How to make Kyle!

I’ve cut out a lot of sloths this past year. The one I created for this video was by far the most memorable, thanks to the mechanics involved in shooting a time-lapse.

Although a little hard to see, the photo below shows where the camera was situated above my desk. What is just outside of the frame, to the top right, is the large strobe we used for lighting. (Kevin is pictured setting up the laptop to receive the files as we shoot. Our two cats, Toy and Nori, are passing through, clearly unaware of the movie-making masterpiece we are about to create.)

Kyle Goes Alone, studio shot, video shoot, time-lapse, sloth video, how to make a sloth

The camera was programmed to shoot every 5 seconds and so coinciding with each shot came a blast of light from the strobe. That awareness of time passing in the form of strobes makes for a very interesting art-making experience. The pressure felt kind of similar to writing a high school exam with minutes ticking away.

Kyle Goes Alone, Owlkids, sloth, paper cut illustration, children's book illustration, Ashley Barron

People often ask me how long it takes to produce my art, and I never have a clear answer. Thanks to the mathematics of this shoot, I can confirm that this particular Kyle piece took just under two hours. (I had initially typed “half an hour” into this post before asking Kevin to confirm…that just demonstrates how flawed my memory is when it comes to this stuff!)

So thank you, Kevin, for making this time-lapse possible and for reminding me how long my art actually takes. And thank you to Allison MacLachlan and the rest of the Owlkids team for putting this video together to help promote Kyle Goes Alone.

If you want to see more videos like this, I suggest checking out Owlkid’s new hub for behind the book features called The Inside Track. It’s an especially great resource for teachers and librarians.

Kyle Goes Alone

Last year around this time, my life seemed to revolve around this desk.

Studio shot, Kyle goes alone, sloth art

Amidst piles of green and blue painted sheets of paper, penciled up tracing paper, stacks of book-marked reference materials and a confetti explosion of foliage and vine pieces, a little sloth named Kyle was being born.

Kyle Goes Alone, children's book, kid lit, sloth, sloth book, three toed sloth

Kyle was initially shy and fearful of the vast rainforest I was creating around him. All of those blues and greens made him feel cold and lonesome. His little brown body eagerly clung to the vines I cut for him.

leaf cutter ants, kyle goes alone, rainforest, paper collage

Little by little, and I mean little, I introduced some friends into the scenes for Kyle to meet. Some had six legs. Others had two. Some were green while others were red. And some had tiger stripes even though they weren’t actually a tiger.

tiger striped tree frog, rainforest frog, kyle goes alone, paper art

I didn’t want to startle Kyle, so I made sure to introduce the friends gradually, only showing pieces of them at first. Can you spot two in the scene below?

Kyle goes alone, sloth in tree, paper illustrations

After a while, something changed in Kyle. The greens and blues of the rainforest didn’t feel cold and lonely to him. A little smile even started to form on his face and he was ready to share his story with the rest of the world.

Kyle Goes Alone, three toed sloth, kid lit, sloth book, Ashley Barron, Jan Thornhill, owlkids

Kyle Goes Alone is a delightful story about a baby sloth’s first taste of independence and how he overcomes his fear of “going alone”. It’s written by Jan Thornhill, published my Owlkids and illustrated by yours truly.

I hope Kyle finds his way into your heart as he has mine.

Banana Leaves

Sometimes the best ideas are so obvious that you almost skip over them. That was certainly the case for this summer’s Leaves of Trees window display.

One afternoon, while Roohi and I were brainstorming ideas at her shop, a customer overheard our conversation and suggested we simply put a bunch of leaves in the window to go along with the name Leaves of Trees. We took his advice.

banana leaf sketchbook window display

The initial plan was to create a tropical leafy paradise out of paper which would act as a back drop for a new product being launched. Above are some early sketches.

