schrader has never involved girls. He goes to an all-boys prep school and spends most of his time goofing around with his friends. But all that changes the first time he meets Bijou Doucet, a Haitian girl recently relocated to Brooklyn after the earthquake-and he is determined to win her heart. 

It was a pleasure illustrating such a sweet story. Also, this was one cover where I managed to stick pretty close to the original thumbnail-

And finally, the cover with type-
Hope you enjoy!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Just a quick update with a water color warm up from the other day. I love doing these in the morning to loosen up a bit. This is the best time of year for anything pumpkin related.

Hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween!

Saranormal, plus updated website

Saranormal Book 5 - Moment of Truth
Saranormal Book 6 - Giving up the Ghost
I'm happy to share the covers for Saranormal 5 and 6! This series has been a lot of fun to illustrate, one of the fun challenges is mixing up the palette for every cover. For Book 6, I initially had a lot of cool blues and night time tones, but it made the cover way too similar to some previous books. We experimented with some other colors and ended up with this golden look, which is way more interesting than what I had originally.

Also, I've updated my website with all of my recent projects. You can see everything at 


Endings, New Beginnings

Today is my last day as a full time artist at Reel FX Studios. After much deliberation, I've decided now is the time for me to throw one hundred percent of my efforts into being a full time freelance illustrator.

I spent four great years at Reel FX working on over 200 commercial and film projects with a hardworking, kind, and talented team of designers. But at the same time, for the past three years, I've been moonlighting in the publishing world, doing all of the books and covers you see here. I never wanted to publicly admit how hard this double life was, how crazy the hours were becoming, because I kept feeling like my luck would change.

After working on over 25 books this year alone, it was clear I didn't need to keep waiting for a sign that I'm ready. Anything pursued with hard work and passion has a tendency to work out. So when it came time to choose, I knew the world of kid lit was my home.

This time last year, I spoke to students at Ringling College of Art and Design about my experience working on childrens books. One student asked me what my dream job would be, my reply was something along the lines of "Well, I already have it. I want to make books for kids for the rest of my life."

And I do. So here we go.

Frogged Cover

Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde
I'm so happy to share the cover I illustrated for Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, with art direction from Elizabeth Tardiff.

We started by exploring a few different approaches to show a princess turning into a frog, as well as an illustrated frame approach. At one point in the story, there's a funny disagreement between two characters, as a boy steals a female role in a play (ala Shakespearean plays where boys play the female roles), leading to the only time I've ever sent a children's book publisher a character in drag.
Such a beautiful "Lady"

But in the end, this was not the sketch we picked. I tried another variation on the illustrated frame approach, yielding this sketch-

Also, Darkbeast goes on sale today!

You can see more of the wraparound cover here. I actually had a chance to read this one as I worked on the cover, and I think it's a really beautiful story.

 Thanks everyone!

Nancy Drew Diaries

Nancy Drew Diaries

I am very excited to share a new project I've had underway for a while. I'll be illustrating covers for the classic Nancy Drew, in her newest series, Nancy Drew Diaries. As a Nancy Drew fan myself, it's been an incredible honor, and I hope to do the new series justice. The first book, Curse of the Arctic Star, will be out in February of next year.

More information on the other books in the series is at Simon & Schuster's page.



Saranormal Cover 4

Saranormal : Spirits of the Season
 I've been having a great time working on the Saranormal Series with Simon & Schuster. This is the fourth book in the series, a spooky story during the Christmas season.

And the final crop with type treatment by Laura Roode, my awesome AD on this project.

Hope you all enjoy, thanks!

When the Butterflies Came - Process

When the Butterflies Came Final wraparound cover

I wanted to share the wraparound illustration for When the Butterflies Came, and thought this would also be a good opportunity to share my process for anyone interested.

Even though this is a wraparound, and I'll need to illustrate the back cover, most of my sketches addressed the front cover first. My brief was simple- a girl with long dark hair, standing on a beach as a swarm of butterflies flew all around her.
Secret Crappy Thumbnails

These are from my first round of very quick, rough thumbnails. I don't send these to the client, because they are too rough to really tell what's going on. I probably do 5-20 of these for a cover, as many or as few as it takes to figure out what I want. Sometimes I immediately know what I want to do for a cover, and sometimes I have to wrestle it until a composition makes sense.

After I know the composition I want, I do some drawings of the characters. In this case, there's only one character, and I draw a variety of outfits since I'm not sure how she should be dressed. The anatomy is still not perfect on these, but since I'll be scanning them and moving into Photoshop anyway, I just need a general idea to keep going.

