What People Are Saying About Penguin Sets Sail

“The pleasing sequencing in Penguin Sets Sail will have children readily interpreting the pictures, making connections to the story and the characters. This picture book is an excellent choice for any young storyteller or story time listener.” – The Children’s Book Review

“ Penguin Sets Sale is a sweet story of exploration and friendship, of imagination and the hopes of home.” -S. D. Smith, author of The Green Ember Series

“ Penguin Sets Sail is a sweet, silent adventure that plays out in a cinematic and almost musical manner. Jessica Linn Evans’s lovely watercolor paintings provide a vast, vibrantly colored landscape for the reader’s mind to wander as they help create the story in their mind.” -Joe Sutphin, illustrator of New York Times bestseller Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga

“I’ve always loved penguins, and sea voyages, and I loved this book! A delightfully illustrated wordless story that says a lot with a little: the value of curiosity over complacency, the joy of travel and the friendships we forge along the way; how new experiences enrich and change us, so that when we finally return home we’re not quite the same person (or penguin) we were before we left.” -Eric Fan of the Fan Brothers, authors and illustrators of the award-winning The Night Gardener , Amazon’s best book of the year (2016)

“ Penguin Sets Sail is beautifully imagined and wonderfully executed in sprawling scenes, bright and full of joy. A story told without words, the pages invite parents and children to join in the storytelling so that the adventure will be unique to whoever happens to be reading at the time.” -Ethan Nicolle, creator of Axe Cop Bearmageddon , and Rocket Monster Story Club and editor of The Babylon Bee

Illustration process: First steps

GREEN for camera angle. RED for shot size.

One of the first things I do when illustrating a book is to draw up or print out a storyboard. This is an outstanding tool for planning out illustrations! Here I make chicken-scratch thumbnail sketches and map out the emotional arc of the manuscript. Once I establish the emotion I want each illustration to portray I start making decisions on “shot size” and “camera angle.” Borrowing these techniques from the film industry has transformed my illustration process!

Sketch from recent book dummy.

Next, are very rough sketches using the information I established on my storyboard to build a book dummy. If the emotion I want to capture on a page is embarrassment, and a feeling of everything gone wrong, I might use a dutch angle in my composition. If I want the character to appear to be powerful or have more agency I might use a low angle in my sketch. I establish the size and position of each element on the page based on the emotional arc of the story. For a more action-filled manuscript, I will do the same until I have where the characters are positioned in each illustration.

Now I have my “shot list!” Armed with just a bed sheet, phone camera, and a really big window, I’m ready to shoot a photo session for images to use for reference as I illustrate the book. I did this recently. First, I went through my shot list with my model and explained the story’s emotional arc. Then we took several shots of each scene for expression, body position, and lighting. Her mom was a great help holding the big sheet and being an extra model! I feel like a got a little (tiny) peek into what it’s like to be a movie director. Now I’m ready for the next level of sketches to send to the art director!

Be A Good Egg

During my short time in the Children’s book industry, I’ve noticed there are some good eggs, and a few bad ones too. But mostly there are just Eggs, that have good days and sometimes bad days. 

So be a good egg! And if you see an egg having a bad day, give them a break…but not a literal break, because that would hurt…unless it’s a literal egg and you’re making an omelet. Then you have to break it because you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few.

And if you’re allergic to eggs, you may have been offended by my entire metaphor. If that’s the case, be a good egg and give me a break…but not a literal break.

A Pear Post

I illustrate all my children’s books with traditional materials: mostly watercolor, pencil, colored pencil, and ink. But I also enjoy painting fine art every once in a while. When I paint a watercolor piece, like this still life, I use the same steps I would use in an illustration. I thought I’d share my process with you.

These are the steps I took to paint these pears with photos of each stage:

I went with Arches 300# super white cotton because I didn’t feel like stretching the paper. With paper that heavy, there’s very little warping—you can see I decided to tape it down later anyway. Ha! The best-laid plans!

After drawing the outline with a pencil (and using a kneaded eraser to pick up a lot of the graphite, so the line is very light), I painted an underpainting of the shadows with M. Graham watercolors in Neutral Tint.

In order to prevent the background paint from bleeding into the pears, I completed the pears next. I started with a glaze of Hansa Yellow and added Cadmium Yellow to the darker portions. Hints of Permanent Green Pale were added to the body of the pear and layers of Permanent Green Pale and Azo Orange in the shadows. All paints are M. Graham as they can be re-wetted and used after drying in the pallet without graininess.

To keep it simple, I just used Neutral Tint for the background and additional shading and cast shadows. I carefully wetted the paper around the bowl, pear, and especially around those stems with a small brush before adding the pigment and let the wet paper spread the pigment tight to the outline of the pears, etc.

