School drawing competition. Eye and imagination winning drawing by prep student Jed Fraser Monbulk Primary School
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Monbulk Primary School has great imagination!

Students of imagination at Monbulk Primary School

Take a look at the clever drawings from the students of Monbulk Primary School! Some students entered the eye and imagination competition for a chance to win one of 2 books. The winners are Jed Frazer (Prep class) and Samantha Daly (2/3 class). Well done everyone who entered. All the entries where brilliant!

If you haven’t seen it yet this is the video I created about using your imagination creatively. (At the time I posted this it is positioned on the side bar) It uses a simple illustration of an eye and turns it into all sorts of object. This is what the students did for their competition entries.

Monbulk Primary Students Montage of entries. Drawings for the eye and imagination competition.

Monbulk Primary Students Montage of entries. Drawings for the eye and imagination competition.

I was also impressed with some of the original ideas some students created like eyes-cream and the spider and web. There were impressive birds and animals of all kinds and the strange creatures were pretty popular.

Congratulations to all students who will receive a certificate this week. The prize winners will also receive a personalised certificate created just for them and their personally signed picture book. Well done Monbulk Primary, you all have wonderfully creative imaginations.

Scotch College Student cartoons from workshop.
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Fun ways to make faces with students

Scotch College Student's cartoons from workshop.

Scotch College Student’s cartoons from workshop.

Teaching facial expression is one of my favourite activities. I recently work-shopped with the delightfully well-mannered students at Scotch College doing just that.

For further practice , I encouraged the boys to pull faces in a mirror to copy. Exaggerated faces help us understand how the different parts of the face alter our expression. Cartoon faces often utilize the eyebrows in particular to express emotion. In children’s books facial expression is important. You don’t want stuffed mannequin-looking characters that are all facing front when trying to illustrate an expressive story – well I don’t anyway.

Joining forces with over a dozen Ford Street Publishing authors for a special Ford Street festival we enjoyed a day of fun with staff and students. It was a whole day event. Together, myself and Victoria Lane (author of Celia and Nonna) worked with 3 groups of very enthusiastic boys. Victoria spoke to the students about herself as an author and journalist and did a small writing exercise. I stepped the students through a fast-paced practical exercise in drawing cartoon faces. There wasn’t a lot of time so I was particularly impressed with the results.

At the end of the class I asked the students, “Can you draw cartoons now?” With faces beaming, they all echoed a resounding ‘YES!”

For the teachers looking for the cheat sheets I mentioned they are here.

Well done boys!

Scotch College author visit for Ford Street Publishing Event

Scotch College author visit for Ford Street Publishing Event. Victoria Lane

Victoria Lane


Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #9
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Make these easy teddy cakes from my book.

In my new picture book I illustrated some teddy cakes that the character Nonna makes with Celia. I decided to recreate them in real life. I took a batch to Ivanhoe library where they were quickly gobbled up. I was told they were delicious  – I should have made more!

I am sharing the instructions here so educators and parents can enjoy this easy activity with their children. I don’t profess to be a cake decorator, my sister, Joy is the expert in that field I can honestly say this is an easy recipe.


  • Pretzels
  • Chocolate cup cakes
  • small light brown biscuits (I used Almond Florentines)
  • Pink Smarties
  • Small chocolate drops (or brown smarties)
  • Soft white vanilla Icing
  • Black writing icing

You will need:

  • piping bag
  • butter knife
  • a sink of soapy water
  • will power not to eat all the left-overs!

Gather all the ingredients:

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #2

Chocolate cup cakes. Make your own or buy them Chocolate chip is okay too.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #3

Shop bought Almond Florentines where used for a “Italian Nonna” theme but some children don’t like the strong marzipan taste of these. You can use any light coloured biscuit this shape. These were approximately 2cm wide.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #4

As I was making the cakes on a very tight time frame I used bought vanilla frosting in a small tub. The type that stays thick but soft.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #5

Pink Smarties for the teddy’s noses and small chocolate cooking drops for eyes. Alternatively you can use the brown Smarties for eyes. Do what you will with the left-overs – yum!