I scan in my rough thumbnails and paint quick backgrounds in Photoshop. I decided to give the client a dressy version and a casual clothes version. For the extra 5th sketch at the bottom- This is a rare case where I neglect process entirely and just draw a composition I like until it works. I didn't thumbnail, didn't sketch her character out first, just fooled around in Photoshop and liked the result. As luck would have it, that's the thumbnail the client picked.

(Maybe that's why I don't do process posts, sometimes a ironclad process is best, but for me, the freedom to be spontaneous sometimes yields the best results.)
So, the art director has chosen that bottom sketch, but asked for a more panoramic beach vista. At this point, I need to start thinking about the back cover as well. I rework the composition and start painting. I also gather a lot of reference for lighting, figures, color, butterflies, dresses, etc. I have all of that open on my second monitor while I work, so I can quickly check it out if I'm stumped.

This is the first pass at color that I send to the art director. You can see the faint black lines that indicate the bleed and crop marks. I also have a layer in my file that I turn on to black out everything but the front cover so I can see exactly how it'll end up being cropped.

At this point, it's a lot of fine tuning. I think the butterflies look flat, and the cover is overall too pastel. I add some contrast in the lighting, and adding a light/dark side to the butterflies helps them feel more dimensional. Right before we wrap up, we decide to give the character a haircut, so now she has bangs. And with that, we're at a final cover.

Then, it's a lot of waiting until the cover appears online, and eventually in stores. It's always a thrill to see something get out of my studio and into the world. I look forward to seeing this one in stores early next year. Thanks!


A quick Friday Sketch for the Reel FX blog. Loved the cool lady pilots on this site. They're a bit Miyazaki-esque, no?



Hello all! A quick piece, felt like doing something more landscape oriented. My cousin has a great little Jack Russell named Scout. It's impossible to pet her because she's a living jumping bean, but I've always thought Jack Russells were really neat. 

Also I don't know which cropping I prefer! I'm so used to working vertical for book covers, but horizontal for concept work, so here's the best of both worlds. 

I hope all are well. Enjoy!

When the Butterflies Came

My new cover for Kimberley Griffiths Little's next book- When the Butterflies Came, out in 2013 from Scholastic. Art direction from Elizabeth Parisi.

I also did the cover for Kimberley's previous book, Circle of Secrets, and I'm very happy I got to illustrate another cover for her.

Saranormal 3

My illustration for the third Saranormal cover, called Mischief night. I've enjoyed illustrating the spooky world of Saranormal. And with Laura Roode's lovely type-

And a quick piece I did at work-
I suppose this is a good image to ring in the endless Texas summer that's just around the corner. Also kinda looks like my buddy Sarah!

Til next time!


As a little farewell to our friend Woohyun, who is leaving for another studio, a few of us drew his beloved dog Mungoo.

Of course, Woohyun has drawn plenty of awesome Mungoos as well-

Just a quick update, now back to work!



Saranormal is a new series through Simon and Schuster/Spotlight, and I've had the pleasure of illustrating the covers. Art direction and lovely type by Laura Roode.
From their site:

This brand new middle grade series from Spotlight explores the paranormal world of Sara Collins, a 12 year old girl who can see ghosts and communicate with spirits. All Sara really wants is to be normal, but being normal and fitting in can be really complicated when you have paranormal abilities.

I'm continuing to work on this series and some other fun new projects that I look forward to sharing. Spectrum Art Live is in a month, and I'm really looking forward to attending with Drew.

Thanks for taking a look!

Glen Keane and the Texas Avery award

Texas Avery Award 2012
For the past few years I've illustrated materials for the Dallas Film Festival's promotional efforts. This year, to celebrate giving the Texas Avery award to the legendary Glen Keane, I completed a piece celebrating the award and Keane's legacy. I wanted to give a subtle nod to the Keane characters I loved growing up, without just doing some weird Disney fan art. I tried to subtly nod at various characters in the crowd, can you spot them?

When Glen Keane comes to Dallas next month to accept the award, there will be a bunch of cool events, hopefully I can make it out to one. For more information, there's a website set up here-

Also, I just found out this morning that I've had something accepted into Spectrum 19! Congrats to all those accepted. Hope all are well.


Darkbeast Cover
Darkbeast Wraparound

Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes, is a fantasy MG novel published by Simon & Schuster, art directed by the wonderful Russel Gordon. Cover illustrated by yours truly.

