Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy 2011

Reflecting upon 2010, it was such a lovely year. I am certainly looking forward to 2011. All the best!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Carolyn Fisher

Children's book illustrator and author Carolyn Fisher is a great friend and mentor who has helped me with much wonderful advice and inspiration since before I was drawing children's books. She has given some for everyone here:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

All the best and warmest wishes

I hope you all have a happy holidays!
These are mine and Mikes greetings cards for this year.
Mike has also animated his card, go here to see it:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Our Little Tree

This is our little christmas tree.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


This drawing was inspired by the owner of a pizza shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He stopped at our table to chat when we were having dinner with fellow illustrators Jillian Tamaki and Sam Weber. I mentioned that I was visiting from Calgary, and the pizza man said he had been through Calgary to go skiing in Lake Louise. He then brought out his iPhone and showed us some pictures.

But they were pictures of sandwiches! He had taken them at a little cafe in a strip mall in Lake Louise, if you have been there you know which one, the pizza man really loved the sandwiches.

This is what is great about traveling, you get to meet interesting people.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Deborah Underwood

Here is a lovely link to Deborah Underwood, the author of The Quiet Book, giving her perspective on the importance of children reading picture books.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Saw some little birds outside this morning, I don't know how they do it! The temperature was -29 °C/-20 °F

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finalist for the Governor General's Award !!!

My illustrations for The Quiet Book were named as a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Awards this year from the Canada Council for the Arts!
It's unbelievable, and I am very honoured and humbled to be nominated for this prestigious award. It is a big thing for an artist in Canada and for me.

When I first heard about it a few weeks ago, I received lovely email's from several of the other finalists including Jon Klassen. It was a treat to hear from him because I am a big fan of his work and enjoyed reading the book he was nominated for Cats' Night Out.
Congratulations to Jon, he was chosen as the winner of this years GGs for illustration! I am very happy for him and I don't mind losing out (too much) to his wonderful work.

As for me, I will have to cross my fingers for next year and enter Red Wagon and The Loud Book!

Congrats to all the finalists, it really is an honour to be nominated.

Some Jon Klassen links:
love this VIDEO he designed alongside the director David O'Reilly

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Drawing in Times Square

Good place to draw at night, lot's of light and character(s).

You may notice in the photo below, Mike has his bag in front of him!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to identify a Tourist

Mike had this idea, I just drew it and added the different ways they carry their bags.

On another note, I came across these awesome commercials on swissmiss I know it's stupid but it makes me laugh.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Impressions of NY

(photo from the roof of The Pencil Factory - studio of Sam Weber)

When I was planning to go to NY, I was really anticipating the things I would see - galleries, shopping, buildings, and such. Now that I am back what really effected me the most were all the lovely people I met! From the helpful people on the streets, the wonderful art directors and editors that took the time to meet with us, and the other artists I had the opportunity to talk with. I wish I had been better at talking to the other illustrators at the opening but I was glad to talk to the few I did.

(Eric Carle's speech was great, now I want to go to his museum!)

Here is a list of links to some of the illustrators,

Jillian Tamaki and Sam Weber. Jillian and Sam were kind enough to have dinner and coffee with us, it was a lovely time talking about illustration, New York, and home.

I've always loved the work of Taeeun Yoo and it was wonderful to meet her in person!

The work of silver medal winner Carson Ellis really stood out, so vivid and fresh.

Silver medal winner Dan Santat was such a great speaker, he really took off the pressure for me!

It is easy to see why Hyewon Yum received the Founder's Award. Super work and so happy I met her.

At the very last moment I was luck enough to meet Lauren Castillo, Alfie Runs Away looks so adorable! I look forward to reading it. (and she has an adorable website!)

Paul Hoppe = cool work!

We have always admired the work of Raul Colon so it was great to have a conversation with him.

Thanks to Rian Sias for stopping to say Hi!

And thanks to everyone else that I met, it was a pretty sweet night!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gold Medal from The Society of Illustrators

I was in New York last week to accept a medal from The Original Art, an annual children's book exhibition at The Society of Illustrators. It was so exciting! I never did sports or such as a kid so this is the first time I have ever won a medal.

The opening was lovely - I met many great illustrators, editors, art directors, and old friends. My only regret was that I didn't talk to Eric Carle, he was there to accept a lifetime achievement award but somehow I missed him before he left!

I went back later to see the show and it is truly wonderful! If you are in New York I highly recommend visiting the gallery, it is amazing to see the original artwork in person! (and they have the books too)

"The Original Art", an exhibit celebrating the fine art of children's book illustration, is on display at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators from October 20 through November 24, 2010.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Peek at my creative space(s)

I was very happy to be able to contribute some pictures and thoughts about my studio and how I work for From the Mixed Up Files. A blog by Jennifer Bertman where she interviews creative types about their work spaces. Very Fun! Thanks to Jennifer for the invitation to be on her wonderful blog.