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #1

Pretzels: we will loose a few to breakage but aim to break off the 2 sides like so. These will be our teddy’s ears. We will need enough for all our cakes.

When you have prepared your pretzel ears start assembling the nose. Spoon a good amount of icing into the piping bag and use to glue the pink Smarties to the florentines.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #6

Using the black writing icing pipe the mouth on the florentines.

Then stick the whole florentine to the cup cakes, slightly offset, allowing room for the eyes on one side.

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #7

Making the eyes

Next, pipe a good amount of white icing onto the cupcake where the eyes will be. When we add the chocolate drop eyes the overflow will create part of the eye. Push each drop into the icing until almost touching the cake – but not quite!

Add a small amount of white icing to each end of the snapped off pretzel and push gently inot the cake until it grips. Ta-da!

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #8

Smile teddy!

Lat tip: If transporting your lovely teddy cakes, use a muffin tray so they don’t slip around. We don’t want teddy looking beat up, do we?!

Celia and Nonna Teddy Cakes recipe instructions Step #9

If you have some teddy cake pictures you would like to share here, I would love to see them.


Book Week author illustrator visit at Rye primary School. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.
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Puppets and storytelling during Book Week

My goodness, life as a children’s author and illustrator is a busy one – but incredibly fun!

Book Week author illustrator visit at Rye Primary School. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.

We are in the throws of book week (which goes for more than a week) where I have been visiting children in different parts of the state. Storytelling and creative education has to be the best job in the world.

My reward mazimus is witnessing the excitement in the eyes of my young readers. I love it when the children rush up to me excited about what they now CAN do with all they have learned. It is so much fun to ask the question, “was that fun?” and get the response, “It was AWESOME!” I am especially enjoying the introduction of my cheeky puppet tortoise, AT (pictured above hiding in his shell) and friends. You know you’ve hit the sweet spot when all the children unanimously sigh, “ooooh!” when I have to put AT away. I have fallen in love with him also. He has come fully alive over the sessions. I didn’t realise how much fun puppetry was until now!

So far, I have the pleasure of presenting to over 1300 students and I have more to visit still. Tomorrow, I join other authors and illustrators for the Ford Street Literary Festival at Scotch College in Hawthorn. Victoria Lane (author of Celia and Nonna) and myself will lead workshops for grades 4,5 and 6 tomorrow amongst lots of fun happenings during the day.

Book Week author illustrator visit at The Grange Prep-12 College. Puppets, drawing, how a picture book is created and more.

I would LOVE to bring AT to visit your school too. You can contact me for more information via my event booking page or via my agent Creative Net

Thank you to Rye Primary teachers for their feedback this week:

Kayleen gave the teachers lots of writing ideas. I got my grade to draw pictures from squiggles and write about them coming to life.  Amanda Enright – CRT Grade 2. Rye Primary School

Interesting and students were engaged for the whole session – illustration and activity excellent, Thank you. Michelle Venturin – Class teacher. Rye Primary School


Children's education. Literacy Expo notes illustrated.
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Literacy, books, child development and behaviour.

After a full day of lectures and workshops last week I reflected on the clear message throughout; literacy begins before school – the earlier the better!

Growing your child’s brain and helping them to learn

Listening to Barbie Bates (Paediatric Occupational Therapist) I learned about the brain activity of a baby and how early we (adults) influence a child’s mind. I love Psychology, learning more about new studies in neuro-plasticity and the brain. I am a fan of Caroline Leaf since a conference I attended last year in Sydney. This talk elaborated more on the young brain.

