From My Sketchbook: The Tortoise and The Hare

I’ve been taking the Make Art That Sells course with Lilla Rogers lately, which is a five-week e-course that gives artists everything they need to know to make and sell commercially-viable art in the hottest markets, such as bolt fabric, home decor, children’s books, wall art, gift, and more.

The topic for this project was children’s books, to draw characters, do some hand lettering, and design an illustration for a children’s book using Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and The Hare.

Our first exercise was to draw a variety of tortoises in our usual style, then try a different style, and then add some facial expressions, emotion, props and personality. I’ve never drawn tortoises (or turtles), or worked on art for children’s books, or drawn animals as characters, so this was a great challenge for me.

I started out drawing tortoises in a realistic way and then played around … just a little bit.

sketchbook page of tortoises

Then I decided to go crazy and personify a tortoise with more human-like characteristics including a hat and clothes. I had no idea where these drawings were going but that’s the fun of drawing over and over again when creating make-believe. Maybe he’s a redneck with a flannel shirt and trucker hat or maybe he’s a more proper guy wearing a bowler hat and bowtie.

sketchbook tortoise characters sketchbook tortoise

I also drew a hare in a few different styles, wearing a scarf and looking smug and disinterested.

sketchbook hares

The next step was to try some hand-lettering to match the style of our tortoise character, which is another fun challenge. I searched for sports fonts since this fable is about a race, and found Octin and Athletic Script fonts for just the inspiration I was looking for.

sketchbook tortoise hand lettering

I’ve had a book in my reference library for years called Illustrating Children’s Books by Martin Salisbury which makes a few points that really resonate with me:

  • Characters are born on the page from evolving doodles drawn over and over again.
  • The process of drawing releases new ideas and new stories.
  • Characters begin to take on a life and personality of their own.

I love to illustrate maps, so I decided to give my piece a whimsical illustrated map look and feel with a path that winds through a cabbage patch and trail signs to distract Mr. Hare while Mr. Tortoise approaches the finish line. This might be a fun illustration to print on one of the end pages of the book, sort of like a game board.

cover illustration for the tortoise and the hare

Hope you’re on the look-out for things that inspire you and challenge you!



  • Hello Terri,

    This post made me smile your tortoise and hare are so dammed cute. Especially the hare laying upside down!
    I was thinking your map would look great printed up as a tea towel!

    Happy days.

    • Thanks so much Bev! I was hoping these drawings and illustrations would make someone out there chuckle, so I’m happy to hear they made you smile! Love your idea of printing this on a tea towel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s