My Passion Project: An Introduction

I want to share the story of my passion project - A journey that is still very much underway. I intend for it to by my life’s work and, well, since it is nearly 17 years in the making I would say it has taken up a pretty good portion of my 47 years to qualify. 

Children’s book illustration Dawn Buettner Huntington

For years I’ve dreamt of creating a children’s book. After my son was born, I began doodling little winged animals. Later I would silkscreen them onto bags and pillows to sell at craft fairs. Customers would ask if I had a story about my animals and I would tell them it was in the works. Then I began printing my own fabric to make baby bibs and adorned, felt baby shoes - a process I had the privilege to share in two segments on The Martha Stewart Show in 2007. Martha called my flying animals “whimsical” and I’ve referred to them as such ever since.

Dawn Buettner Huntington Martha Stewart Show

Then another baby came along and I began making wooden baby mobiles, a more profitable product for my handmade business. The subjects of my artwork switched to beach and surf inspired, as well as whatever the trending nursery theme happened to be at the time. Occasionally I would pick up my old sketchbooks and revisit those whimsical imaginary friends of mine - usually on a vacation or when I was gifted some much needed alone time while my husband got the kids out of the house. Or, sometimes I would read an article that I would somehow find relevant to my story and dig out the sketchbooks to write it down, doodle it up, and revisit all the pages and pages of ideas I’d already captured.

In the Summer of 2020, completely wiped out from sewing and selling over 300 fabric masks, I took down my Etsy listing for Hawaiian print fabric masks and returned to a more creative outlet - my story, a much needed retreat. It felt like this was the perfect time to pick up those sketchbooks once more. This time, however, I vowed to not put them down until I had a completed book.

I’m sure almost everyone has bizarre internet rabbit holes they found themselves in during the stay-at-home orders of 2020. Mine began with an article I read that referred to Sarah Palin’s infamous “I can see Russia from my house”  (which she actually never said - Tina Fey made this hysterical proclamation on SNL). The article referred to homes where Russia actually can be seen right out the kitchen window. So I looked up the Alaskan Little Diomede Island and found some fascinating articles, which I probably would have never allowed myself the time to enjoy if it weren’t for the fact that we were stuck at home. Little Diomede Island is referred to as “Yesterday Island” because Big Diomede Island (a short 3 miles away and visible from Little Diomede) is part of Russia and separated by the International Date Line. So when you look at Russia from Yesterday Island, you are looking at the future.

This got me all engaged in islands. I began scanning the oceans in Google Maps for islands that looked like they had inhabitants. I read about small communities living in isolation and dove into any article I could find about life in these remote places. Looking back, it makes sense that I would be so invested in this kind of research at a time when it felt like our house was our own island where we were banished and no longer able to have friends over for barbecues and family dinners with my Mom and Dad. 

Without going into all the details (saving these for my book!), I had new inspiration for my own story. I still didn’t have the entire story worked out, but it became obvious to me that I just needed to start creating the world I was seeing in my head - which is an island, of course. I’m pretty certain that once I start building a collection of drawings that brings this world to life, the story will start to tell itself. For so many years I’ve experimented with ink, watercolor, and acrylic to identify the style I wanted my illustrations to take. I was stumped by this, actually. I had all the ideas, but I couldn’t figure out the tools for getting the images out of my head and onto paper/canvas/screen.

Another guilty, time consuming pleasure of mine during this Covid pandemic was watching mesmerizing videos of artists drawing in Procreate on their iPads. I finally took the plunge and bought myself an iPad Pro. Funny, we have only ever purchased iPads for the kids all these years - now I have one all to myself! (Don’t know why it’s taken this long to spoil myself.) As I have been getting comfortable drawing digitally on my iPad, it’s become clear to me that I now have, at my disposal, a new artistic tool. This is it! This is how I will draw my imaginary world.

While I am still consumed by my children’s book idea, I also continue to draw beach/surf content for my shop. I’m getting comfortable with drawing in Procreate and learning something new almost everyday. I see these illustrations as warm up for the big show, which is to draw and write my children’s book. Here is a look at what I have created over the past several months. I love seeing the progress...


Bike with surfboard at the beach illustration
October 2020

boho inspired sun illustration

November 2020



Hawaiian hula girl dancer illustration

January 2021



Bernie Sanders inauguration meme illustration

January 2021



Palm tree moon beach illustration

January 2021



Lava rock wall tropical vegetation illustration

February 2021



Mini Australian shepherd red Merle illustration

February 2021



Baby green sea turtle Hawaiian honu illustration

February 2021



Andy Warhol quote create something that will live forever


Woman surfer sea lion buoy illustration

February 2021


For anyone still with me on this very long post, I hope you’ll continue to follow my journey. I am intent on creating a magical world that will enchant an audience with endearing characters and whimsical critters. I am new to this and finding great resources every day - Like the article linked below by Sarah Maizes with tips for writing a good children’s book. As a former literary agent for children’s book writers, her suggestions would seem to be worth their weight in gold. So I’ll continue to share my journey and the resources I find and maybe one day I will publish my book and this can be something that is helpful for someone else trying to pursue their dream. 

Want To Write A Good Children’s Book? Here Are 7 Tips To Guide You

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