Babies brains are influenced by the sound, touch and the sight of their main carer. This aids language and “grows a baby’s brain” regulating it. What stood out as important, was that the limbik system needs to fire up to reach the right sub-cortex, for the child to take in what he or she is learning into the top area of the brain where learning occurs. This explains why children need to be engaged when learning to remember what they are being taught. Put simply, we need to motivate our children to learn by delivering engaging material and have an attitude to match. This interested me as an educator. When I go into schools, I present with high energy and remain animated when I address an audience of children. The disadvantage is that it is hard to get stage photos of me because I am always pulling expressive faces…LOL

Dad can make a difference

Books are important and our attitude toward books influences our children’s passion to read. Dad’s take note! If you find your little boy squatting on the toilet and reading a book because you do, you’re a champion! Your little lad knows you like reading. He watches your movements and is mimicking you. Little boys are more inclined to mimic their dads and other boys. I have observed and it has also been verified by Leonard Sax MD Phd in his book, Boys Adrift that girls are happy to learn from adults in general, male or female.

My conference notes

I pretty much draw every minute I can these days. I like to take my notes in a visual way. I remember them better as my brain learns better visually. As I also learned, my brain is stronger in this capacity. I noticed the other day that I recalled the exact conversation I was having when I went over a line I had drawn hours earlier. Sometimes I can remember a song or moment  even years later. I take my notes in church this way too. It is not only better for remembering the message but a lot of fun. I thought I would post this image for a bit of fun.

Children's education. Literacy Expo notes illustrated.

My education: Literacy Expo notes illustrated.

Language Comprehension and strategies to address learning difficulties

Nadine Shome from mirrored that children mimic adults. Also that repetition was a key element to learning. Talking about early brain development, she also stressed that the mind has more to do with learning than the eyes. Parents and teachers can look to sight as an issue but the mind is more influential when it comes to reading. It is important to understand and accommodate that children learn at different rates. Apart from specific medical needs, repetition is the key to overcoming learning difficulties. In spectrum children and children with ADHD, repetition can strengthen the child and influence their capacity to learn. This talk focused on auditory processing, eyes movement, visual processing and visual memory. She also talked about tools to help children learn and build confidence.

Children's education. Casy-Cardinia Library Corporation Literacy Expo.

Casy-Cardinia Library Corporation Literacy Expo. Workshops and talks by professionals in child development and literacy. Pitctured: From top left: John Marsden, Myself (middle images) Botom left: Amanda Mickelson. Bottom right: Barbie Bates.

Storytelling and Puppets

I attended a workshop with Cindy Lee Harper from Communities for Children Plus on story time which was interactive and fun. I can’t wait to try a few new games with the kids.

I also did a puppetry workshop with Amanda Mickelson. She had an array of different types of puppets and one I particularly fell in love with (pictured below). I have been in correspondence with Amanda on my Facebook page and I have since and told her she is totally responsible for my puppet shopping spree the next day. I am delighted that my turtle is on his way to me from America as we speak – yay!

John Marsden kills off the critical red pen.

The finally was an incredibly informative talk by author John Marsden. He also gifted us with his book, Tomorrow, When The War Began – thank you John! His talk was liberating. I loved his advocacy for creative exploration, original thinking and especially the death to the overused red pen. His message: to encourage children to create with freedom of expression and play, to bridge the gap from ignorance to knowledge, and without fear of adult criticism or over-controlling mentorship (my words and interpretation). He was entertaining but with a strong and important message I totally agreed with.

Draw with your children

Author/illustrator Jeanette Rowe, talked on literacy and play and the stigma of being the best or good enough. I very much related to her life experiences and she demonstrated a very similar drawing exercise I use myself.