Visit my interview here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A martial arts bear

From my sketchbook,
I don't remember where it came from before that.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Mike and I went sketching with another illustrator, Byron Eggenschwiler.

A very cute little baby boy was interested in watching Mike and Byron draw. (top left of sketchbook)

Byron's work can be seen on his website HERE.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yellow Stickies

One of the stages in my illustration process involves printing out the pages of the story on a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. The pages are presented like a storyboard, and at this planning stage some of the pages have more finished drawings, others rough thumbnails or scribbles, and a few slow pokes are still empty. I will also change things that need changing, as the stickies suggest.

Bonus Stuff:
Below is the full interview I did for the last post.

1. What was the most challenging aspect of making this book and what is most satisfying?

What was most satisfying for me was coming up with the story behind the story. The words told one story and I tried to have my pictures tell a second story, so together the words and pictures added up to something more. This happened pretty naturally, the story slowly unraveled as I drew it. Picture by picture, pencil mark by pencil mark. The challenge was that sometimes it didn't happen! I just didn't have any drawings in me. It was a particular challenge when I was finishing the book . After working on it for up to a year I was out of gas and it was particularly difficult to finish up the last few illustrations. My only solution for this was to just keep going!

2. Do you use reference to draw these adorable little creatures? Have you drawn animals forever?

I do and I don't use reference. I do look at pictures and videos of animals. I look at how they are constructed. What sorts of noses and paws they have or what are their proportions and such. But I try too interpret the reference in my own way and create an impression of the characters, not a representation.
It is kind of like writing a paper, It's easy enough to copy word for word from your reference material. But it is so much better to try to process the information and write your own version. My desire is to do my own impression and to bring life to my characters. I love creating characters and stories. In the end I draw for my own entertainment and hope others will be entertained as well.

I think I got interested in drawing animals from watching a stop motion tv show for kids called Coralgol, aka Jeremy the Bear, or Barnaby depending on where you lived. This and other animated animal stories from my childhood somehow sunk into my subconscious. There are often similarities in my drawings that are not on purpose, they just show up. Plus I have natural attraction to loveable critters!
But it was few years after art school that I really got into drawing animals. At that time I mostly drew people. I remember going for coffee with a new sketchbook and for some reason decided to draw critters, and had a lot of fun with it. I drew more and more, and now I rarely draw anything but animals.

3. Name a fav kids' book.

I love the humor and situations of the characters from the work of Richard Scarry. I am a Bunny, and Fun with Words are the books in my collection. Oh my, they are so lovely!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

36 Pages

I just did a short interview about illustrating The Quiet Book. It was done for illustrator Craig Frazier's new website about picture books titled 36 Pages, check out the website and the interview here:

I have to say it is extra, extra wonderful that an artist, who's work I admire and look up too, has asked me to talk about my own work!

Check out Craig's books, he's got a brand new picture book titled Lots of Dots I am looking forward to seeing.
Another of his books,The Illustrated Voice, is a particular favorite. It's a book that shows his creative process and every little sketch is brilliant! A wealth of imagination.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Sketching details.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mr. J. Rabbit

Last week I nearly bumped into a bunny.
We were both preoccupied and didn't see each other until the last moment.
He was very polite and went on his way.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quiet Book Contest

My publisher is holding a contest for The Quiet Book! (click on the image above for a larger view)

Enter before Wednesday, December 1, 2010 for your chance to win a piece of original artwork by Renata Liwska(me!) in a random drawing! Winners will be notified on December 6, 2010.

You can go here for more info!

The Quiet Book is still doing well! #2 on the NY Times Children's Book Bestseller List, for it's 12th week on the list. Quiet thanks to all the readers! It is wonderful to think of all the little ones who are being read the book. (And shown the pictures of course, lovely!!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Times Square

Something I drew last weekend.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On the beach

I just came back from a week at Tofino (Vancouver Island, British Columbia).
It was just what I needed to recharge my battery, I absolutely loved it.
The best part for me were the dogs on the beach, they seemed to be so thrilled by all the open space to run and play.
I could see the joy in their eyes!

The first picture is a great little coffee shop we sketched at a few times, it is called Tofitian. The second is from the beach we stayed on called Cox Bay Beach. It was very inspirational I even wrote a children's book story on the beach.

The trip reminded me of how important it is to experience life so you can draw from it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I like to ride my bicycle!

We've been going for bike rides.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Done, done, and done!

THE LOUD BOOK is finally (!) done - Whew!
Now it is time to go outside and get some sun :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's for real!

RED WAGON and THE LOUD BOOK were among the books mentioned in a sneak preview of spring 2011 books at Publisher's Weekly. This little picture from RED WAGON was included. Yeah!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Time for Ice Cream

I've read it is very hot down east, it hasn't really been ice cream time weather around here, but it's suppose be warm next week.