Finally, I used Ultramarine blue for the bowl design. I thought the pure color was perfect, and just layered more of the same Ultramarine for the darker side of the bowl. Also M. Graham brand paint.


We can get pretty extreme temperatures where I live in the Inland Northwest. I’ve seen -10 with windchill in the winter and 107 in the summer. I’ve also seen snow in June here, but that’s only happened once in my 32 years in this little town. Despite our extreme temperatures, my neighbor two doors down from us has two beautiful magnolia trees flanking her front door. These trees produce gorgeous white blooms in the summer that are most often enjoyed in the balmier regions of our fair country.

I’ve always enjoyed the beauty and fragrance of this flower and finally painted one in watercolor. I’m really pleased with the result. Now I can enjoy me a magnolia, even in sub-zero weather. I just need to figure out the scratch-and-sniff thing.

Commissioned Birds

I love birds. I may or may not have an excessive number of backyard bird feeders and bird houses on my property. I also love to paint birds. I recently painted a bird for fun and put it on a greeting card to send to friends. (One can always use a good songbird greeting card). I liked it so well, I decided to make several more. And since I’m going to paint them anyway, I thought, I may as well paint birds that other people like too. So I threw out a call for commissioned requests—understanding that they would buy the original and I would make greeting cards from the image.

Here are three of the commissioned bird watercolor paintings that I will make into greeting card designs. I’m rather fond of them.

A Poetic Tribute

I wrote this poem for my son who recently graduated from high school. He learned a lot about sacrifice, selflessness, and teamwork during football. He knows what it means to work hard and get things done for the sake of others. He knows how to leave it all on the field and lay it all on the line. I’m proud of you Will Evans.

The Lineman

He puts his joyful hands in the dirt

Warlike-look around his eyes,

Ready to battle and get to work

Unheeding of the cold and hurt,

An unbreached wall his only prize.

Kidney Infection — A One Star Review

I cannot recommend a kidney infection. 

And do not understand a certain affection 

     For ailments with titles familiar and plain. 

Wouldn’t you rather an “impingement syndrome” 

than plain “tendinitis” (which sounds quite humdrum)

     or “contusion” than “bruise” (which is simply mundane).

But this hackneyed disorder (back to my point)

Brings an ache and a torment into every joint

     And a feverish, shivery, drenched perspiration. 

Kidney infection: a carnival ride,

You’re ice when you’re up and muck-sweat the downside

     (Besides having a title that lacks inspiration).

This vile infection (of mean nomenclature)

Puts me quite out of sorts, against my better nature.

     It’s a pain in the back and is simply no fun.

So for want of enjoyment, cheer, bliss, or glee

(And a moniker lacking in all novelty)

     Out of five stars, this infection gets ONE!

Birthday poem

My friend had a landmark birthday and her husband threw her a birthday party. The invite said, “Please bring a poem, encouragement, Bible verse, or piece of advice. No gifts, please.” I wrote her this poem and made these pencil sketches for her. I realize that the tree branches are tamarack rather than pine, but most pine needles would dwarf a ruby-crowned kinglet, so I fudged a little.

Writing Critique groups— Receiving (and giving) feedback

Being in a writing critique group for the first time can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be if you’re prepared. Here are a few tips on giving and receiving feedback from other authors.

Receiving feedback:

When someone offers you feedback, you should think “bring it on!” every time. Because either the criticism will be correct and bring to light something you haven’t seen before and you can make the manuscript better OR it will be incorrect but can show where you may have been unclear and you can double down on your intention. Most importantly, don’t take anything personally, even though you may have put a lot of yourself into your manuscript, your manuscript is not you. Don’t ever let comments discourage you, let them make you better.

  • All feedback is useful–right or wrong. It either enlightens or helps you clarify.
  • You want to make your manuscript as excellent as possible.
  • Your manuscript is not YOU. Don’t take feedback on your manuscript personally.

Giving feedback:

When giving another author feedback, remember the “FEEDBACK SANDWICH.” Start with something you love about the manuscript. Kindly and thoughtfully present any constructive feedback. Then follow it up immediately with something else that you love. Make sure your tone and the way you present the feedback make it obvious that you want this manuscript to be amazing and that you hope for the best outcome for the author. And remember to present everything in a way that you would want the same information to be presented to you: The Golden Rule.

  • Your goal is to make the other person’s manuscript better.
  • Remember the Golden Rule
  • Use the “Feedback Sandwich”: Positive/Constructive Criticism/Positive
  • If you’re not sure what to say, you can always ask questions that may help the person improve the focus of their manuscript.
    • What is the target age?
    • Who do you imaging reading your story?
    • What is your goal with this manuscript?