A lovely lady who is an integration aid was sitting next to me and feeling a little intimidated by my drawing. When I told her I was an illustrator so had practice she asked for a copy of my drawings as a cheat sheet. I offered to upload it to share. In my 200% way, I created a 2 page lesson sheet. It is basic cartoon drawing make it easy for students and anyone wanting to give drawing characters a go. You begin with basic shapes, create eyes, noses and mouths, then mix and match the face parts to make characters. Jeanette did this by using 2 pieces of paper. One to draw the parts on and the other to trace over them to make the faces. I didn’t think of the tracing idea – thank Jeanette! This link will take you to the download page: How to draw funny cartoon faces – cheat sheets

Cartooning faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers free download

1 0f 2 Cartoon faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers – free download

Casy-Cardinia Library Corporation

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I stayed the full day from 11am until 9pm and all the workshops I did were worth my very valuable time. I can’t thank the Casy-Cardina Library Corporation enough for putting on such a wonderful event. Not only was it packed with professional advice, but it was accessible to everyone. I am finding it more difficult to source learning to equip myself because all organisations charge larger and larger entries into everything. CCLC put this whole expo together and offered free admission – well done! The organisers and staff where friendly and approachable – I couldn’t fault a thing. Pat yourselves on the back!

Pakenham Library

Anyone who lives anywhere near the Pakenham Library would be well advised to join. They have so much to offer members including educational kit hire for educators within the shire. I am dedicating this paragraph to you all in appreciation of a great training day not only as an educator but as a parent. All the children I influence will benefit from this day I am sure.

Cartooning faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers free download
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How to draw cartoon faces – basic cheat sheet for kids and teachers.

Cartooning faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers free download

Cartoon faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers free download

An integration aid asked for a copy of my drawings I did at a literacy Expo. She wanted a cheat sheet. decided to upload it to share. I have created 2 page lesson sheet for anyone wanting to give drawing characters a go.

You begin with basic shapes, create eyes, noses and mouths, then mix and match the face parts to make characters. Jeanette Rowe, did a similar thing by using 2 pieces of paper. One to draw the parts and the next to trace over to make the faces.

Here are the parts I drew, cleaned up a little for a download:
My free cheat sheet for educators and parents (both sheets)

Cartooning faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers free download

Cartoon faces cheat sheet for educators and teachers free download

Free printables for kids. I Can Be Like Jesus- Colouring pages - Better Than A Superhero. Church and ministry activities for kids.
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Better Than A Superhero free printables and teacher’s notes.

Hey kids, here are the free printables for my newest book, Better Than  Superhero!

Better than a superhero- children's books about Jesus

Better Than A Superhero

Teachers: Download Teachers Notes and printables for Better Than A Superhero (includes all printables below)

Click on the images to open and download a word search and colouring pages – enjoy!

Free printables for kids. Word Search for Better Than A Superhero. Church and ministry activities for kids.

Free printables for kids. Word Search for Better Than A Superhero.

Free printables for kids. I Can Be Like Jesus- Colouring pages - Better Than A Superhero. Church and ministry activities for kids.

Free printables for kids. I Can Be Like Jesus- Colouring pages – Better Than A Superhero. Church and ministry activities for kids.

Free printables for kids. Jesus Is My Friend - Colouring pages - Better Than A Superhero. Church and ministry activities for kids.

Free printables for kids. Jesus Is My Friend – Colouring pages – Better Than A Superhero. Church and ministry activities for kids.

Slug In Love Illustration. Free colouring pages download. Free kids activities. Educational aids.
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Free Colouring Page Printables – Slug In Love

Slug In Love Illustration. Free colouring pages download. Free kids activities. Educational aids.

Slug In Love Illustration. FREE PRINTABLES – colouring pages. CLICK THIS IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD PDF 620KB

Strange subject hey? Slug In Love was the subject for the latest @DailyDoodle challenge on Twitter. How could I resist; the challenge to make something so gross and slimy – cute? My slugs are seriously in love and the wedding bells are ringing.  They are strawberry slugs, can you tell? I had requests for more kid’s colouring pages to download so I have uploaded this one too. You can access the free download by clicking on the image above.

Don’t forget I have pages I create for the kids when I launch a book. You can find more kid’s activities to download here: Education/Free activities for Kids!

There will be more coming including how to draw cheat sheets etc. Make sure you sign up for the weekly news to stay in the know!