Wraparounds (illustrations that extend to the back cover) are always a fun challenge, because you have to think of the composition as just the front cover, but make the whole piece feel cohesive. In this case, I got to illustrate a bit more of the story, showing a cute village and mysterious hooded figure on the back cover. A fun experience for sure.

In other news, I am enjoying this unusually warm winter, finding cool ways to use my CSA produce (count me firmly on the kale chips bandwagon) and looking forward to attending Spectrum Art Live in May with Drew, and friends Dustin and Francis (And whomever else I can convince to attend before May). Staying busy and drawing lots.

Take care!

Fairy Friday

A quick concept for a hospital charity project. Fun to do something a bit happier sometimes.

Here's to a good weekend!

Maids and Baked Goods


These are a few of the interior illustrations I did for Bliss, a middle grade novel with HarperCollins (Iacopo Bruno did the cover) written by Kathryn Littlewood. The book is about a magical bakery, and being an amateur baker myself, I had a lot of fun drawing various baked goods. These are mostly pencil, with a lil' photoshop love at the end.
Magical Mason Jar

Lemon Tart

And a few things from the sketchbook:
 Continuing with my love of Downton Abbey. This isn't any maid in particular from the show, but just me being an anglophile in general.
 I drew a boy. He has a lil rabbit-ferret-friend.

And in closing, a project I worked on at Reel FX, rebranding our studio. I worked on several sections of this, and it was good fun.

I hope all are well!

Dragon Abbey

Year of the Dragon Abbey

I wanted to do a little sketch for the Year of the Dragon, but I think I've just been watching too much Downton Abbey. It's odd the way things come on my radar, and then I see them everywhere. About two weeks ago my mom told me to check out Downton Abbey, and now I see everyone talking about it. But, that's because it's awesome and everything looks like a moving Sargent painting.

Also this dragon may or may not just be a creature version of our goblin-cat, Loki.

I hope all are well.

ALA Midwinter Dallas Guide

ALA Midwinter

The American Library Association's Midwinter Conference is being held in Dallas this year, and I am very excited. The children's book world rarely ventures into my backyard, and though I'm not attending, I wanted to lend a local perspective to all our literary minded visitors.

To preface- Dallas gets a bad rap. We're not quite as cool as Austin, but I have grown to appreciate Dallas as a city with lots to do, full of kind, intelligent people. The main downside is that you'll need a car to get around most places. Some areas are more pedestrian friendly than others, but I've yet to do much without a car in this city. So provided you've rented a car for the conference and have some extra time, I hope these spots help you enjoy the city during your visit.

ALA is being held downtown, which isn't known for having the most character. It's an area more geared towards businesses and can be a bit spartan, but here are a few places close to the convention center to have on your radar:
  • The Iron Cactus- Close by, pretty good Mexican food (not my favorite in the city by far, but you probably don't want to drive all the way up to Chuy's)
  • Dallas Farmer's Market- A set of permanent buildings, open all week, year round. Building 2 has a number of permanent vendors set up selling lunch fare. A favorite of mine.
  • City Tavern- After being on your feet for 8 hours carrying around tons of ARCs, you will have earned a post conference beer. Plus they're open late.
  • (A handful of others, gleaned from friends- Roma Express- Quick, pretty good Italian food. Sol Irlandes- more Mexican! The Bistro at the Adolphus- a hotel restaurant, but reportedly a good one)
Stuff to do downtown-
If ALA is anything like conferences I've been to, I'm going to guess that you have very little free time, and even less free energy. So if you have time for ONE fun activity downtown, might I suggest visiting the Dallas Museum of Art? The current exhibit there is Jean Paul Gaultier's body of couture fashion designs, it's really phenomenal (I've been twice already!). The DMA is a good size museum, in that you can see a lot and not feel exhausted in the end. This Friday is Late Night at the DMA, so it's open 'til midnight. The DMA's restaurants are surprisingly good as well.

