papa & paws® origin story

Molly Waits Her Turn Book Front Cover 2020 03 21 17.20.28
Molly Waits Her Turn Front Cover

The Everyday Adventures of Papa & Paws® is the most ambitious creative project that I’ve done to date. While I had in the back of my mind the concept of writing a children’s book based on our Yorkie Gracie who passed away in 2015, lightning didn’t strike until a few years later. It all started with a simple doodle I made in 2018 while I was on the phone at work. After I hung up the phone, it struck me that the doodle reminded me a lot of our, dog, Molly Paws. I scanned the sketch when I got home and put it in my keep folder for future reference.

Original Molly Paws Sketch BW
Original Molly Paws Sketch


I’ve been drawing dogs on and off pretty much my whole life. My first work of fiction was the homemade comic, Goalyo, starring my dog Woody that I created exactly one issue of when I was about nine years old.

Goalyo Issue 1 15
Goalyo Issue 1

I started drawing superheroes as I entered my preteen years, but even then, I was copying dog images from the newspaper to make art for the walls of my parent’s house. It’s not usual that I would have doodled a dog, much less one that resembled one of my wife and I’s current dogs.

my inspiration

Shortly after my wife and I met, Molly made herself “my dog”. She makes sure to be in the same room with me wherever I’m at in the house and she listens to me really well. Molly also has a habit of talking. She will distinctly call out “Pa-Pa” and “I love you.” Usually it’s when she is trying to get her evening after dinner treat from me. And only me. Molly does not do this with my wife.

Papa, It's Time for My Treat!
Papa It’s Time for My Treat.”

Sometimes when I go on a pizza run or get gas for the car, I will take Molly with me and I’ve always called them a “Papa Paws” adventure.

This doodle I did sparked the idea: why not write and illustrate the everyday adventures of Papa & Paws? I have a very long list of story ideas, with new ones popping up every day as our dogs do something funny or interesting.

Since I have never written nor illustrated a children’s book before, I had a lot to learn so I knew from the start that I wanted to use vector based workflow for as much of the work as I could.

getting to work

A few years ago I moved to Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo, and Affinity Publisher for my at home graphic design software. I love that Designer has a lot of natural looking vector brushes that I can use (paid and free) and I found a couple of sets that looked like they would do what I wanted to achieve the look I was going for: that 1950s-esque hand drawn colorful illustration.

So off to work I went, digitally tracing photos I had taken of Molly Paws to get a feel for how it would be to draw her. After a few attempts, I stared free handing the illustrations and reducing the lines to something simpler.

Molly Paws Photo Tracing
molly paws sketches 3

I LOVED it. To me, it really captures Molly Paws. I showed it to my wife and she LOVED it too. The next step was to figure out the colors. I sampled colors from photos we had of Molly to develop a color palette. After I had the colors down, I went to work on figuring out the textures.

molly paws color test 2
Papa Paws Molly Paws Sitting Side View

Once I had a few key poses captured, I needed to decide which of the very long list of story ideas to start with. What other characters would be in this book?

The advice I’ve always heard is, “write what you know.” So I decided that my first book would be about the evening ritual Molly and I do as she tries to get me to give her her treat. It would be easy to translate and it does have a great lesson about patience for kids.

I had my star, I knew the plot and the rest of the cast. Then it was time to really get down to the business of making the pages of the book.

Papa Paws Book 1 PAGES v5 JPGs

self publishing

All the while, I was immersing myself in how to publish an illustrated children’s book in this day and age. I knew the traditional publishing is not for me. I had considered hybrid publishing (where you and the publisher “go halvsies” so to speak), even then I wanted full control of the book. So I choose to self publish with a place called Ingram Spark. They are the major book distributor in the United States. That means little ol’ me can have my book available to not only Amazon, but also my local indie book store. There’s still be a monetary investment, but I fell like this the best route for me to take so I’m not spending all my money on this first book.

I’ve learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of book publishing. It’s a bit overwhelming at first. My head is still kinda spinning. I’m just now starting to find my way on how to best market my book that works for me. It’s been one heck of a journey so far. I can’t see where it takes me next!

Paws Family Girls to Scale 1920