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Grumpy Kids on a Rainy Day… New Art!

children's book illustration of big sister and little brother fighting over a toy boat on a rainy day.
My illustration, "Rainy Day Grumps".

Well, we are here again- it is raining, raining, raining in California.

Being the drought ridden state that we are, rain is actually a real blessing here in the golden state. But golly, is it hard to keep a house full of kiddos occupied! My toddler in particular has been so pent up that we have taken to going out in the evenings and puddle jumping in the green space across the street.

I wanted to create some artwork to mark this soggy moment, and how much the most loving relationships can start to fray when the cabin fever sets in. So today, with the lovely pitter

patter of precipitation sounding outside my window, I created this illustration. I call it “Rainy Day Grumps".


This sketch was actually inspired by a really fun rainy day activity that my kids and I did. We were going completely stir crazy during the last jag of precipitous weather. My 11 year old was harrumphing, my 9 year old was practicing basketball so intensely that the BOOF noise the indoor hoop made every time he shot was starting to make me twitch, and my 2 year old was literally bouncing off the walls.

Something had to give.

Photo of 3 children of different ages, sailing handmade boats on a puddle.
A pic of my kids testing out their homemade boats.

So my 9 year old and I hopped onto Pinterest and typed in "rainy day activities for kids". Somewhere along the way, my middle child realized what a GOLD MINE Pinterest is, and whenever we are casting around for something to do (what halloween costume to make, an easy baking activity, 2nd grade science fair projects, etc) we hop on our favorite visual search engine.

And Pinterest did not disappoint. Buried deep in a list of "52 Things to Do on a Rainy Day" or some such title, we found the sentence, "float a toy boat in puddles outside". Kiddo and I looked at each other and shared in one of those super fun, team "eureka" moments. We don't have any toy boats in our home at the moment but we DID have all the materials on hand required to make some boats of our very own! So we did! And we called it our Boat Making Challenge! That deeply fun, deeply satisfying, endlessly creative family project spawned this blog post.

It also filled me to the brim with musings on rain slickers, oversized rain boots, backyard puddles and, of course, toy boats.


Although we had a very fun day as a family indulging in our new favorite rainy day activity, I wanted to draw me some grumpy kids. Honestly, we had all been circling the "about to get so grumpy we say things we regret" drain all week. I felt like we had done an amazing job of staving off actual full-on crankiness and drawing a bunch of harrumphing kids was a highly safe and fun way for me to vent off all that latent, built up grumpiness.

I popped open the Procreate app on my iPad and started sketching. I love sketching in Procreate. Although the aspect ratio of the screen can feel limiting at times, it's so easy to move elements around until you find the composition you like.

sketch of an illustration of a girl holding a boat
My initial sketch was cute but why was she so cranky?

At first I just drew one grumpy kid. It became clear pretty quickly though that her reason for annoyance was not easy to see. Was she feeling harassed by an uncooperative rain puddle? What was this deal with this solitary, grumpy kid? So I plumbed the depths of my knowledge and experience and alighted upon the vector of much childhood grumpiness.

A little brother.

A preliminary sketch done in Procreate of a big sister and little brother fighting over a toy boat.
Sibling rivalry is the inspiration for lots of children's book illustrations!

Now this is not a slight against little brothers. Two of my kids are little brothers! I LOVE THEM! They are sweet, charming, mischievous and of course the recipients of much elder sibling consternation. Look, I didn't write the book of life, I'm just illustrating it. "Sibling tension" is definitely a main chapter! So I added a little brother to my sketch.


While I've changed my process many times over the years, one thing almost always remains constant. I always start with a line drawing. It doesn't have to be super detailed but I find that by doing a completed line drawing, I'm able to solve a lot of problems that I don't want to be struggling with in the final stages of adding value and color.

There are two main challenges of line drawings for me:

  1. How to keep the energy of the original sketch.

  2. How to solve problems that end up affecting my composition.

A lot of times, when I bring a rough sketch into the finishing stages of a line drawing, I end up encountering one of the most famous of illustration pests-


A tangent is when two objects, volumes, masses or lines in a 2-D work of art, butt up against one another in such a way that the depth of the drawing becomes confused. In this particular line drawing I had to decide whether I wanted little brother to OVERLAP big sister, or be off to the side. I had to make this choice so that the two characters weren't just propped up against each other. That would have created a tangent and confused my drawing! I ultimately decided to keep a space between the brother's and sister's heads.

A tangent is when two objects, volumes, masses or lines in a 2-D work of art, butt up against one another in such a way that the depth of the drawing becomes confused.

I made lots of other small decisions while putting together this line drawing and I'm glad I did! That meant I was in for some smooth sailing when it came time to apply color.

Line drawing for the illustration, "Rainy Day Grumps" by Emma Tipping.
My finished line drawing.


Adding color in Procreate is SO FUN! I love messing around with color palettes, textures and values. Recently I've been experimenting with dropping my toddler's abstract digital paintings into the backgrounds of my illustrations and letting them show through a bit for visual interest. I tried doing that on "Rainy Day Grumps" but it didn't really work.

I often drop abstract paintings behind drawings for texture. This time it didn't really work.

I decided at this point to use a tried and true rainy day palette. I call this palette "English Country Lane". I have it loaded up as one of my Procreate palettes. I created it during an autumn trip to my grandparents' house in the English countryside outside of Liverpool. I pulled the colors from photos I took as I enjoyed a walk down a soggy country lane.

I decided at this point to use a tried and true rainy day palette.

An important part of my "English Country Lane" palette is that it has no bright blues. This makes sense if you think about it. In nature bright blues most frequently appear in vivid blue skies. On an overcast day, the sky is grey! I am using this palette to create a series of illustrations for my portfolio called Gemma's Ghost, which take place in the English countryside. You can see it in use in my character study of Gemma, where the only truly saturated colors are yellow, green and a little bit of red.

Photo of color palette made for Procreate called "English Country Lane".
I made this palette while visiting England.
Children's book illustration and character study by children's book illustrator Emma Tipping.
Character study of Gemma doesn't use any saturated blues.

I knew I wanted to have some bright blues in "Rainy Day Grumps" however, so I added a saturated blue violet and was on my way!

Here are a few photos from the color stage of my illustration "Rainy Day Grumps":

After applying flat colors to the main shapes.

Putting in the ground.

Adding more values, textures and reflections, especially in the puddle.


So by now, I should be done right?! But no. After adding the final color I realized that I still wasn't happy with how my illustration looked.

Something about little brother's face looked weird!

But what was it? I realized that his face was too hard to READ. The facial features were too squished! I tried opening them up by pulling the eyes and eyebrows higher. That still didn't do the trick. Then I decided that I would change little brother's facial expression. Angry expressions are pinched and compacted by definition. The eyebrows are scrunched down over the eyes. I wanted a more open expression so I changed little brother from angry to concerned.

Lil bro's original, scrunched expression.

Lil bro's more open expression.

I was much happier with how this looked. It also added some complexity to the story. Instead of two angry siblings, there are two different emotions- annoyance and distress. I like this extra variable!


And here it is! The final illustration, "Rainy Day Grumps". You can see how much fun I had figuring out the background and the rain. If you'd like to try out your own version of this illustration you can download the coloring page!

children's book illustration of big sister and little brother fighting over a toy boat on a rainy day.
My illustration, "Rainy Day Grumps".


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