I was fortunate to be working alongside my friend and fellow illustrator, Elena Viltovskaia, again. (See my Paper Poppies post for our last collaboration.) After experimenting with different tropical leaf shapes we decided to keep it simple by just focusing on our favourite one: the mighty Banana Leaf!

paper banana leaf, window display, Leaves of Trees

Seamless green-screen paper turned out to be our star material. Because it comes in a roll, the paper is permanently curved, and when folded and creased against this curve, it creates just the right shape to mimic a banana leaf!

paper banana leaves, green screen paper

After everything was cut and creased, we drew on the veins using pencil crayon. Subtle strokes of turquoise blue and lime green spray paint were applied as a final touch to help accentuate the edges and add some colour variation.

banana leaf installation

A nice mid-installation shot taken by Roohi. (Elena’s on the left and I’m on the right.)

paper banana leaves, tropical window display, headache balm, leaves of trees

The window had to be attractive from both the inside and the outside. Floating leaves were the answer, and luckily we had made just the right amount!

leaves of trees store front, banana leaves, paper leaves, headache balm

Now that it’s mid-summer, I’ve got to start thinking about a new window display theme for fall and winter. Any suggestions out there? I’m all ears!

Leaves of Trees is located at 177 Queen St. East in Toronto.

Painted Ladies

Have you ever witnessed a butterfly break free of it’s cocoon? I had always imagined the molting process as being long and gradual; something one surely wouldn’t miss in the blink of an eye.

Last week my neighbour, Kathryn, called me up in an hurry, asking if I wanted to come over and witness a chrysalis hatching. (Kathryn’s son is an insect enthusiast and for the past two years, they’ve ordered Painted Lady Caterpillar kits through the mail.) I went over not knowing what to expect. On their kitchen table sat a netted enclosure (which looked like a collapsible laundry hamper) with cocoons pinned to the inside wall. Eight butterflies had hatched earlier that morning and were now flexing their wings along the mesh wall. Lucky for me, there were still 6 cocoons remaining. The one we focused our attention on had a deeper colour showing through the chrysalid shell…a sign it could open any second.

painted lady butterfly cocoon

Kathryn and I sat in front of the hamper with our eyes glued to the cocoon. Sure enough, a little break started to form along the cocoon’s side, and then within seconds, out popped the butterfly! As it pumped up it’s wings, a red liquid trickled down. What I thought was blood was actually a substance called Meconium: a metabolic waste product from the pupal stage. You can see the red stains from the process in the above photo.

Toy and the butterflies

Butterflies are pretty low maintenance, however, they do require a a fresh supply of fruit to feed from until their release. Because Kathryn and her family were heading out camping that weekend, I was delighted to be given the task of butterfly sitter. Toy, our cat, was equally delighted and kept a close watch on her new flitty friends.


I was able to make some sketches while the butterflies were resting. The top and bottom of the Painted Lady wings are so different in colour and pattern.

painted butterfly sketch

The underwing has such a sophisticated pallet of chocolate browns, honey browns, creams and clever hits of turquoise and sky blue.

painted lady butterfly wing eating

Perhaps next year I’ll order a butterfly kit of my own. It would be neat to witness the caterpillar stage all the way through to the big, final release!

Time Lapse of a Flowering Croton

Have you seen the film Dennis the Menace? There’s a scene were Mr. Wilson is hosting a garden party to celebrate the anticipated blooming of his treasured “Night-Blooming Mock Orchid”, a fictional species of plant that only flowers once every 40 years.  Just as the flower’s petals begin to unfold, Dennis bursts into the scene, drawing everyone’s attention away from the spectacle—only for it to have completely withered by the time they look back. (Here’s the clip)

I feel for poor, old Mr. Wilson. Forty years is a long time to wait for a plant to perform a 10-second show and then miss it. Luckily for me, one of my houseplants performed a flowering show that was a little harder to miss.

croton marker drawing, croton illustration, croton plant

Sketch of the same Croton plant, back in 2012.

For the first time in the seven years I had cared for it, my Croton plant decided to grow a strand of tightly clustered buds from it’s crown. It was early July and I had just moved apartments, and so instead of sitting in its usual south-facing window, my Croton found a new place in front of a north-facing window. A little research revealed that it’s quite rare for indoor Crotons to flower, so perhaps the change in light direction really did play a part.

Well whatever the reason, this plant sure put on a nice show. And thanks to the magic of time lapse photography I can share its blooming spectacle with you. (see video below)

flowering croton plant

one week into flowering

flowering croton

3 weeks into flowering

time lapse photography, flowering croton

To make the time lapse video, my boyfriend, Kevin, hooked up an intervalometer to his Canon 6D. After experimenting with different frame rates, we settled on taking one frame every 5 minutes. A soft box gave us a steady source of light throughout the two and a bit weeks we spent shooting it.

