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What the Mouse Dropped

Updated: May 2

If you are one of those poor souls who is absolutely terrified by the sight of a long pink tail disappearing into a cereal box, I understand your pain.

As a former mouse lover myself, I have to admit that I have become squeamish about the rascals in recent years. Having spent a lot of time in the woods growing up, mice always seemed like cute little buddies who I would see darting around the wood pile or dashing to escape my grandmother's ferocious mousers. I thought they were so cute with their flat pink feet and black button eyes!

Sadly, during the pany-d (as my sister lovingly calls the Covid-19 pandemic), I discovered that I had acquired an aversion to mice. After fleeing the CZU fires in our county, my hubby, kids and I hunkered down in my parents' old cabin in the woods. I think I actually "eeeked" one day when I saw a mouse peeking its little nose out of a crack in the wall (honestly, "eeeking" at that mouse is one of the the more embarrassing things I've done). I blame this new development on parenthood. Instead of being whimsically entertained by the little furballs, I'm excruciatingly aware of how much they PEE... EVERYWHERE. And as la mama, I'm almost exclusively in charge of cleaning up all this lovely mouse seasoning. Charming.

So perhaps I was inspired to write Mouse Droppings to capture that old loving feeling again. I want to love mice so I imagined a world where they would leave me things other than their excrement, darling though it is. Please enjoy below, my poem Mouse Droppings and some highlights from the illustration process.

The Poem

First things first. Here's the poem I wrote in December 2020. I arrived at the final text after bringing it to one of my critique groups. After receiving their feedback, I decided to include a car heist. Something for the action-movie-loving crowd!

Mice leave their droppings everywhere
Text for my poem, "Mouse Droppings", written in December 2020.

Character Design

It was then time to scrounge around on the web for reference imagery. As it happens, a mouse plague had just hit Australia (oof, tough one mates) so there was plenty of imagery


drawings of mice
Some studies of mice, mostly drawn from images I scrounged up on the Google oracle.

After a few hours of drawing mice my eyes were starting to cross. I just couldn't get a combination of shapes that I was happy with. So I drew myself a little encouragement and took the rest of the day off from mousing.

Ok, back to the drawing board. For this round of character designs I really focused on the things I love about mice visually. They have fat, round upper arms that end in intolerably cute pink hands with elegant claws. They also have round, plump bottoms and expressive tails. Long, paddle-like pink feet stick out goofily from their furry haunches. Finally, I LOVE their shiny black eyes and twitchy ears. This time, I got somewhere.

Cartoons of cute mice
Whew, after drawing mice for what felt like hours I finally got to some designs that felt right.

Cute mice wearing clothes
Some variations of how the mice might look, clothed and shod.

Composition & Value

I sadly cannot find my various composition sketches (I always get excited to be done and delete them to save space in Procreate! And then I always regret it! At least I'm consistent...). I did however decide to do an 11"x17" tabloid spread. I wanted to design an illustrated poem that would go into a magazine like Highlights for kids.

Here is the value study I ended up going with:

Value study of illustration, Mouse Droppings.
Value study laid on top of my line drawing. I messed around for a while with how to make the foreground distinct from the background.


It was time to color. I harvested this color palette from photos of our time at the cabin during the pany-d. You can see my new logo at the bottom of it!

palette used by children's book illustrator, Emma Tipping, to illustrate her artwork, Mouse Droppings.
"Mouse Droppings" color palette

Final Art

Here are some of my favorite details:

And here is the finished art!

Thank you for coming on this mousey journey with me and...

See you at the drawing Board!

Click on the apple

to see what

Illustration Can Do!

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