FAQ Children's illustrators and their job. Q& A with Kayleen West
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FAQ Children’s illustrators and their job

More questions about Children’s illustrators …

Students, usually in their final year of an Illustration course contacting me for information to help with my business plan assignments. These questions are frequently asked by students. Some of these questions are extremely relevant when planning a career in illustration. There is so much I could share (and will via my blog over time) but this is a good start.

Here are a few I was asked this week:

How long have you been doing illustration?

I have been an artist for decades but illustrating children’s books since 2010. I turned direction in late 2009. I began setting myself up as a children’s book writer by launching an online portfolio website. I have kept adding to it and updating it ever since. I had a popular blog on blogger but needed a shop front. I do think my web presence is a major reason for the work so far. That and a 200% attitude.

How did you get started?

Illustration or art?

Art: When I was at senior school, my cousin Debbie who came and stayed with us a few months. She drew a lot and I loved drawing. I made the decision that was what I could do well so I would follow that path. I chose it as electives in school and entered college with art as my subject. Disappointed with a what I felt was an unstructured drawing course where I felt I wasn’t learning a thing I left school and entered any job that was creative. I still regret not choosing to do the illustration course instead. My fine art got more attention when my kids went to school and I got the opportunity to study under a master painter. He taught me the important basics of painting. I exhibited as a fine artist, demonstrated and took students into my studio.

Illustrating picture books: To be honest, it was God inspired; I felt confident that God wanted me to create a book for orphan children – so I did. Making picture books had been a desire since I was a teen, but I didn’t pursue it because I didn’t believe I would succeed. That lie held me back for too many years. I began with Adoptive Father and work took off.

Are you mainly freelance?

Yes 100% freelance. I am offered contracts or illustration opportunities and pick what I think is a good fit for both parties.

How do you source your work?

I have fallen into my work so far. My first publisher discovered me when I accidentally emailed with a conference inquiry (always have your portfolio links in your email signature and use it every time!) The other publishers have found me via my website. I have had intentions of approaching agents, art director and publishers but have been working around the clock on my projects and their deadlines. For me my web presence has been vital.

The usual and recommended method of sourcing work would be to approach suitable publishers with a professional looking PDF portfolio and website. Make sure you read their preference for submission and stick to it exactly. Network with publishers at SCBWI events – get to know them genuinely – but don’t sell to them – wait to be asked. Publishers are looking for people they will work with and get along with well, not just good illustrators. Be yourself.

Do you work in other areas apart from children’s books?

I offer my services in other areas such as editorial illustration, product and surface design. I used to do web and print design, logos etc. but it is not my direction now. There is plenty of work in this area though – for anyone interested in this. I want to get a variety of portfolio examples together in these specialised areas over the next 12 months. I will split my website home page and portfolio into my whimsical style and a more corporate editorial work to make it clear. Then I will approach the appropriate people.

I also write faith inspired articles.

Finally, do you have any advice for someone hoping to start out in this area?

Practical application: Draw, draw, DRAW! Draw everything – practice, experiment and have fun with it. Your drawings skills will be what set you apart in some areas.

Motive and expectation: Don’t expect to get rich overnight. Not a lot of illustrators make a living in picture books. There is very little return on a book unless it is a hit seller and sells 100,000 copies, then you might take that beach holiday from the studio. You need to spend just as much time networking on the net and illustrators rely on paid school visits and speaking. So consider if you want the whole package because it is a big one to take on. I love teaching and sharing my enthusiasm so it suits my personality but not necessarily my wallet. I expect to build my income up over time by being versatile and generous. From what I understand, editorial illustration pays the best – very well in some cases- so determine your motive before deciding. I want to get into an agency myself (haven’t tried yet) but I need to have a portfolio of relevant illustration in my style to present. It is on my action list.

Illustration Marketing: Don’t! Take it from me it doesn’t work. Instead, make lots of friends and connect with as many of them on a genuine level (not easy illustrating all day alone in the studio) and make sure you are serving them. Give of yourself often and hopefully people will show their appreciation by supporting you. Be professional in EVERYTHING you do.