Math in Nature Show

Since the start of my work on the Math in Nature series, I had always entertained the thought of having a show once all four books were complete. Well, this summer my dream came true thanks to a very special gallery in my home town of Whitby.

Station Gallery’s Curator, Olex Wlasenko, was really the driving force behind this becoming a reality. He first got in touch about a year ago, to present the idea of featuring me in the artist’s spotlight section of SG’s membership magazine, Platform. Since then, I’ve been welcomed into the Station Gallery family.

I call it a family because it really feels like one. On top of everyone being super welcoming, it turns out I have some old friends there. I soon found out that Chrissie Wysotski, illustrator and former neighbour of mine, was now working as SG’s educator and family programmer. Chrissie and her husband David were the first illustrators I had ever met and encouraged me to apply to OCAD back in high school. As well, Olex’s sister, Kathryn Wlasenko, was my high school art teacher.

Station Gallery has also given me the opportunity to flex my teaching muscles. I taught my very first adult art class titled “Paper Landscapes”, as part of SG’s winter programming. It went so well that I’ll be giving another go at it this coming winter with two new classes titled “Paper Pets” and “Paper People”.

Ashley Barron, Math in Nature, Station GalleryMath in Nature, Children's Book illustrations, station gallery
Math in Nature, Children's Book illustrations, Station Gallery



Olex comparing the Prairie Chicken spread from Sorting Through Spring with the original art. Toronto Image Works did a wonderful job photographing all four books.

Station Gallery, Whitby, Math in Nature, Ashley Barron

2014 OAC Logo Colour JPG

Thanks again to Olex Wlasenko and the rest of the gang at Station Gallery for putting together an excellent exhibition, as well as the Ontario Arts Council for their Exhibition Assistance grant. And of course, thanks goes to Owlkids for believing in my abilities and for welcoming me into the Children’s Book market. The Math in Nature series was made possible through the combined efforts of Lizann Flatt (Author), Jennifer Stokes (Editor), Claudia Davila (Designer), Barb Kelly & Mahak Jain (Art Directors).

To learn more about what the Whitby Station Gallery has to offer, visit their site:

The Math in Nature books can be purchased through the Owlkids Store, as well as Chapters, Amazon and all sorts of smaller book shops.

Paper Poppies

Earlier this spring, I had the pleasure of teaming up with my art director/illustrator friend Elena Viltovskaia, on a rather pretty project.

Roohi Qureshi of Leaves of Trees was preparing to launch her official shop opening and needed a fresh window dressing to help celebrate the occasion. Winter’s stronghold was finally loosening and so we all agreed that a bright burst of blooms was well in order. Poppies seemed like the right flower for the job!

Process shot of making paper poppies, petals

Elena and I researched how to make large paper flowers that were structurally sound. Most online tutorials suggested creating accordion-style folds for each petal, but it looked a bit distracting and not true to the poppy’s form. After some experimenting, we found a way to keep the petals smooth but curved by overlapping them one by one and using staples to retain their domed tension.


Elena and I are quite happy with the resulting crisp, graphic look of the poppies and have been told there’s a little marimekko-ness to them, which is a huge compliment! We hope to collaborate on more paper floral creations in the future.

paper poppy, poppies, window display, leaves of trees



paper poppy window display, leaves of trees


Our Paper Poppy window display will be up for the remainder of the summer. I highly recommend coming by and sampling the many natural lipbalms, deodorants, lotions and argon oil products Leaves of Trees has to offer. The shop is located at 177 Queen Street East, Toronto.

Thanks goes to @fio_85 and @makerscartel for these two window shots!


My name is Ashley Barron and I'm a Toronto based illustrator. This is my online show & tell of new artwork and anything else I find inspiring. Thanks for taking a look :)

my website:

New Release! Kyle Goes Alone


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Cats making out. Got any more? "This is what I think of your pointless hobbies." - Nori While reading Mary Ann Hoberman's 1978 book 'A House Is a House for Me', I came across this gem of an illustration by Betty Fraser. Don't we all want to have "stay in bed and design our castle" days? Repost from @oscarjaigobin of CocoPuff mirroring her portrait. I'm really bad at giving hugs. I think I've found my teachers. Greetings from Alberta! Here's a little momento from Lake Louise. Something to embroider if I ever learn how to embroider...
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