Favourite children’s books: Hello Ruby

If you are into coding, educational children’s literature or you happen to be Finnish, you might have already heard of the book I’m about to showcase. I’m a huge fan of this book and the concept behind it, so without further ado, let me present to you Hello Ruby!


Hello Ruby
Written and illustrated by Linda Liukas

Badge of greatness for the imaginative way of morphing a learning experience into a story


The mastermind behind Hello Ruby is Linda Liukas, a Finnish programmer and educator, whose mission is to make the world of technology more approachable for everyone – including kids. That’s how her book, Hello Ruby, was born. Hello Ruby is a story about a little girl, whose father gives her a mystery to solve. The mystery takes Ruby on an adventure, during which she meets lots of new friends; penguins, Django and his pet snake Python, Snow Leopard, Robots and Foxes.

As you might already guess from their names, all the characters of the story are based on and inspired by actual technologies and things related to programming. This kind of insider jokes add to the whimsical story and will surely amuse older readers as well. Aimed at 5 – 7 year olds, the story itself is far from the complexities of programming. The book introduces programming concepts such as decomposition, pattern recognition and sequences through the characters, and applies the concepts to everyday situations kids can relate to.

At the back of the book the reader can find fun activities related to the concepts introduced in the story. The book is surely at its best when a child gets to read it with a grown-up, visiting the activity section of each chapter together after reading them. (Though I assure you, doing this by yourself as an adult is pretty fun, too!)

Prior to Hello Ruby, the author-illustrator Liukas had no experience in writing children’s stories nor illustrating them. According to her, she studied illustration on Pinterest and practiced by drawing things over and over again until she would get them right. Although drawn digitally (with the legendary Kyle Brushes I recently started using as well), the illustrations in the book have a soft hand-drawn – even sketch-like – feel to them. The cute simplified characters with their innocent faces make me think of Japan and Hello Kitty. With this kind of aesthetics and a technology driven concept it’s no surprise that the book has made it big in Asia, too!

The determination of Liukas to get things done and learn on the way is really admirable. It blows my mind that she has made Hello Ruby happen all on her own by crowdfunding the first book through Kickstarter and writing and illustrating the story by herself. With. No. Prior. Experience. Reading about people like her is truly a motivational kick in the butt for those of us who tend to make excuses to not get started and be slightly less efficient when it comes to executing Great Ideas.

Kudos to Linda! To find out more about the philosophy and the story behind Hello Ruby, watch this TED talk:

Astropad vs. Wacom Cintiq – which one to buy?

Graphic-tablet-review

For the past few years, I have been wanting to digitize my drawing process in order to work more time-efficiently. I have tried moving from paper to screen multiple times, but it always felt like I lost the control of my pencil when I tried to do this with Wacom tablet. Having heard lots of positive stories about illustrators who have switched to drawing tablets with a screen, I figured I should perhaps invest in one as well.

After having done some research into drawing tablets, the best options for me seemed to be the almost legendary Wacom Cintiq or an app called Astropad, which converts your iPad Pro into a drawing tablet. Whilst researching the pros and cons of each option, I watched a lot of Youtube-reviews comparing them. The most useful video was this one.

I’ll spare you the suspense; I ended up buying an iPad Pro, Astropad and an Apple Pencil. Here are the main reasons for why I chose Astropad over Cintiq:

Disclaimer: The following list is purely based on my personal preferences and information that was available prior to purchase.

1. Price: That’s probably the first thing people think of! Getting a new iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Astropad was a couple of hundred euros cheaper than getting one of the better Wacom Cintiqs. If you buy a refurbished iPad Pro like I did, you can save even more.

2. Functionality: Although Wacom Cintiq is referred to as The Drawing Tablet for The Real Pros, it’s is just that: a drawing tablet. iPad Pro is multifunctional, and since I don’t have a whole lot of smart devices at home, an iPad was a more practical choice.

3. Mobility (sort of): I enjoy drawing the most whilst chilling on the couch. The fact that Cintiq works only when it’s wired up to a computer was therefore a fairly big minus. Astropad only needs WiFi to connect to your computer, allowing you to draw pretty much anywhere as long as you stay within the WiFi’s reach.

Graphic-tablet-review

4. Simplicity: My aim was to make the switch from paper to screen as comfortable and easy as possible, as I tend to get impatient when needing to familiarize myself with something totally new. (Yep, I’m the I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now type.) Astropad basically turns your iPad’s screen into a double screen of your Mac, letting you draw directly into Photoshop or any other app on your computer. Since I already feel comfortable working with the software on my Mac, Astropad seemed much more convenient than Cintiq.

5. Features: My goal was to be able to sketch digitally in a way that would feel as natural as drawing on paper. I planned to use the drawing tablet mainly just for sketching, so although Cintiq is said to have more drawing functionalities, Astropad and my computer’s software seemed good enough for my purpose.

6. Styluses: Apple Pencil is very narrow and pretty much the same size as a regular pencil, whereas Wacom’s styluses are thicker. The nibs of Wacom styluses also recess slightly into the pen when you press them onto the tablet, and that can make them feel less natural than drawing with a normal pencil. As I wanted to be sure that using the drawing tablet would be as close to using normal paper and pencil, choosing an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil felt like a safer option.

Graphic-tablet-review

To compare Astropad with hand-drawing, I drew another one of my couple comics, which I have so far always drawn by hand. Below you can see the Astropad drawing next to one of the earlier hand-drawn comics. I used a Kyle Brush from the Animator Pencil Package, and was really happy both with the process, feeling of drawing and the end result.

And as a grande finale, here’s my first Astropad-piece in its entity:

Sneak peek into my illustration process

scenic-couple-portrait-illustration

Ever since I can remember, the dude I share my life with has been fantasising about travelling the world free from worries and obligations. One of his dreams is us going from one place to another on a motorcycle, him driving and me sitting next to him in a sidecar. We would have everything we need with us and could spontaneously decide to wake up in a new place every day if we wanted.

Since I started making comics (which go by the title “couple comics” – how original!) about the life in our household, my boyfriend has been asking me to illustrate us travelling in the motorcycle-sidecar combo. So, a couple of weeks before his birthday, I sat down with paper and pencils to visualise this dream. Although the comics I’ve previously drawn of us have been just simple pencil sketches, I decided to put some more time on this one and make it full colour with a scenic background.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek of my illustration process from sketch to the final piece:

1. Raw sketch

I started the drawing from the wheels of the motorcycle and didn’t realise I was getting way too close to the top edge of the paper…hence the floating head.

scenic-couple-portrait-illustration
2. Polished sketch with shadingscenic-couple-portrait-illustration
3. Digitalised version, enhanced with Photoshop

The creepy floating head has finally found the body it belongs to!

scenic-couple-portrait-illustration
4. Coloured versionscenic-couple-portrait-illustration
5. Now we need something for the background…scenic-couple-portrait-illustration
6. Et voíla, the final piece with some additional shading and a mountain scenery!scenic-couple-portrait-illustration

PS. See the cherry tomatoes? We are currently growing multiple cherry tomato plants, so obviously they would need to join us for the journey. Healthy self-grown snacks on the go, you see!