7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #628: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Taia Morley

h1 March 3rd, 2019 by jules

“Whisper, nudge. Look!”


If you visit Taia Morley’s site, you’ll see she’s hardly new to children’s books (and that she has also previously worked as a toy and game designer). But Wake Up, Color Pup (Random House, March 2019), which she’s here to talk about today, is her first book as both author and illustrator.

In this story, geared at preschool and elementary-aged readers, a young pup meets a bright yellow bird, who calls Pup outside to explore a “world awake” in spring. The text — with simple rhymes and a color named on nearly every spread — is spare. When a big thunderstorm comes, the bird stays with Pup; the two “huddle” and make it through the downpour and scary skies. And when the sun comes out afterwards, a colorful surprise awaits them.

Taia visits 7-Imp this morning to talk about creating the cheerful, playful art for this book. I thank her for sharing.

* * *

Taia: Thanks, Jules. I’m excited and honored for this opportunity to share a bit of the Wake Up, Color Pup journey I’ve had with Random House Children’s Books. It has been years in the making, like most books.

Wake Up, Color Pup is about the power of friendship, appreciating the world around you, and overcoming a setback. Sounds kind of lofty, given the fact that there are only 52 words! I let the pictures tell the story.

The book was inspired by a character I developed from an unrelated toy design project a several years back. I felt the pup had story potential, but it took me awhile to work out the plot line. It goes to show that if you are patient, keep feeding the imagination, and are watchful for inspiration, stories will reveal themselves.

But it does take time. Here is the cover used for the picture book dummy, which was originally titled Color Pup, followed by the final version, Wake Up, Color Pup. Interesting how the cover evolved to better reflect the narrative. Pup’s friendship with the yellow bird exposes him to the world. The final cover conveys their relationship.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


These [below] are early sketches and an early color study of the Pup. The first versions of Pup were busy and colorful. As his story developed, he was simplified.




From there, I started to rough out scenes I envisioned as part of the Pup’s tale. This is the fun part, and I’ve found if you can let go, the narrative starts to drive itself.



I knew I had a story here, but I needed some help. I enrolled in a Highlights Foundation Picture Book Boot Camp with some AMAZING faculty — Denise Fleming, Pat Cummings, Peter Brown, Greg Pizzoli, Martha Rago, Nancy Paulsen … the list of experts goes on. Add the energy of talented fellow students, and it was definitely worth the time, effort, and expense. I came home with lots more work to do, but I had more direction and insight for story development. From that experience came more Color Pup book dummies. A couple of dummy page samples:


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


Here [below] is the final art for the orange pages [sans text]. Things changed!


“Flutter, leap, lunge.”
(Click to enlarge)


Not everything changes, though. Here’s the final art for the opening spread [sans text]. This illustration changed very little from the first dummy. It was an attention-getter and influenced the decision-makers. I think it gets the reader involved without giving too much away.


“Wake up, little pup.”
(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


Here are a couple more final spreads [sans text] . . .


“Sniff, wade, splash through. …”
(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click to enlarge)


Wake Up, Color Pup is my first author-illustrator endeavor. I was able to work with some wonderful people on this project. A special thanks to Martha Rago at Random House for taking on the Pup.

I suspect some of your readers may be interested in how the images were created. Generating the art for this book required several revisions, so all of the final art is digital, which makes editing easier. I use a “kitchen sink” approach — pastel and watercolor, a lot of scanning, and digital work. I should dedicate this book to my Epson scanner. No matter what I’m working on, however, I always start with pencil and paper. I’m old-school and still keep a sketchbook.


(Click to enlarge)


Next up for me and my good friend Mylisa Larsen is a holiday book, coming out Fall ’19, entitled Ho Ho Homework. This was a delight to work on and is based on a true story from my daughter’s elementary school days. Here is a sneak peek at one of the interior spreads:


(Click to enlarge)


And just for fun, some warm-up for a book I’m currently working on about animal communication:


(Click to enlarge)


Picture books are magical. I believe that the combination of word and image engages the reader with the story in ways that few other mediums do. The best picture books appeal to both adult and child without dumbing down to either. There are many great picture books that I could list, but I have a personal favorite in my library that, though tattered, will stay on the shelf until one of my kids sneaks off with it. Doctor De Soto, written and illustrated by William Steig, is timeless and sparked my interest in children’s literature. Amusing, tender, smart, and sophisticated, this book is a little treasure.



I am very lucky to have the privilege to work on picture books and enjoy the friendships that are cultivated when bringing a book to life. These opportunities have come after a long time of doing other things, but books were my first love. Wake Up, Color Pup has been a great learning experience and a bit of a dream come true.



Thanks, Jules!

WAKE UP, COLOR PUP. Copyright © 2019 by Taia Morley. Published by Random House, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Taia Morley.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I love the sun in this book and that opening spread, in which Pup sees and feels the sun on his tail — and he leaps up.

2) The first major gun control bill in over 20 years!

3) We Danielsons saw Lowland Hum live in Nashville this past week, and it was a great show.

4) I got my first grey hair! This is very exciting to me.

5) This is a bit belated (and if I’ve already mentioned it, I apologize for the redundancy), but a few weeks ago, 7-Imp hit 7,777 followers on Twitter. I don’t obsess over Twitter numbers, nor do I even pay that much attention to them, but I noticed this just before hitting the all-7-for-7-Imp mark, so when it happened, I snapped a pic. Should I now aim for 77,777 follower? Will we all be around that long?

6) We Danielsons finished the entire Buffy the Vampire series Friday night. End of an era for us.