Venturing slightly away from Downtown, to my stomping grounds, Deep Ellum-
I have worked in Deep Ellum for about three years, and am grateful to have a treasure trove of good restaurants at my disposal. It's a very easy 5 minute drive out of downtown, there's no getting on highways. So, if you want a good place to eat and aren't pressed for time by the convention, I recommend giving it a visit, if for no reason other than our 50-foot robot statues!
  • Twisted Root- Famous for burgers. Closest to downtown, it's right on Commerce Street. They make everything from scratch, down to the ketchup and mustard. Try the root beer, they make that too. Lines are a little crazy if you arrive at 12 on the dot, but they have it down to a system, so it's not that bad.
  • Cane Rosso- If the line at Twisted Root IS too long (or you don't want a burger), Il Cane Rosso across the street is a fast and delicious wood-fired pizza place.
  • Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop- Down the street from both of those, Uncle Uber's opened within the past few months, and has become a favorite at our studio. Veggie Banh mi, heck yes. Also, a perfect to-go spot if you just want to drive into Deep Ellum, get your food, and get back to the convention.
  • BuzzBrews- Across from Uncle Uber's, BuzzBrews is a great lunch spot. Good coffee, good if you could eat breakfast all day like I could. This place is just cozy.
  • Angry Dog, St. Pete's Dancing Marlin, and Baker's Ribs are also on Commerce, and are also all good options.
  • Also in the Deep Ellum area and worth a mention- Pepe's and Mito's for very tasty Mexican food, Serious Pizza for fast to-go slices, All Good and Cafe Brazil for more brunchy fare and good coffee.
And, if you rented a car and can't stand the radio station, our NPR station is 90.1 (I know you well, librarian brethren ;) ).

I hope everyone coming to Dallas has a splendid time, and that some of these suggestions prove useful. Best of luck and have a great conference!

The Book Thief

The Book Thief
(First, I should note that this was an illustration I did for pleasure, not a professional job. Thanks!)

Last year we started a book club with some women from my work. Last week marked one year that we've kept it all going, despite our busy schedules and changing lives. We haven't picked The Book Thief (yet?!) but we've often brought it up as a possible book choice. This got me thinking about the first time I read it a few years ago, and in turn, the cover.

The American cover for The Book Thief has never really sat well with me. If you're unfamiliar with the book, it's a Holocaust story, narrated by Death, about a young girl named Liesel growing up in Nazi Germany, who steals books. From graves, from book burnings, from houses. It's one of my favorite books in recent memory.

I understand the marketing challenge of a book like The Book Thief.
For starters, you have:
Female main character.
Young main character.
Heavy material.
Is it for kids or adults?
Did I mention it's narrated by Death?

And though it is a Holocaust story, it is far more than that. It's a coming of age story, a slice of humanity in the face of adversity, and far less depressing than it sounds. But still, how do you sell a book like that? In this, the American cover succeeds. It's enigmatic and gritty, and sidesteps the heavy stuff in favor of just "mysterious" and "dark." But it still got me a little restless.

Above you can see my stab at it all, albeit an obvious and imperfect solution. One that probably wouldn't fly with publishers for the reasons I mentioned earlier. But I wanted to give a nod to a good book the way I did back when I did my book covers while I was in school. In this, I'm not trying to sell the book, I'm just trying it on for size, and paying homage to a story I love.

Thanks for taking a look. And take care.

Hero Academy & Numberlys

So, it seems my previous blog post was premature, since I ended up also getting sick, and being out of commission most of this week. But, in taking a break from art for a moment, I want to draw your attention to two iPhone apps out this week, from talented friends of mine.

First, my new obsession, Hero Academy from Robot Entertainment

My better half Drew Olson did the art and characters, so I am probably biased, but it's tons of fun. Hero Academy is a turn based strategy game, and for someone who knows nothing about strategy games, I'm still finding it a really fun and exciting experience. (Plus it's free in the App Store!)

And second, Numberlys a beautiful new app from my friends at Moonbot Studios

Numberlys seems to be an alphabet/story/game/short film/whatelse?! app done in the style of old timey movies like Metropolis. A beautiful follow up to their Morris Lessmore app, I'm glad so much good art and creativity is coming out of the south these days.

Hope everyone enjoys both of these, and I hope to be back in gear soon to show some new work. Thanks!


Happy New Year everyone! Hope no one else is sick now, since everyone else around me is. I got away with only a case o' the sniffles, but I've been making soup and tea all week for Drew who is battling an all-out plague. Being sick is no fun except for the fact that cats get 2x cuddlier. I swear they can tell when you're sick.

We're already a week into the new year, so I'll save you my pontificating and reflecting. I just know 2011 was a really great year for me, and I am hoping to keep the ball rolling for 2012. We ended the year with a trip to San Francisco to visit art school buddies Matt, Megan, and Mclean, to go hiking and such.

Everything in California looks like this and nothing in Texas does.

And let's round out this post with some sketchbook stuff:

Keeping a mini-watercolor palette around while I watch movies

Gossipy girls

Drew told me to draw a mage and I clearly know nothing about fantasy archetypes. But here's a kid with her daemon probably.

Thanks as always for reading.