Until then I am still working on the cover for THE LOUD BOOK, cover's are always the most challenging part of a book for me! Also THE QUIET BOOK is still holding up on The New York Times Bestseller List for Picture Books (8th week on the list). Thanks again to all the readers!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Red Wagon!!!

Today I received the F&G (stands for Folded and Gathered) for RED WAGON. Basically it is the printed book before it is bound. I think it is used to start promoting a book as soon as possible. Looks great, but I am most definitely biased! Can hardly wait until next February!! Now back to working on the cover for THE LOUD BOOK.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010


Of course he's actually a squirrel, but I don't know anything about golf anyway. It seems the squirrel doesn't know much either, though he has fine socks and hat. This was a gift for someone who likes golf.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Faux Wine

Mike surprised me with this bottle of wine for our anniversary a while ago.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I was interviewed for a blog from Poland. Included in the interview is this picture I did in grade 4 (I think). Thanks to Monika Obuchow for the blog post.

Here is the link to the post:

Here is an earlier draft in English. The Polish version is slightly different, it changed a little as I translated it.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Warsaw. I went to high school at the School of Fine Arts. It was so wonderful to be around other kids who loved making art.

Has Illustration been a part of your life from childhood?
Yes, when I first started going to elementary school I did well because many of the projects involved drawing - although once they started introducing mathematics and spelling and such I did less well! I remember drawing and painting all the time, my mom encouraged me, it was a good way to keep me out of trouble I guess.

How is your childhood an important part of your work?
I remember my childhood and I use those memories as inspiration for my drawings. Often the bunnies, bears and other creatures in my drawings are doing what I did as a kid. It brings my characters alive and I have a lot of fun, the drawings often make me smile. My next book RED WAGON to be published by Philomel in February 2011, was directly influenced by my childhood. The story is about a little girl Lucy who has all kinds of adventures while going to pick up vegetables at the market. It was inspired by memories of my mom sending me to the neighborhood shop to get sauerkraut, it was a chore but it was fun meeting with friends along the way (and eating the sauerkraut on the way back).

Where does your love of bears come from?
Coralgol! (Jeremy in Canada) After not seeing it since childhood, my mom sent me some dvd's of the old shows. I was surprised to see how much it still influenced my work.
My love of panda bears came from a trip to Poland. While visiting a friend in Germany I had a turned on the TV in the small hotel we were staying in. The news kept showing footage of a panda bear up in a tree with some people trying to get it down. I found this very curious and later, when I got home to Canada, I started researching pandas on the internet and found out you could watch them live on the web. I love watching panda's on the pandacam! They are so lovely and inspired me to write my first children's book , LITTLE PANDA.

Did I plan to become a children's book illustrator?
Not really, it came about gradually over time. I went to an art college in Calgary, Canada called The Alberta College of Art and Design. It was an important turning point for me, I learned I could do something with the art I was creating. I started out doing editorial and corporate illustration but in my sketchbook I was drawing a lot of kid's book stuff and after a while the kid's stuff just took over.

How did the Quiet Book come about?
A few years ago I had sent some samples of my artwork to my future editor, Kate O'Sullivan. She liked my work but didn't have any stories that fit my work, but she asked if I had written any stories of my own that I would like to illustrate. I didn't have any written, but I sat down and immediately started writing some stories which included THE LITTLE PANDA. After that Kate finally found a book for me to illustrate,THE QUIET BOOK, and it was perfect. When I read the manuscript, right away I imagined pictures for it and started drawing even before I could agree to do the book.

How is the success of the Quiet Book translated to my future work?
When I illustrated my first children's book NIKOLAI THE ONLY BEAR written by Barbara Joosse I thought this is it, it's such a lovely book now I will busy doing many more books. But I did not get another offer for several more years. After LITTLE PANDA was published I again thought this was it, it's such a lovely book now everyone will buy it. It did pretty good but not like I had imagined, it did get good reviews and won illustration awards which was encouraging. So with the Quiet Book, I just decided to have fun and enjoy doing the book and not worry about how it does. So I was very pleasantly surprised when it did so well! Perhaps best of all it has already lead to 2 sequels, THE LOUD BOOK and a 3rd sequel yet to announced. The greatest reward is that I get the opportunity to draw more books.

What is the response to more ambitious kids books in North America and the conflict between good art and bad?
I have been lucky in the amazing people I have worked with in the children's book industry. They love good books and have really supported me in doing my best work. Credit has to be given to my editor Kate O'Sullivan who saw the potential of the book. A wonderful part of children's books is how the writing and the illustration can contribute equally to the storytelling. I think the greatest battle in illustrating is making sure that the illustrations add to the story and doesn't repeat what the text says.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

End of Song Quiet

I don't think this happens much anymore.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Red Wagon!!!

This is a detail from the cover of my next book RED WAGON
The entire cover design can be seen on my newly redesigned
website at

RED WAGON is coming in Feb 2011.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm coming with!

A very good friend is moving. I am sad to see her go but happy for her as well!