7) Later this week at Parnassus Books, I’ll chat with Julie Berry about her new novel, Lovely War, which is sooo good.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #628: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Taia Morley”

  1. Congratulations Taia on your author/illustrator debut. I loved seeing the evolution of your book cover and your style. Thank you for sharing your journey. Wake up, Color Pup looks charming.

    Julie, Congratulations on hitting 7,777 followers on twitter! It’s great to see good things happening.

  2. Taia, your illustrations are so.fun. I loved the sun on the tail and the kaleidoscope of colors. Thanks for showing your workspace.
    Jules, I have Lovely War on my TBR pile. Here’s to the first gray all shimmery and bright.
    My kicks:
    1. The sound of flickers pecking on the top of the chimney.
    2. Reading American Marriage by Tayari Jones.
    3. Bright sunshine.
    4. My work space addition: chakra hearts created by Kelly Ramsdell.
    5. Playing modified Scrabble with 5th graders who need support in reading (subbing as reading teacher).
    6. Writing
    7. Naps with my Buster boy.
    Have a great week.

  3. Hello, Imps! Hello, Taia and Color Pup and adorable fox! Hello!

    Jules: I’m so glad that you had fun at the concert, and watching BtVS. Yay for the lucky sevens, and YAY for control!!! YES!!!

    Hi Annelouise!

    Jone: I had never heard of flicker birds, so I looked them up, and they look precious. That’s awesome that you use Scrabble as a reading/support tool!

    My kicks:
    1) Singing
    2) Laughing
    3) Discussing
    4) Considering
    5) Water
    6) Cocoa
    7) Oat squares

  4. Wowee! I have to have this book! Look at that pup! Look at those colors! Look at those designs! I can hardly wait, Taia!

    Well, Jules, these days I am looking for hair that’s not gray. 🙂 🙂 I’ve got the Julie Berry book on order.

    Hello Annelouise!

    I’m with you Jone on the bright sunshine. It makes the bitter temperatures much more tolerable.

    All I had to do was read Cocoa and I’m off to make a cup of my own, Little Willow.

    My kicks:
    1. Sunshine
    2. Cleats for wearing on boots so you can walk on ice
    3. My kind UPS guy who leaves my packages on the porch (my house is at the top of a hill)
    4. Snow coating everything like frosting
    5. Cozy blankets
    6. New book releases
    7. Walking with my scamp-a-saurus Mulan

    Have a wonderful week, everyone.

  5. Hi Jules! I’ve been meaning to drop by with kicks again for a while now. Today’s the day! Congrats on 7,777, and on to 77K! This puppy art made me smile. Great work, Taia!
    – Hi AnneLouise!
    – Jone, sunshine is on my list, too!
    – Little Willow, singing and laughing are so fun.
    – Margie, cleats on boots! That is a good invention.
    1. Sunshine (it’s not here today, but I look forward to its return)
    2. Hot tea
    3. Gentle snow with rabbit and deer prints on our front yard (sneaky visitors)
    4. Celebrating friends’ book launches and finding time to read their masterpieces
    5. Almost spring
    6. A wedding upcoming (my only brother’s!)
    7. My thrift store “sleeping bag coat” – a down coat that is a bit ugly but so practical for frigid temps

    Have a great week!

  6. Love this happy puppy & the joyful illustrations. Rufus looks like a very good .

    Jules – Hooray for Buffy & good concerts & CONGRATULATIONS on reaching 7,777 followers! Woot! (I peeked & you’re up 7,817 now, well on your way to 10K & more)

    Jone – yay for sunshine, flickers, & naps with Buster.

    LW – love all your kicks, but especially kicks 1 & 2 – singing & laughing are so much fun.

    Margie – yay for snow like frosting, cozy blankets, and Mulan the scamp!

    Dow – those animal tracks in the snow are the best. And hoorah for looking forward to sunshine & your brother’s wedding.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Watched “Period. End of Sentence.” so good & so inspiring that high school students funded it & The Pad Project, they give me so much hope for the future: https://www.thepadproject.org/
    2) Happy World Wildlife Day!
    3) Getting to take a hike/walk in the cold, gloriously sunny day today.
    4) Stumbled across the poem “recipe for happiness in khabarovsk or anyplace” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti & it made my day.
    5) This short video of snowing at sea: https://www.facebook.com/Amomentofsilence55/videos/207781040125612/
    6) Finishing a project that required several long nights – its still late – but its finished.
    7) Taking Daisy on errands & her making friends with the barista as we went through the drive-thru for her Pupacino. She was such a hit she got a second Pupacino!
    7.5) Got the opening appellate brief on a case where I was the trial lawyer. I loved it & the appellate lawyer really made me look good! (I so love that.)

    Have a great week Imps!

  7. Hi, Annelouise!

    Jone, I love your fifth kick. And I’ve seen some of Kelly’s creations on Instagram. Love what she is doing.

    Little Willow: Did you see this? — https://news.avclub.com/buffy-nerds-have-something-to-sing-about-the-once-mor-1832997373

    Margie, do you know that your Instagram photos of your snowy winter wonderland are a delight for someone like me (in the South) to see?

    Dow, hi! Enjoy the wedding. What’s your favorite kind of hot tea? I’ve been drinking a lot of peppermint lately.

    Rachel, love that last kick, in particular. Really want to see that documentary. Thanks for the reminder. … That video is beautiful.

    Have a good week, you all!

  8. I’ve been enjoying vanilla lately. Peppermint is great, too. If you are ever around Boulder, CO, we have the Celestial Seasonings factory. They give free tours with pretty much unlimited free samples!

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