Social and Education: Join associate societies e.g. Picture books – SCBWI and ASA and Illustrators Australia. Follow other people’s blogs; the ones who are generous with their information. Comment on their blogs too. When they know they are helping and not talking to the air, they will share more.

Balance: Be organised and plan – revise- and plan some more: You have to be really organised in your office and a visionary to be successful. I am still working on improvements in this area – it’s a juggle! Read all you can about the entrepreneurship and how to organise a business – it helps! But don’t get into the marketing trap. I see some book authors and illustrators shouting “buy this book!, buy this book” non-stop. You don’t want to read anything from them if it is all advertisement.

Courage: Have the courage to be uniquely YOU. There will be a flavor to your work that will seep out if you are genuine and not trying to mimic anyone. Keep growing and hammer your sketchbook – it is your best friend. You never arrive at perfection but when you plan consistently, your direction will be clear. Keep moving forward until you knock off your milestones one at a time.

And the list goes on…

If any other students have questions, feel free to send them through to me and I will add them here for everyone to benefit from. You can contact me here.

Tweet: Business Q & A for #illustration Students from Children's #illustrator


Without Me – Teacher’s lesson plan and activity sheets

Teachers and medical health professionals: Please feel free to email me with any suggestions for more play activities that may compliment this book.

Download teachers notes and lesson plan for Without Me: Teachers Notes-WITHOUT-ME

Download extra children’s activity sheets below:

Lesson Goal: To illustrate how our first reactions can mislead us, how important we are to others and our actions affect others in their lives.

“A fun and engaging story that helps children explore how emotions can influence decisions. Kayleen’s playful illustrations bring the story to life…and even add another story of their own! This is a great resource for both parents and teachers to help prepare children for life’s tricky moments.”

Natasha LeBrocq
Student Welfare Officer

Buy the picture bookBetter than a superhero- children's books about Jesus

Would you like an author/illustrator visit at your school? Email your request and dates.

Children's Author speaking on author platform
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Creating Author Platform Event

Children’s Author speaking on creating author platform

This weekend I have been invited to speak at the Caleb Conference in Indooroopilly, Queensland. The sessions are Marketing Tips and Traps and Children’s Books Today.
Publisher Rochelle Manners (Wombat Books) and I will be discussing author platform with writers from all over Australia and New Zealand.

The conference is a line-up of speakers including many multi-award winning authors, offering their expertise on a wide variety of topics.  A special feature of this conference is the opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting with a publisher. Going to conferences like this can kick-start your career. It may be too late for this conference (not on again until at least 2016) but there are other events like this you may want to looks at. This particular conference is faith-based, though mainstream publications are still represented. The workshops and presentations are valuable to anyone writing.

The publishers’ representatives are:

Member of Omega Writers will be updated on future events and the ongoing Caleb Award.

If you would like to follow Tweets on creating author platform check my Twitter feed from 1.30pm. You may be able to stalk the boards (my session) via the hashtag #AuthorPlatform

Radio interview YVFM with Author & Illustrator Kayleen West. Mission books.
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Book Giveaway for Children’s Book Week

Who likes free books? Who would like one of mine to celebrate Children’s Book Week?

It is easy……

1. If you are on Twitter follow me @ArtKayleenWest and tweet this click to tweet:
#childrensbookweek giveaway, Picture Book-Adoptive Father! RT for a chance to win!

2. Comment below and tell me why you would want to win a copy Adoptive Father.

3. Share my giveaway post on Facebook and invite others to enter, and if your friend wins, you will too! That is potentially dozens of chances with a couple of click.

You can have multiple chances by entering on Twitter, Facebook and here!!!

Told you it is easy. Now go for it!

At the heart of LOVE is adoption for one another. It's all about the HEART!

At the heart of LOVE is adoption for one another. It’s all about the HEART!